Conservation Science News November 7, 2014Leave a Comment
Focus of the Week – Unusual Warm Ocean Conditions and Species off CA Coast
2–CLIMATE CHANGE AND EXTREME EVENTS with special DROUGHT section
3– ADAPTATION and HOPE
NOTE: Please pass on my weekly news update that has been prepared for
Point Blue Conservation Science
staff. You can find these weekly compilations posted on line by clicking here. For more information please see www.pointblue.org.
The items contained in this update were drawn from www.dailyclimate.org, www.sciencedaily.com, SER The Society for Ecological Restoration, http://news.google.com, www.climateprogress.org, www.slate.com, www.sfgate.com, The Wildlife Society NewsBrief, CA BLM NewsBytes and other sources as indicated. This is a compilation of information available on-line, not verified and not endorsed by Point Blue Conservation Science.
You can sign up for 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.
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Focus of the Week– Unusual and Warm Ocean Conditions, Species off CA Coast
Anomalies in the California Current
November 6, 2014 Meredith Elliott
Point Blue Conservation Science, California Current Group
California Current Group has been discussing some anomalies we’ve noticed this year – from water temperature to higher trophic levels – and I thought I would share some of these with you all:
CTD (Conductivity-Temperature-Depth profiler) data from our ACCESS cruises [founded with NOAA’S Gulf of the Farallones and Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuaries in 2004] show the average temperature in the upper 50m of the water column has been warmer – take a look at Sept 2014 (a good 2°C warmer than the next warmest cruise!).
Note: ACCESS focuses on the oceanic habitats in Federal and State waters of northern and central California, encompassing NOAA National Marine Sanctuary waters (Cordell Bank, Gulf of the Farallones and Monterey Bay) and the potential National Marine Sanctuary expansion area south of Point Arena….Download a 1-page description of our project.
Our CTD data have also shown strong stratification in Sept 2014. While this is not unusual for the fall, the numbers indicate stronger stratification than what we’ve seen in other fall [ACCESS] cruises.
Mean Farallon sea surface temperature for July and August were each the second highest ever recorded (in 45 years) for those months [collected at the Farallon National Wildlife Refuge in partnership with the US Fish and Wildlife Service].
We do not have the ACCESS zooplankton results from this year, but anecdotal evidence suggest very low numbers of adult krill.
Tropical/subtropical heteropods were discovered in a zooplankton sample from Sept 2014: http://bodegahead.blogspot.com/2014/09/say-hello-to-atlanta.html
Brandt’s cormorant diet work isn’t complete for 2014, but so far, Farallon Brandt’s cormorants ate nothing but rockfish. Vandenberg Brandt’s cormorants appear to have a variety of species in their diet (flatfish, rockfish, surfperch, anchovy, etc.),
but this is just what I’ve been noticing glancing at the otolith slides in the lab.
Two oarfish (Regalecus glesne) were found in a rhinoceros auklet diet collection in July – first time ever observed! Oarfish are supposed to occur as far north as Santa Monica Bay.
As sea surface temperatures climbed near the Farallones in July, krill and juvenile rockfish disappeared from seabird diet, fledging success plummeted for auklets with many chicks dying in the late season, and Cassin’s auklets abandoned all of their second brood attempts.
While Vandenberg seabirds had a relatively normal year, the pelagic cormorants had their highest nest failure on record.
Blue-footed boobies showed up on the Farallones in August – also a first!
El Niño is on its way….or maybe it’s already here…? Just wanted to share some unusual ocean results!
Meredith Elliott, MSc, Senior Scientist / ACCESS Program Coordinator
POINT BLUE and partners in the NEWS:
Paul Rogers 11/02/2014 03:59:45 PM PST
Striated Sea Butterfly (Hyalocylis striata): This species of pteropod has a delicate cone-shaped shell and its foot is modified into two wings that it flaps to swim through the water like a butterfly. This is typically a tropical/subtropical species known from Baja California, Mexico. The specimens collected in September and October 2014 may be the first definite records from California. The individual shown was collected on October 21, approximately 1 km offshore from Bodega Marine Laboratory. The shell of this sea butterfly was less than 1 millimeter long. Photo by Eric Sanford/UC Davis
Hawaiian ono swimming off the California coast? Giant sunfish in Alaska? A sea turtle usually at home off the Galapagos Islands floating near San Francisco? Rare changes in wind patterns this fall have caused the Pacific Ocean off California and the West Coast to warm to historic levels, drawing in a bizarre menagerie of warm-water species. The mysterious phenomena are surprising fishermen and giving marine biologists an aquatic Christmas in November. Temperatures off the California coast are currently 5 to 6 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than historic averages for this time of year — among the warmest autumn conditions of any time in the past 30 years. “It’s not bathtub temperature,” said Nate Mantua, a research scientist with the National Marine Fisheries Service in Santa Cruz, “but it is swimmable on a sunny day.” In mid-October, it was 65 degrees off the Farallon Islands and in Monterey Bay, and 69 degrees off Point Conception near Santa Barbara. In most years, water temperatures in those areas would be in the high 50s or low 60s. The last time the ocean off California was this warm was in 1983 and 1997, both strong El Niño years that brought drenching winter rains to the West Coast. But El Niño isn’t driving this year’s warm-water spike, which began in mid-July, experts say. Nor is climate change. What’s happening is winds that normally blow from the north, trapping warm water closer to the equator, have slackened since the summer. That’s allowed the warm water to move north.
In most years, the winds also help push ocean surface waters, churning up cold water from down below. That process, called upwelling, isn’t happening as much this year. “If the wind doesn’t blow, there’s no cooling of the water,” Mantua said. “It’s like the refrigerator fails. The local water warms up from the sun, and is not cooling off.” Mantua said researchers don’t know why the winds slacked off — or when they will start again. “It’s a mystery,” he said. All year, scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have been forecasting an El Niño, conditions in which warm ocean water at the equator near South America can affect the weather in dramatic ways. But now the water is only slightly warmer than normal at the equator, leading scientists to declare a mild El Niño is on the way. And although strong El Niños often have brought wet winters to California, mild ones have just as often resulted in moderate or dry winters. For people who study the ocean, this fall has been a wonderland. “It’s fascinating,” said Eric Sanford, a marine biology professor at the UC Davis Bodega Marine Laboratory in Bodega Bay. “To see so many southern species in a single year is really a rare event.” Sanford, colleague Jackie Sones and other researchers at the Bodega lab, along with scientists at Point Blue Conservation Science, a nonprofit group in Petaluma, have documented more than 100 common dolphins off the Farallon Islands in the past two months. They’re normally seen hundreds of miles away, off Southern California. The scientists have scooped up a tiny species of ocean snail called the tropical sea butterfly, normally found far to the south. They have documented a Guadalupe fur seal, normally found off Baja California in Mexico; blue buoy barnacles and purple-striped jellyfish, which usually drift off Southern California; and a Guadalupe murrelet, a tiny seabird that frequents Mexico. In September, a fisherman off San Francisco caught an endangered green sea turtle, an extremely rare find for Northern California, since the species usually lives off Mexico and the Galapagos Islands. He returned it to the sea unharmed. Similar tales are turning up in Southern California, where fishermen and scientists have found Hawaiian ono, along with tripletail, a fish species commonly found between Costa Rica and Peru, and other warm-water species. In August and September there were even sightings of skipjack tuna and giant sunfish, or mola mola, off Alaska. “They are following the water temperature,” said H.J. Walker, a senior museum scientist at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego. “Fish come up against a cold-water barrier normally and turn around. But now they aren’t encountering that, so they are swimming farther north.” Over the past week, the water temperature at the Scripps pier in La Jolla was 71 degrees. The historic average back to 1916 for late October is 65 degrees. In many parts of California, the commercial salmon catch was down, and squid were caught as far north as Eureka, which is unusual. “Our guys in Santa Barbara are saying there’s almost nothing down there. Just a lot of warm, clear water, a little bit of salmon and not much else,” said Zeke Grader, executive director of the Pacific Federation of Fishermen’s Associations in San Francisco. The ocean changes also have affected birds. As ocean upwelling stalled in the summer, less krill and other food rose from the depths. As a result, several species of birds, including common murres, had high rates of egg failure on the Farallon Islands, 27 miles west of San Francisco. “The krill that is usually present disappeared, and the fish that some of these birds rely on disappeared,” said Jaime Jahncke, California Current Group director of Point Blue in Petaluma. “Up until July we had an abundance of whales around the Farallons, mostly humpback whales, and some blue whales. And when we went back in September, there was no krill and the whales were nearly absent.”
More common local species are expected to return when waters cool, as they did after the 1983 and 1997 warmings. “It is an oddball year. But I’m not surprised,” said Joe Welsh, associate curator of collecting for the Monterey Bay Aquarium. “These things come and go. There’s a lot to learn out there.”
The lightning-sparked Castle Rock Fire burned nearly 50,000 acres in 2007 in the Sawtooth National Forest and adjacent state and private lands surrounding Ketchum, Idaho, in the Smoky Mountains region of the Rocky Mountain range. Credit: Kari Geer, courtesy of the National Interagency Fire Center
November 5, 2014 University of California – Berkeley
An international team of fire experts have concluded that it is time to stop fighting fires and instead develop strategies to live with fire. In many areas, fire management is difficult or impossible, and interferes with fire’s key role in the ecosystem. Instead, we should develop zoning & building codes and evacuation protocols to allow people to live with fire, just as we now live with earthquake and tornado hazards.
Many fire scientists have tried to get Smokey the Bear to hang up his “prevention” motto in favor of tools like thinning and prescribed burns, which can manage the severity of wildfires while allowing them to play their natural role in certain ecosystems. But a new international research review led by the University of California, Berkeley, says the debate over fuel-reduction techniques is only a small part of a much larger fire problem that will make society increasingly vulnerable to catastrophic losses unless it changes its fundamental approach from fighting fire to coexisting with fire as a natural process.
The paper, “Learning to Coexist with Wildfire,” to be published in the Nov. 6 issue of the journal Nature, examines research findings from three continents and from both the natural and social sciences. The authors conclude that government-sponsored firefighting and land-use policies actually encourage development on inherently hazardous landscapes, amplifying human losses over time. “We don’t try to ‘fight’ earthquakes — we anticipate them in the way we plan communities, build buildings and prepare for emergencies. We don’t think that way about fire, but our review indicates that we should,” said lead author Max Moritz, Cooperative Extension specialist in fire at UC Berkeley’s College of Natural Resources. “Human losses will only be mitigated when land-use planning takes fire hazards into account in the same manner as other natural hazards, like floods, hurricanes and earthquakes.” The analysis looked at different kinds of natural fires, what drives them in various ecosystems, the ways public response to fire can differ, and the critical interface zones between built communities and natural landscapes. The authors found infinite variations on how these factors can come together. “It quickly became clear that generic one-size-fits-all solutions to wildfire problems do not exist,” Moritz said. “Fuel reduction may be a useful strategy for specific places, like California’s dry conifer forests, but when we zoomed out and looked at fire-prone regions throughout the Western United States, Australia and the Mediterranean Basin, we realized that over vast parts of the world, a much more nuanced strategy of planning for coexistence with fire is needed.”
Planning for co-existence
If humans choose to live in fire-prone regions, fire must be managed on par with other naturally occurring hazards, the authors argue, and research must seek to understand what factors and outcomes we can and cannot affect.
One common tool is applicable to the vast array of ecological and social science interactions at the critical wildfire/urban interface: more effective land-use planning, along with the regulations that guide it.
The authors recommend prioritizing location-specific approaches to improve development and safety in fire-prone areas, including:
- Adopting new land-use regulations and zoning guidelines that restrict development in the most fire-prone areas;
- Updating building codes, such as requiring fire-resistant construction to match local hazard levels and encouraging retrofits to existing ignition-prone homes;
- Implementing locally appropriate vegetation management strategies around structures and neighborhoods;
- Evaluating evacuation planning and warning systems, including understanding situations in which mandatory evacuations are or are not effective;
- Developing household and community plans for how to survive stay-and-defend situations; and
- Developing better maps of fire hazards, ecosystem services and climate change effects to assess trade-offs between development and hazard…..
The authors underscore that wildfires are a natural part of many ecosystems and can have a positive long-term influence on the landscape, despite people labeling them as “disasters.” They can stimulate vegetation regeneration, promote a diversity of vegetation types, provide habitat for many species and sustain other ecosystem services, such as nutrient cycling.
Around the world, the numbers, sizes, and intensities of fires vary greatly. In some ecosystems, big, severe wildfires are natural events and more climate-driven — by drought or high winds — so fuel reduction is not a very effective tool in these locations. By contrast, many ecosystems that would naturally experience frequent lower-severity fires may respond to vegetation management aimed at both reducing fire hazard to humans and restoring crucial ecosystem processes. But, the authors agree, where fuel reduction is an appropriate goal, it would ideally be achieved by letting wildfires do their job.
A changing climate will complicate management strategies. “How should future fire patterns compare to this historical variability? That’s the big question,” Moritz said. Describing wildfire as “one of the most basic and ongoing natural processes on Earth,” the authors call for a paradigm shift in the way society interacts with it, changing to an approach that achieves long-term, sustainable coexistence that benefits the planet’s ecosystems on the landscape scale, while minimizing catastrophic losses on the human scale. “A different view of wildfire is urgently needed,” said Moritz. “We must accept wildfire as a crucial and inevitable natural process on many landscapes. There is no alternative. The path we are on will lead to a deepening of our fire-related problems worldwide, which will only become worse as the climate changes.”
Max A. Moritz, Enric Batllori, Ross A. Bradstock, A. Malcolm Gill, John Handmer, Paul F. Hessburg, Justin Leonard, Sarah McCaffrey, Dennis C. Odion, Tania Schoennagel, Alexandra D. Syphard. Learning to coexist with wildfire. Nature, 2014; 515 (7525): 58 DOI: 10.1038/nature13946
This image shows Murchison Falls National Park in Uganda. A fundamental step-change involving an increase in funding and political commitment is urgently needed to ensure that protected areas deliver their full conservation, social and economic potential, according to an article published today in Nature by experts from Wildlife Conservation Society, the University of Queensland, and the IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas (WCPA).
Credit: Julie Larsen Maher, copyright WCS
Posted: 05 Nov 2014 12:45 PM PST
A fundamental step-change involving an increase in funding and political commitment is urgently needed to ensure that protected areas deliver their full conservation, social and economic potential, according to an article published today in Nature by experts from Wildlife Conservation Society, the University of Queensland, and the IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas (WCPA).…. According to the authors, allocating US$45 — $76 billion to protected areas annually — just 2.5% of the global annual military expenditure — could help adequately manage those areas, ensuring their potential contribution to the well-being of the planet is fully met. Many threatened species, such as the Asian elephant, the tiger, and all rhinoceros species, as well as numerous plants, reptiles and amphibians, survive thanks to protected areas. Well-managed marine protected areas contain more than five times the total large fish biomass and 14 times the shark biomass compared with fished areas. “Protected areas offer us solutions to some of today’s most pressing challenges” says Dr James Watson of the Wildlife Conservation Society and The University of Queensland and lead author of the study. “But by continuing with ‘business as usual’, we are setting them up for failure. A step-change in the way we value, fund, govern and manage those areas is neither impossible nor unrealistic and would only represent a fraction of what the world spends annually on defense.”
According to the latest data, protected areas cover around 15% of land and 3% of oceans. Experts warn, however, that despite the significant increase in their coverage over the past century, this is still short of the global 2020 targets to protect at least 17% of land and 10% of oceans. Many ecosystems remain poorly conserved because protected areas do not always encompass the most important areas for biodiversity.
In addition, the vast majority of existing protected areas that are well placed do not have sufficient resources to be effective, with some studies finding as few as one quarter of them are being effectively managed. Growing threats from climate change and the escalating poaching crisis place additional pressures on protected areas globally…”Some of the most iconic protected areas, such as Ecuador’s Galapagos National Park, are undergoing significant degradation, partly due to an inability to manage them effectively,” says Professor Marc Hockings of The University of Queensland,co-author of the study and member of the IUCN WCPA. “But governments cannot be solely responsible for ensuring that protected areas fulfill their potential. We need to find new, innovative ways to fund and manage them, actively involving government, business and community groups.”
The paper also highlights an alarming increase in governments — in both developing and developed countries — backtracking on their commitments through funding cuts and changes in policy. A recent global analysis has documented 543 instances where protected areas saw their status downgraded or removed altogether….Protected areas conserve biodiversity and sustain a large proportion of the world’s poorest people by providing them with food, water, shelter and medicine. They play a key part in climate change mitigation and adaptation and bolster national economies through tourism revenues….
James E. M. Watson, Nigel Dudley, Daniel B. Segan, Marc Hockings. The performance and potential of protected areas. Nature, 2014; 515 (7525): 67 DOI: 10.1038/nature13947
By EMMA MARRIS and GREG APLET OCT. 31, 2014 NYTimes Opinion
A SCHISM has recently divided those who love nature. “New conservationists” have been shaking up the field, proposing new approaches that break old taboos — moving species to new ranges in advance of climate change, intervening in designated wilderness areas, using nonnative species as functional stand-ins for those that have become extinct, and embracing novel ecosystems that spring up in humanized landscapes. Some “old conservationists” have reacted angrily to this, preferring to keep the focus on protecting wilderness and performing classical restoration that keeps ecosystems as they were hundreds of years ago. Editorials, essays and books have been lobbed back and forth, feathers have been ruffled and conservation groups and government officials have felt pressure from both sides. The truth is, despite the disagreements, both groups love nature and want to protect it. These seemingly competing alternatives are really complementary parts of the smartest strategy: We should try everything….
Conservation used to seem pretty straightforward: set aside tracts of nature and they will take care of themselves. It is not so simple anymore. Nature left unmanaged is changing in surprising ways because of the great and accelerating human influences of what is being called the Anthropocene — the new epoch of climate change, species movements and global-scale land-use change. Today, keeping nature functioning the way it did before the Industrial Revolution requires increasingly hard and expensive work. At Yellowstone National Park, for example, nonnative trout are fished out of lakes; nonnative plants are ripped up; bison are culled to preset numbers. In California, salmon fry are trucked down to the ocean when drought dries up streams. In Maryland and Virginia, baby oysters are raised in hatcheries, then released into the Chesapeake Bay. At the same time, we have begun tinkering with nature to help it cope. In North Carolina, blight-resistant genes from Asian trees are bred into American chestnuts so that the mighty trees, devastated by human-introduced disease, might again dot Eastern forests. In the Indian Ocean, tortoises from the Seychelles are introduced to other islands to play the role of extinct tortoises there, eating fruit and dispersing seeds. In Canada, foresters replant harvested areas with seedlings from areas farther south or lower in altitude, betting that they will better survive a warmer climate. In other cases, what seemed obviously helpful has turned out to hurt. A gallfly introduced to control spotted knapweed in the West ended up nourishing deer mice, which flourished and began gorging themselves on the seeds of the native plants the knapweed was threatening. In California, restoration projects to pull out nonnative spartina grass on beaches were called into question when the endangered clapper rail was found to nest there. Controlling nature can be risky. So what should we do? Should we continue to invest in keeping ecosystems in historical configurations? Should we attempt to engineer landscapes to be resilient to tomorrow’s conditions? Or should we just let nature adapt on its own? We should do all three. In the face of great uncertainty, the sensible thing to do is hedge our bets and allocate large swaths of landscape to all three approaches: restoration, innovation and hands-off observation….
By Chris Mooney November 3 2014 Washington Post
A starling, one of the common European bird species found to be in decline in a new study. Credit: Tomas Belka, birdphoto.eu
In a disturbing new study with overtones of Rachel Carson’s famous environmental book Silent Spring, a group of scientists from the U.K. and the Czech Republic report a stunning decline in the number of Europe’s birds since 1980. The birds vanishing are actually members of the most common species — including sparrows, starlings, and skylarks. The researchers calculate that there are now 421 million fewer birds across 25 European countries than there were at the start of the 1980s — a change the study attributes to human-caused environmental degradation.
The scale of decline, in the words of the study just out in the journal Ecology Letters, is “alarming.” The research finds that out of the 144 most common species, there were about 2.06 billion birds in Europe in 1980, and just 1.64 billion in 2009 (the last year considered in the study). Thus, the loss of 421 million represents more than a 20 percent decrease.
“90 percent of that decline can be attributed to the 36 most common species,” says lead study author Richard Inger, from the University of Exeter’s Environment and Sustainability Institute. According to Inger, the top five species experiencing stark declines are the house sparrow, the common starling, the Eurasian skylark, the willow warbler, and the Eurasian tree sparrow.
The research builds on thousands of bird surveys that have been carried out by volunteers going back to 1980. Surprisingly, the research finds that many rarer or endangered species (including marsh harriers and white storks) are actually increasing in number, perhaps in part because these birds have been successfully protected by conservation measures. But the loss of common birds, it emphasizes, can have dramatic consequences, since by their very numbers, they have crucial roles to play in ecosystems, such as controlling the volume of pest species…..
November 2, 2014 University of Exeter ScienceDaily
Bird populations across Europe have experienced sharp declines over the past 30 years, with the majority of losses from the most common species, according to a new study. However numbers of some less common birds have risen….Conservation efforts tend to be focused on rarer species but the research suggests that conservationists should also address issues affecting common birds, for example those traditionally associated with farmland. The decline in bird populations can be linked to modern farming methods, deterioration of the quality of the environment and habitat fragmentation, although the relative importance of these pressures remains unclear. The study brought together data on 144 species of European bird from many thousands of individual surveys in 25 different countries, highlighting the value of the different national monitoring schemes increasingly working together. The researchers suggest that greater conservation funding and effort should be directed to wider scale environmental improvement programmes. These could include urban green space projects, and effective agri-environment schemes, which, informed by lessons learned from past schemes, should aim to deliver real outcomes for declining bird species whether they are rare or common.
Richard Inger, Richard Gregory, James P. Duffy, Iain Stott, Petr Voříšek, Kevin J. Gaston. Common European birds are declining rapidly while less abundant species’ numbers are rising. Ecology Letters, 2014; DOI: 10.1111/ele.12387
Posted: 03 Nov 2014 07:23 AM PST
A new policy paper led by University of York scientists, in partnership with Proforest, aims to increase awareness among researchers of the High Conservation Value (HCV) approach to safeguarding ecosystems and species.The HCV approach is widely used in sustainable land management schemes to identify important ecosystems and species to conserve, but is little known in academia and the scientific evidence base is lacking. The policy paper encourages new research into the effectiveness of the HCV process and greater knowledge exchange between scientists, HCV users and policy makers, to reduce biodiversity losses from tropical landscapes. The paper is published in the journal Conservation Letters. In tropical regions, agricultural expansion of crops, such as oil palm, and unsustainable logging are causing widespread habitat and biodiversity loss. A number of certification schemes have been developed in an attempt to halt these biodiversity losses, and promote more sustainable farming such as the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO)and forestry such as Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) practices. Certification schemes, such as the RSPO and FSC, often rely on the HCV approach to identify and maintain important environmental and social values in forestry management areas or oil palm plantations. These values — HCVs — include populations of threatened plants and animals, unique habitats, and areas used by traditional communities for subsistence activities such as fishing. Companies seeking certification through schemes such as the FSC or RSPO must identify and maintain any HCVs within their management units. The paper outlines the widespread use of the HCV approach in sustainable agricultural and forestry systems, and its potential role in protecting the unique biodiversity of tropical countries while highlighting the small scale of scientific research into its effectiveness. The paper calls for new research, and collaboration between scientists and the policy makers and companies using the HCV approach, to ensure that tropical biodiversity is protected….Co-author Professor Jane Hill, who was one of Mike Senior’s PhD supervisors, says: “Loss of tropical biodiversity is a huge global challenge and stopping it requires collaboration between scientists, policy makers and companies. Too often, organisations doing on-the-ground conservation struggle to keep up to date with the latest conservation research and evidence, and scientists are frequently unaware of the practical challenges facing real-world conservation.”…
Michael J. M. Senior, Ellen Brown, Paulina Villalpando, Jane K. Hill. Increasing the scientific evidence-base in the ‘High Conservation Value’ (HCV) approach for biodiversity conservation in managed tropical landscapes. Conservation Letters, 2014; DOI: 10.1111/conl.12148
Posted: 01 Nov 2014 02:33 PM PDT
A design for a new, inexpensive tidal simulation unit enables researchers to investigate tidal marsh plant growth in a controlled setting. The unit costs less than US$27 to build, takes up less than two square feet of space, and does not require external plumbing; the protocol is now available. The system could be an important tool for researchers working to preserve and restore environmentally important wetlands.…
November 3, 2014 Michigan State University
Today’s natural resource manager tending to the health of a stream in Louisiana needs to look upstream. Way upstream — like Montana. Scientists have invented a way to more easily manage the extensive nature of streams…”Before, we needed a week to do an analysis on one parameter of land use in stream catchments,” Tsang said. “Now, we can run 24 parameters for every one of the 2.6 million streams in five hours.” The algorithm script, included in the paper, can tackle entire countries, but also works with any database to characterize landscape factors in smaller areas. It just needs the regions in question to have its streams broken down into small “discrete” units assigned a unique identifier and an identifier that shows its upstream connectors.
Yin-Phan Tsang, Daniel Wieferich, Kuolin Fung, Dana M Infante, Arthur R Cooper. An approach for aggregating upstream catchment information to support research and management of fluvial systems across large landscapes. SpringerPlus, 2014; 3 (1): 589 DOI: 10.1186/2193-1801-3-589
By JIM ROBBINS NY Times OCT. 27, 2014
In Washington State, beavers are being trapped and relocated to the headwaters of the Yakima River. Credit Manuel Valdes/Associated Press
BUTTE, Mont. — Once routinely trapped and shot as varmints, their dams obliterated by dynamite and bulldozers, beavers are getting new respect these days. Across the West, they are being welcomed into the landscape as a defense against the withering effects of a warmer and drier climate. Beaver dams, it turns out, have beneficial effects that can’t easily be replicated in other ways. They raise the water table alongside a stream, aiding the growth of trees and plants that stabilize the banks and prevent erosion. They improve fish and wildlife habitat and promote new, rich soil.
And perhaps most important in the West, beaver dams do what all dams do: hold back water that would otherwise drain away. “People realize that if we don’t have a way to store water that’s not so expensive, we’re going to be up a creek, a dry creek,” said Jeff Burrell, a scientist with the Wildlife Conservation Society in Bozeman, Mont. “We’ve lost a lot with beavers not on the landscape.” For thousands of years, beavers, which numbered in the tens of millions in North America, were an integral part of the hydrological system. “The valleys were filled with dams, as many as one every hundred yards,” Mr. Burrell said. “They were pretty much continuous wetlands.” Beavers are in high demand across the driest parts of the United States for their innate abilities to keep water from draining away. But the population plummeted, largely because of fur trapping, and by 1930 there were no more than 100,000 beavers, almost entirely in Canada. Lately the numbers have rebounded to an estimated six million. Now, even as hydroelectric and reservoir dams are coming under fire for their wholesale changes to the natural environment, an appreciation for the benefits of beaver dams — even artificial ones — is on the rise.
Experts have long known of the potential for beaver dams to restore damaged landscapes, but in recent years the demand has grown so rapidly that government agencies are sponsoring a series of West Coast workshops and publishing a manual on how to attract beavers. “We can spend a lot of money doing this work, or we can use beavers for almost nothing,” Mr. Burrell said. Beavers are ecosystem engineers. As a family moves into new territory, the rodents drop a large tree across a stream to begin a new dam, which creates a pond for their lodge. They cover it with sticks, mud and stones, usually working at night. As the water level rises behind the dam, it submerges the entrance to their lodge and protects the beavers from predators. This pooling of water leads to a cascade of ecological changes. The pond nourishes young willows, aspens and other trees — prime beaver food — and provides a haven for fish that like slow-flowing water. The growth of grass and shrubs alongside the pond improves habitat for songbirds, deer and elk. Moreover, because dams raise underground water levels, they increase water supplies and substantially lower the cost of pumping groundwater for farming. And they help protect fish imperiled by rising water temperatures in rivers. The deep pools formed by beaver dams, with cooler water at the bottom, are “outstanding rearing habitat for juvenile coho salmon,” said Michael M. Pollock, a fish biologist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Seattle, who has studied the ecological effects of beaver dams for 20 years.
Restoration is not usually as simple as bringing beavers in; if left unchecked, they can do serious damage. Here in Butte, for example, beavers constantly dammed a creek where it ran through a culvert under a pedestrian walkway, flooding nearby homes and a park. Enter the “beaver deceiver.” Beavers have evolved to respond to the sound of running water by trying to stop it, because their survival depends on a full pond. (A Yellowstone National Park biologist reported that when he briefly kept a beaver in his basement with plans to reintroduce it to a local stream, it kept frantically clawing at its cage to reach the sound of a flushing toilet.) So local officials installed the deceiver, a large wooden frame covered with stout metal mesh that blocks beavers’ access to the culvert but allows water to keep flowing. Even if they try to dam up the box, the water will still flow, and eventually they give up and move on. Meanwhile, big, prized cottonwoods and other trees are being wrapped in wire or covered with paint that contains sand to prevent beavers from gnawing them. In some other places, humans are building beaver dams minus the beavers. On Norwegian Creek, a tiny thread of a stream that flows through the rolling grassy hills on a cattle ranch near Harrison, Mont., volunteers came together recently to build a series of small structures from willow branches to slow the flow of water that had been eroding the banks to a depth of 10 feet or more. In just a year the stream bed has risen three feet, Mr. Burrell said, and in a couple more years it could be entirely restored at virtually no cost. New dams, even natural ones, can have unintended consequences. Julian D. Olden, an ecologist at the University of Washington, has studied new beaver ponds in Arizona and found that they were perfect for invasive fish such as carp, catfish and bass to displace native species. “There’s a lot of unknowns before we can say what the return of beavers means for these arid ecosystems,” he said. “The assumption is it’s going to be good in all situations,” he added. “But the jury is still out, and it’s going to take a couple of decades.”
By Melissa Hogenboom Science reporter, BBC News 5 November 2014 Last updated at 04:59 ET
Fossil records of theropod eggs allowed scientists to analyse their geometric properties
The shape of birds’ eggs could have helped them survive the mass extinction event that killed off the dinosaurs, new research proposes. A team analysed the geometric properties of eggs from 250 million years ago (Mesozoic Era) to today. Before the extinction event about 65 million years ago, eggshells had notable differences to the lineage that survived. It is these survivors that all modern day birds descend from. But the authors note that egg shape is but a “small piece of the puzzle” of the evolutionary conundrum of why one lineage of birds made it through the mass extinction event, whereas others did not. Their findings are published in the Royal Society journal Open Science. The analysis found that Mesozoic eggs were elongated and significantly more symmetrical than all other bird eggs. Mesozoic bird eggshells were also more porous than expected for their size. Lead author of the work, Dr Charles Deeming from Lincoln University in the UK, found that fossil remains of eggs from 65 million years ago onwards were indistinguishable from modern bird eggs. The Mesozoic eggs, however, differed significantly. ….
Posted: 01 Nov 2014 02:32 PM PDT
The pathogen Giardia duodenalis is present in mussels from freshwater run-off sites and from areas where California Sea Lions lounge along the coast of California, according to a team of researchers. One of the G. duodenalis strains found is known to infect humans; the two others occur mostly in dogs and other canids. ‘Thus, the detection of these assemblages implies a potential public health risk if consuming fecally contaminated water or uncooked shellfish,’ says a coauthor.
Posted: 04 Nov 2014 08:15 AM PST
The songs of the hermit thrush, a common North American songbird, follow principles found in much human music — namely the harmonic series. Researchers are the first to demonstrate note selection from the harmonic series in a non-human animal using rigorous analytical methods.…
by Joe Romm Posted on November 2, 2014 at 10:56 am
Humanity’s choice (via IPCC): Aggressive climate action ASAP (left figure) minimizes future warming and costs a mere 0.06% of annual growth. Continued inaction (right figure) results in catastrophic and irreversible levels of warming, 9°F over much of U.S. and world.
The world’s top scientists and governments have issued their bluntest plea yet to the world: Slash carbon pollution now (at a very low cost) or risk “severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts for people and ecosystems.” Scientists have “high confidence” these devastating impacts occur “even with adaptation” — if we keep doing little or nothing. On Sunday, the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released the “synthesis” report of their fifth full scientific climate assessment since 1990. More than 100 governments have signed off line by line on this review of more than 30,000 studies on climate science, impacts, and solutions. Like every recent IPCC report, it is cautious to a fault — as you would expect from “its consensus structure, which tends to produce a lowest common denominator on which a large number of scientists can agree,” as one climatologist explained to the New York Times. And that “lowest common denominator” is brought to an even blander and lower level in the summary reports since they need to end up with language that satisfies every member government. The authors clearly understand this is the last time they have a serious shot at influencing the world’s major governments while we still have a plausible chance of stabilizing at non-catastrophic levels. IPCC chairman Rajendra Pachauri said this report will “provide the roadmap by which policymakers will hopefully find their way to a global agreement to finally reverse course on climate change.” That global agreement is supposed to be achieved over the next year and finalized at the December 2015 international climate talks in Paris. And yet, as conservative as the process is, this final synthesis is still incredibly alarming — while at the same time it is terrifically hopeful.
How hopeful? The world’s top scientists and governments make clear for the umpteenth time that the cost of action is relatively trivial: “Mitigation scenarios that are likely to limit warming to below 2°C” entail “an annualized reduction of consumption growth by 0.04 to 0.14 (median: 0.06) percentage points over the century relative to annualized consumption growth in the baseline that is between 1.6 percent and 3 percent per year (high confidence).”
Translation: The cost of even the most aggressive action — the kind needed to stave off irreversible disaster — is so low that it would not noticeably change the growth curve of the world economy this century. With high confidence, we would be reducing annual consumption growth from, say, 2.4 percent per year down to “only” a growth level of 2.34 percent per year.
How bad can it get if we won’t devote that tiny fraction of the world’s wealth to action? The IPCC already explained that in the science report from last fall (see “Alarming IPCC Prognosis: 9°F Warming For U.S., Faster Sea Rise, More Extreme Weather, Permafrost Collapse”). And they expanded on that in the impacts report (see “Climate Panel Warns World Faces ‘Breakdown Of Food Systems’ And More Violent Conflict”). The synthesis report ties it all together: “In most scenarios without additional mitigation efforts … warming is more likely than not to exceed 4°C [7°F] above pre-industrial levels by 2100. The risks associated with temperatures at or above 4°C include substantial species extinction, global and regional food insecurity, consequential constraints on common human activities, and limited potential for adaptation in some cases (high confidence).”
Translation: There is high confidence that if we keep doing little or nothing [the RCP8.5 case], we will create a post-apocalyptic “hunger games” world beyond adaptation.
Ever cautious, the IPCC euphemistically writes of “consequential constraints on common human activities.” Elsewhere they explain that “by 2100 for RCP8.5, the combination of high temperature and humidity in some areas for parts of the year is expected to compromise common human activities, including growing food and working outdoors (high confidence).” Translation: We are at risk of making large parts of the planet’s currently arable and populated land virtually uninhabitable for much of the year — and irreversibly so for hundreds of years.
Indeed, the report makes clear that future generations can’t plausibly undo whatever we are too greedy and shortsighted to prevent through immediate action. And as bad as the impacts described in this report are, things will be even worse after 2100 in every case but the one where we aggressively act ASAP to stabilize at 2°C total warming. And remember, this is a super-cautious, consensus-based, “lowest common denominator” report. The Washington Post has an excellent piece on the inherently conservative nature of these reports and why they “often underestimate the severity of global warming.” So things are probably going to be much, much worse for our children and grandchildren and future generations if we fail to act. Do we really want to find out just how much worse things could be?
By Chris Mooney October 30 Washington Postg
The Thwaites Glacier in West Antarctic. Recent research suggests that part of the huge West Antarctic ice sheet is starting a slow collapse in an unstoppable way. Alarmed scientists say that means even more sea level rise than they figured. (AP Photo/NASA)
On Nov. 2, the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change will release its “Synthesis Report,” the final stage in a yearlong document dump that, collectively, presents the current expert consensus about climate change and its consequences. This synthesis report (which has already been leaked and reported on — like it always is) pulls together the conclusions of three prior reports of the IPCC’s 5th Assessment Report, and will “provide the roadmap by which policymakers will hopefully find their way to a global agreement to finally reverse course on climate change,” according to the IPCC chairman Rajendra Pachauri. There’s just one problem. According to a number of scientific critics, the scientific consensus represented by the IPCC is a very conservative consensus. IPCC’s reports, they say, often underestimate the severity of global warming, in a way that may actually confuse policymakers (or worse). The IPCC, one scientific group charged last year, has a tendency to “err on the side of least drama.” And now, in a new study just out in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, another group of researchers echoes that point. In scientific parlance, they charge that the IPCC is focused on avoiding what are called “type 1” errors — claiming something is happening when it really is not (a “false positive”) — rather than on avoiding “type 2” errors — not claiming something is happening when it really is (a “false negative”). The consequence is that we do not always hear directly from the IPCC about how bad things could be.”Our motivation was really experiencing the IPCC process, and seeing the various ways in which the process, and sort of this seeking consensus, can lead to downplaying the full ranges of future scenarios,” comments Bill Anderegg, a Princeton researcher and lead author of the new paper. Anderegg contributed his expertise on ecosystems and climate change in North America in Working Group II of the latest IPCC report. To show why these researchers think the IPCC is conservative — and emphatically not alarmist — you need only consider what the leaked Synthesis Report (which, of course, is still subject to revision) says about the subject of sea level rise. Next to rising temperatures, rising seas are perhaps the most obvious outcome of global warming (because hot air melts ice and expands ocean water). They are also one of the most severe — and an incredibly big deal if you live in Florida, or North Carolina, or Bangladesh, or the Maldives, or anywhere else with a beach or coast. Knowing just how much sea level could rise, and how fast, is thus vital to help cities and countries plan for how to adapt to a changing world.
By the year 2100, the leaked draft report claims, sea level rise “will likely be in the ranges of 0.26 to 0.55 m for RCP2.6 and of 0.45 to 0.82 m for RCP8.5 (medium confidence),” which is quite similar to what earlier documents from this round of the IPCC’s work have said. To translate: For two different scenarios for future greenhouse gas emissions — one a low end scenario, one a high end one — there is a 66 percent probability that sea level rise will fall into these two corresponding ranges. And the high end of the range, in the high end emissions scenario, is .82 meters of sea level rise, or 2.69 feet. Alas, it turns out that these numbers are misleading in several ways — and may very well be too low. First, .82 meters is not actually the amount of sea level rise that is expected at the year 2100. If you sift carefully enough through the IPCC’s various reports, you will learn that it is rather the mean increase expected between the years 2081-2100, or during the last two decades of this century, when compared with the mean sea level between 1986 and 2005. The actual high end number for 2100 is .98 meters, or 3.22 feet – an amount that “would threaten the survival of coastal cities and entire island nations,” writes climate expert Stefan Rahmstorf of Potsdam University.
But it gets more complicated still — that’s not really the high end number either! Note above that IPCC only gives the range for sea level rise that it considers “likely.” What that means, according to Princeton’s Anderegg, is that “these ranges are only the middle 2/3 of the probability distribution.” In other words, he says, “there is a 17 percent chance it could be lower than that, and a 17 percent chance it could be higher than that.” You’d have to be pretty attuned to figure that out, though. And just when you think you’re finally figuring out how bad sea level rise could be by 2100, yet another problem pops up. There are many ways of determining an acceptable range for expected sea level rise, and the IPCC relies on one of them — so-called “process-based models,” which draw on physical equations that govern our understanding of the thermal expansion of the ocean, the melting of ice sheets, and other related factors. But that’s not the only way of estimating future sea level rise….
…There’s yet another problem with the IPCC process — it only considers scientific papers that were published before a particular cutoff date, which in this case, was March 15, 2013. But in May 2014, long after that cutoff date, a blockbuster study came out suggesting that global warming has already irrevocably destabilized the massive West Antarctic Ice Sheet, which contains some 10 feet worth of sea level rise. That is not to say that all of that ice will fall into the ocean immediately and raise sea level, but rather to say that its disintegration, over time, is inevitable. How fast will it happen?
That’s the big unknown — but obviously, it is unwise to underestimate an ice sheet, when the consequences around the world would be so devastating. The lead author of that research, the University of California-Irvine’s Eric Rignot, stressed in an interview that there is no scientific consensus yet about the validity of his alarming results. But adds that in his own opinion, the IPCC’s estimate for sea level rise is “very conservative.” “We’ve been looking at these glaciers for 20 years, and what I see is defying all these models,” adds Rignot….
So in summary, by 2100, sea level rise could be plenty worse than the IPCC suggests — and realizing this might lead policymakers around the world to view global warming very differently. So then why are its scientific assessments like this? There are surely many reasons, but the authors of the new Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society paper suggest one of them is how much the IPCC has been blasted — especially over past errors, such as an incorrect prediction that the Himalayan glaciers would vanish by 2035. Because of such flubs, the IPCC has been repeatedly attacked by outside critics — one of whose favorite epithets is calling the panel “alarmist.” Ironically, perhaps precisely because of all that criticism, it isn’t.
Posted: 03 Nov 2014 01:19 PM PST
A mechanism that could turn out to be a big contributor to warming in the Arctic region and melting sea ice has been identified by scientists. They found that open oceans are much less efficient than sea ice when it comes to emitting in the far-infrared region of the spectrum, a previously unknown phenomenon that is likely contributing to the warming of the polar climate...
Nov. 6, 2014 — The distribution of birds in the United States today will probably look very different in 60 years as a result of climate, land use and land cover. A new U.S. Geological Survey study predicts where 50 bird species will breed, feed and live in the conterminous U.S. by 2075. While some types of birds, like the Baird’s sparrow, will likely lose a significant amount of their current U.S. range, other ranges could nearly double. Human activity will drive many of these shifts. The study was published today in the journal PLOS ONE. “Habitat loss is a strong predictor of bird extinction at local and regional scales,” said Terry Sohl, a USGS scientist and the author of the report. “Shifts in species’ ranges over the next several decades will be more dramatic for some bird species than others.”… full story
Terry L. Sohl. The Relative Impacts of Climate and Land-Use Change on Conterminous United States Bird Species from 2001 to 2075. PLoS ONE, 2014; 9 (11): e112251 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0112251
An oil refinery releases steam, soot, carbon dioxide and dozens of other substances. Researchers say regulators should worry most about CO2. Credit: Dana via flickr
CO2 outranks soot, methane and even hydrofluorocarbons in terms of long-term global warming
Soot from car exhaust and cookstoves, sulfates from coal-fired power plants, methane leaked during oil and gas production, and hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) from air conditioning are all greenhouse gases that trap heat within the Earth’s atmosphere for a short while before decaying into less virulent chemicals. Cutting emissions of such “short-lived climate pollutants,” or SLCPs, will not have much impact on long-term climate change, finds a new study published yesterday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of the Sciences. The study reaffirms strongly that, as far as climate change goes, the gas that truly matters is carbon dioxide. Unlike its shorter-lived cousins, CO2 sticks around in the atmosphere for decades to centuries, wreaking climate havoc. “It has become very clear that if you want to stabilize warming at any level, you have to start talking about phasing out CO2,” said Joeri Rogelj, a research scholar at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis and lead author of the study. “Reducing other climate pollution can help in different ways and for different things, but in climate stabilization terms, it’s noise on the fact that you have to phase out CO2.”…
Posted: 05 Nov 2014 07:12 AM PST
Scientists have developed a new index to measure the magnitude of heat waves. According to the index projections, under the worst climate scenario of temperature rise nearing 4.8pC, extreme heat waves will become the norm by the end of the century.
by Jeff Spross Posted on November 6, 2014
With 2014 almost concluded, the chances are now overwhelming that it will beat out 1934 as the hottest year ever recorded in the state….
By Kurtis Alexander Updated 3:27 pm, Thursday, November 6, 2014
Federal forecasters on Thursday scaled back the likelihood of an El Niño developing this winter, dampening hopes of a wet winter washing away the California drought. Pacific Ocean waters have failed to warm to the levels that scientists projected earlier this year, when the federal Climate Prediction Center issued an El Niño watch and said the weather pattern was likely to evolve by now — or sometime around the end of the year. The odds of an El Niño forming this winter are now pegged at 58 percent, according to the Climate Prediction Center, down from 80 percent in the spring. An El Niño, marked by warming surface waters in the Pacific tropics, is a key signal for forecasters trying to figure out what will happen during the winter months. When the pattern develops, it influences worldwide weather.
By Matt Weiser firstname.lastname@example.org 10/31/2014 8:26 PM 11/02/2014 11:22 PM
Weeds and dirt were still seen under a chairlift in January 2013 at Donner Ski Ranch.Randy Penchemail@example.com
Future droughts in California are likely to bite deeper and last longer than the one now gripping the state, according to new research into the potential effects of climate change. Scientists from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography and the U.S. Geological Survey used computer climate modeling tools to estimate the effects of warmer temperatures in future decades. In particular, they studied the effect on California’s mountain snowpack, the largest source of fresh water in the state, which refills thousands of water-storage reservoirs each spring via snowmelt. The results show that by 2050, the median snowpack present on April 1 each year could be one-third smaller than the historical median, and by 2100 it could be two-thirds smaller. Such a dramatic loss of snowmelt would produce less runoff to refill reservoirs each summer, potentially making droughts an ever-present condition. The research also shows that by 2100, there is only a 10 percent chance that California mountains will see a snowpack equal to the median that accumulates today. The research was conducted by some of California’s leading climate researchers, and has not yet been published or peer reviewed. It was presented Thursday at the Bay-Delta Science Conference in Sacramento. “The water contained in the snowpack is declining pretty steadily through the 21st century,” said Dan Cayan, director of the California Climate Change Center at Scripps in San Diego and the study’s lead author. “According to the models, we’re already detecting these changes in snowpack.” California water management officials are bracing for these potential changes. On Thursday, the state Department of Water Resources released a revised California Water Plan, a comprehensive strategy to protect the state from water shortages and floods that looks out to 2050. A major focus involves managing the effects of climate change. “Unless we take strong action, we won’t have the existing water be reliable for the future,” said John Laird, secretary of the California Natural Resources Agency, which oversees DWR. “Over time, conservation as a way of life in California is something that simply has to be done.” State officials released the plan just days before California voters weigh in on Proposition 1, a $7.5billion water bond pushed by Gov. Jerry Brown. If passed, the measure would authorize bonds for a range of water projects, including dams, groundwater replenishment, water recycling, flood protection and habitat restoration. DWR’s water plan lays out 350 strategies aimed at boosting water supplies and improving conservation. Key among them is better connecting existing water systems. For instance, the plan calls for reconnecting rivers with their historic floodplains so that, when floods occur, the water can be held on the land to recharge groundwater wells. In many cases, this would mean breaching levees. It also could mean difficult changes in land use, said DWR Director Mark Cowin. “For many decades, one of the challenges we’ve had is that agencies that carry out responsibility for water management are not necessarily connected to the local agencies that are responsible for land use,” Cowin said. “That needs to change.” Cayan’s research into climate change would seem to support this direction… DWR’s Cowin said a broader rethinking of California water systems is needed to account for climate change as well as population growth. The state’s population, at 38million, already exceeds all other Western states combined. By 2050, it is projected to increase 30percent, to about 50million people.
Serving all those people in a warmer future would mean changing the rulebook at every reservoir, along with increasing water supplies through conservation, wastewater recycling, groundwater storage and other measures.
All this will cost money. The California Water Plan estimates the state needs to invest $200billion over the next decade simply to maintain current levels of service, and another $500billion in future decades to make improvements. Those numbers include all levels of government spending, from local water districts to the federal government. “That sends a pretty clear signal that water is going to cost more for Californians in the future,” Cowin said. “I think that’s a reality we’ll all have to get used to.”
NASA’s Grace satellites measured the depletion of groundwater in northwestern India between 2002 and 2008. Image: NASA
Andrew Freeman Mashable Oct 30 2014
From India to Texas, people are rapidly depleting their valuable stores of groundwater — leading to the possibility that aquifers may be emptied within decades, a NASA researcher has warned.
In a commentary published Wednesday in the journal Nature Climate Change, Jay Famiglietti, who has helped lead the use of a NASA satellite system to detect groundwater changes around the world, warned of dramatic consequences to come if changes are not made to the way that societies manage water supplies. Currently, Famiglietti told Mashable, management of global groundwater stores is inadequate to nonexistent, as governments focus on regulating surface water supplies while tapping underground aquifers as much as they want to. “Our overuse of groundwater puts our overall water security at far greater risk than we thought,” Famiglietti says. Unlike surface water, which is replenished through precipitation, groundwater can take centuries to recharge. Yet humans are depleting groundwater at rates that far exceed the pace at which this water can be replenished. Think of it this way: groundwater is analogous to a pension, a long-term investment that takes many years to pay off. If you withdraw more than you put in, you’ll go bankrupt in the long run. Dams and reservoirs, meanwhile, are more like a checking account. “Groundwater is being pumped at far greater rates than it can be naturally replenished, so that many of the largest aquifers on most continents are being mined, their precious contents never to be returned,” Famiglietti, a researcher at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California, wrote. Famiglietti has used NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) satellite system, which is capable of detecting the most subtle changes in Earth’s gravitational field to spot land elevation changes, and thus water depletion, to publish a number of studies on groundwater in recent years. During the summer, for example, he contributed to a study that revealed that water users throughout the Colorado River Basin are tapping into groundwater supplies to make up for the lack of adequate supplies of surface water. The study found that more than 75% of the water loss in the Colorado River Basin since 2004 came from groundwater.
GRACE showed that between December 2004 and November 2013, the Colorado River basin lost nearly 53 million acre feet of freshwater, which is double the total volume of the country’s largest reservoir — Lake Mead in Arizona. More than three-quarters of the total — about 41 million acre feet — was from groundwater. Other GRACE data has shown that the Sacramento River and San Joaqin River basins have lost a total of 4 trillion gallons of groundwater per year, which has caused the land surface to sink.
Groundwater, Famiglietti told Mashable, accounts for more than half of the irrigation water used to grow the world’s food. Aquifers of particular concern to Famiglietti include the North China Plain, Australia’s Canning Basin, the Northwest Sahara Aquifer System, the High Plains and Central aquifers in the U.S., and aquifers between northwestern India and the Middle East. “Because the gap between supply and demand is routinely bridged with non-renewable groundwater, even more so during drought, groundwater supplies in some major aquifers “will be depleted in a matter of decades,” Famiglietti wrote. Famiglietti says that groundwater depletion in northwest India is at the top of his list of concerns, in part because of the population growth. Water shortages could lead to political instability As climate change redistributes water around the planet, with wet areas getting potentially wetter and dry areas drier, it could further stress water supplies, Famiglietti said. This could lead to conflicts, particularly in countries that lack resiliency to such shocks. A key factor in groundwater depletion is that water laws do not do much to manage aquifers. In California, the ongoing drought has forced state leaders to pass a bill meant to track groundwater supplies and encourage their sustainable use — but not before the state has actually sunk in elevation, because so much groundwater has been used for agriculture. The consequences of poorly managing groundwater supplies in the coming decades could be extremely disruptive, in the form of declining agricultural production, reductions in energy generation and the possibility of huge spikes in food prices. “The handwriting is on the wall for all the bad things that can result from that,” he said.
Tim Hearden Capital Press Published: October 31, 2014 2:05PM SACRAMENTO — Adding more storage ponds, using deficit irrigation and boosting incentives for on-farm conservation are just a few of the many ideas California officials propose in an updated water plan unveiled Oct. 30.
The state Department of Water Resources makes about 350 suggestions for improving urban and rural water-use efficiency in the latest version of the California Water Plan, which has guided water policy since 1957 and is updated periodically. The updated plan includes more than 50 recommendations for agriculture, such as further equipping crop advisors to help growers evaluate their irrigation systems and simplifying the forms with which water districts must report deliveries under a conservation law passed in 2009.
The plan also calls for reassuring landowners “that efforts to conserve water do not alter water rights” and addressing concerns that participation in voluntary habitat-restoration programs might increase their vulnerability to Endangered Species Act restrictions. “These documents take a long view,” state Natural Resources Secretary John Laird told reporters in a conference call. “They take a view out to 2050, and they reinforce the five-year plan released by the governor earlier this year.” Prepared over the last five years with the help of federal agencies and those in affected communities and industries, the plan is separate from Gov. Jerry Brown’s 10-point Water Action Plan unveiled in January, which outlines more immediate measures to be taken amid California’s historic drought…..
by Maven November 3 2014
The University of California’s Agriculture and Natural Resources (UCANR) has developed a series of webinars titled Insights: Water and Drought which feature timely, relevant expertise on water and drought from experts around the University of California system. In this webinar, Professor Lynn Ingram, a professor of Earth and Planetary Science at UC Berkeley, discusses the climate history of droughts and floods in California, with a focus on the state’s history of droughts. Professor Ingram’s research looks at climate variation over long time scales in comparison to the modern period, the frequency and severity of past droughts and floods and how they impacted past human societies, and how will future warming impact water resources….. read more to see highlights of webinar.
By Shelby Grad LA Times Nov 1 2014
The first rainstorm of the just-started season provided some much needed moisture to California, though some areas got more than others. And it was not enough to make much of a dent in the drought. Northern and Central California got the most rain, with Monterey setting a new record for Oct. 31 with 1.35 inches, according to the National Weather Service. In the San Francisco Bay Area more areas recorded well below an inch of rain….
Friday, Nov 7, 2014 • Updated at 5:43 AM PST NBC Bay Area
The water that flows through California’s public lands and state parks is the life blood of the forests’ ecosystems. But in the midst of a water shortage, the Investigative Unit has found some criminals are disrupting nature’s course and stealing massive amounts of water meant for public lands. The Investigative Unit spoke with a rancher who noticed the water levels in his lake drop a dramatic six feet in just three weeks. “It was just so odd,” he told the Investigative Unit. The rancher soon discovered hundreds of feet of piping siphoning his water to a marijuana grow site illegally setup in a nearby state park. He asked for his identity to be concealed to protect his safety….
November 7, 2014 Bloomberg News
The record surge in Chinese corn output is over, and Dong Yushan doesn’t have to look much farther than his dusty fields in Henan province to see why. A lack of rain from May to August turned into the worst drought the 67-year-old farmer ever saw.
November 7, 2014 Associated Press
It’s been nearly a month since Diomar Pereira has had running water at his home in Itu, a commuter city outside Sao Paulo that is at the epicenter of the worst drought to hit southeastern Brazil in more than eight decades….
Posted: 05 Nov 2014 05:44 AM PST
The Swiss water economy is not optimally prepared to cope with the forthcoming changes in terms of climate and society. Nevertheless, new research concludes that Switzerland will have enough water if regional collaboration is expanded, if sustainable solutions to water conflicts are found and if water protection efforts are continued.
by Joe Romm Posted on November 6, 2014
Breakthrough Strategies & Solutions has updated their excellent messaging guide on climate and clean energy, “Climate Solutions for a Stronger America.” Here’s why you need to read it….
In an effort to cope with heavier rains and warmer temperatures that climate change brings, some communities are beginning to grapple with ways to help people adapt to the inevitable, even as they work to cut greenhouse gas emissions. That means creating more spaces for stormwater to flow to ease flooding, and mapping sites where people can cool off during heat waves. Earlier this week, a panel of scientists studying climate change for the United Nations laid out a monumental task for humanity: Reduce greenhouse gas emissions to zero by the end of this century. But they also said we’ve already put enough carbon in the atmosphere to cause significant change, so we have to learn ways to deal with it. “It took a long time for enough people to understand that there really was an issue,” said Faye Sleeper, interim director of the Water Resources Center at the University of Minnesota… Climate adaptation work is already under way on a small scale in Minnesota as a response to here-and-now problems like changes in rainfall. Some cities and transportation planners have begun using new precipitation data to make sure roads and stormwater systems can handle heavier rains. Some forest managers are experimenting with different tree species expected to be more resilient to the changing climate. Farmers have long been finding ways to be more resilient to year-to-year weather changes. But now that the climate trends are clearer, some are advocating changes in what we grow. Diversifying the agricultural landscape is one of the best ways to make it more resilient to climate change, said Nick Jordan, a U of M researcher who studies the ecology of agriculture. He says the trick is to find crops that could both benefit the soil and farmers’ pocketbooks. …
by Claire Moser – Guest Contributor Posted on November 6, 2014
Several key ballot initiatives will designate billions of dollars to protect more parks, open spaces, and waterways in states across the country….
Deck in Congress is stacked in favor of fossil fuels, throwing Obama’s climate agenda in doubt during his lame-duck years.
The role of the United States in confronting the global climate crisis has been cast into serious doubt after an election that stacked the deck in Congress in favor of fossil fuel industries. Republicans seized firm control, and added several new senators who deny that climate change is a problem.
A solid majority of voters who spoke to exit pollsters said they regarded climate change as a significant matter, but most were on the Democratic side. By a huge margin, Republican voters said the opposite.
And in state after hotly contested state, they elected their own to the Senate. In that chamber, the ascendant Republican leadership, from Kentucky’s Mitch McConnell on down, are opposed to President Obama’s climate policies—starting with the EPA’s clampdown on carbon emissions from coal plants, and extending to his hopes that the U.S. will join Europe in leading the rest of the world to a new climate treaty. In an election that hinged on broad opposition to Obama and left him to limp through his two lame-duck years, environmentalists did win a few battles—even as they lost the war. The League of Conservation Voters, which along with other environmental campaigners spent heavily on the contest, noted that it had unseated several members of its “dirty dozen” target list. In Nebraska, a bastion of opposition to the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, the project’s best friend in Congress, Rep. Lee Terry, was defeated. Half of the local anti-fracking measures on the ballots of towns and counties in California, Ohio and Texas passed….
Nick Juliano, E&E reporter Greenwire: Wednesday, November 5, 2014
Despite their impressive gains last night, Republicans do not appear to have flipped enough seats to undo most of President Obama’s environment and climate change agenda. The united GOP Congress should be able to send him legislation that would approve the Keystone XL pipeline and to achieve narrower limits on the most controversial impending rules. Republicans picked up at least seven seats in yesterday’s elections, with additional gains possible in Alaska and next month’s runoff in Louisiana as well as a possible recount in the unexpectedly close Virginia race……Republicans and industry supporters are confident a bill approving the pipeline will quickly reach the president’s desk next year (see related story). Using those tallies as a base line, Republicans don’t appear to have flipped enough seats to end a filibuster — even if they eventually win Alaska and Louisiana and if a recount reverses Sen. Mark Warner’s victory in Virginia. In the new Senate, Republicans likely have between 55 and 59 votes to block action on climate change based on seats that flipped this year. (Click here for a chart that breaks down the seven amendment votes and how they could flip in the new Senate.) ….
Water rule, ozone standard
Another regulation expected to be a top Republican target is EPA’s rule delineating what qualifies as a “water of the United States” subject to federal regulation. Environmentalists say the rule is needed for upstream tributaries and wetlands that would otherwise lack federal protection, but conservatives have attacked it as a costly expansion of government power.
Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) offered an amendment to block it on last year’s water infrastructure bill but came up eight votes short of overcoming a filibuster. Five Democrats who opposed the amendments lost their seats or retired and are being replaced by Republicans; a Warner loss would flip another vote. And Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) was not present for the vote, adding another likely supporter. But that would still leave the effort stuck at 59 votes in favor. One top GOP target that has not previously been subject to a Senate vote is EPA’s forthcoming rule expected to tighten the National Ambient Air Quality Standard for ozone, which has been in the works for years. Most Republicans signed a letter to then-EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson in 2011 expressing concerns with the rule. Landrieu, who faces a runoff next month, and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) also signed the letter. Jeff Holmstead of Bracewell & Giuliani, a former EPA air chief, noted Congress may be able to block or delay the ozone rule because it is not a “legacy issue for the White House,” unlike the climate change rules. Indeed, Obama reportedly blocked EPA from tightening the standard in September 2011, suggesting he may be willing to work with Congress, where Democrats from states with heavy manufacturing or oil and gas extraction could be willing partners. “Given the fact this issue is not a presidential priority I think it’s possible we could see some legislative action, perhaps a rider,” he said. “That is not going to fundamentally change the Clean Air Act, but there are ways this standard could be delayed or softened.”
by Ari Phillips Posted on November 7, 2014
McConnell has told his donors that he will work hard to thwart the Obama agenda, including pushing coal, moving forward with the Keystone XL pipeline, and stopping the EPA from doing anything to confront climate change….
By Joshua A. Krisch | November 4, 2014 Scientific American The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.
The Republican Party is widely predicted to win control of the Senate as a result of today’s midterm elections. In broadstrokes, that outcome portends a green light for the Keystone XL Pipeline, a blow to the Affordable Care Act and a push for corporate tax reform. But what would a GOP-controlled Senate mean for scientists and their research? When it comes to science (and, more importantly, funding) individual senators are perhaps less important than the committees that they run. There are 20 committees in the U.S. Senate, with responsibilities ranging from homeland security to urban development. The chairperson of each committee, appointed by the majority party, holds inordinate sway over how his or her committee votes. If Republicans take control of the Senate, we can expect a major shakeup within the ranks of these powerful committees. But, despite the conventional wisdom, conservatives aren’t always bad for science. Here are three of the senate committees that hold the most sway over science and scientific research—and what might happen to them if Republicans win the day.
The Good: Appropriations
The Senate Appropriations Committee is arguably the most powerful committee. Virtually all Senate-approved funding for science must pass through Appropriations—think cash for the Food and Drug Administration, the National Science Foundation and NASA. It would be disastrous for scientific research and development if someone hostile to science were to gain control of Appropriations. Fortunately, that’s unlikely. The current chairwoman of Appropriations is Barbara Mikulski, a Democrat who has consistently opposed NASA budget cuts and recently promised that she will fight for NASA receive at least as much money in 2015 as the organization did in 2014. If Republicans win the Senate, it is likely that Thad Cochran would return to his prior post (2005-2007) as chairman of Appropriations. Cochran, too, supports increased funding for NASA, and back in 2013 he was one of the few Republicans who voted in favor of protecting ocean, coastal and Great Lakes ecosystems. In the past, he has voted for telecommunications deregulation and even advocated for an extra $18 billion toward waterway infrastructure.
The Science-Friendly Vote: Toss up. Both Mikulski and Cochran seem pretty science-friendly.
The Bad: Commerce, Science and Transportation
The Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee is all about scientific legislation. This committee controls funding for green technology, aeronautical and space sciences, atmospheric and weather sciences and scientific research and development (there’s some overlap among committees). The current chairman of Commerce, Science and Transportation is Jay Rockefeller, a Democrat who thinks, according to his web site, that investing in science, technology is critical to our nation’s global leadership. Although Rockefeller did not seek reelection in 2014, his voting record has been decidedly pro-science. He has taken major steps toward bringing federal research grants to underserved states, and he even voted in favor of providing Internet connections for public schools. It’s not a stretch to imagine a Democratic successor who operates along the same basic lines. Meanwhile, based on senate seniority, it is likely that the Republicans would appoint Ted Cruz as chairman of Commerce, Science and Transportation. Cruz is a climate skeptic who recently pushed for a reduction in NASA’s budget. It is also noteworthy that he was the public face of last year’s government shutdown, which did lasting damage to scientific research.
The Science-Friendly Vote: Rockefeller over Cruz.
The Ugly: Environment and Public Works
The Environment and Public Works Committee stands at the helm of climate change legislation and funds the Environmental Protection Agency. The current chairwoman, Barbara Boxer, famously pulled an all-nighter back in March to publicize the threat of climate change. Need we say more? If Republicans win the Senate, James Inhofe will likely take charge of Environment and Public Works. That would be disastrous for science. Inhofe is one of the loudest climate deniers in the senate, as evidenced by his book The Greatest Hoax: How The Global Warming Conspiracy Threatens Your Future and many other public and written statements. If Inhofe gains control of the Senate committee in charge of climate change legislation, that’s probably the end of climate change legislation (not that great strides have been made in the past seven years of Democratic dominance). And, global warming aside, it’s probably not a good idea to put someone who calls scientific consensus a “hoax” in charge of a Senate committee that holds the purse strings for scientific funding.
The Science Friendly Vote: Boxer over Inhofe. Definitely.
– Nov 5, 2014
In his 2012 book, The Greatest Hoax: How the Global Warming Conspiracy Threatens Your Future, the Oklahoma Republican argued that climate change science has been manufactured by liberals to scare the American public, push through anti-business …
—By Tim McDonnell Mother Jones| Wed Nov. 5, 2014 2:43 PM EST
Well, folks, it wasn’t such a great night on the climate action front. ….It probably won’t surprise you to learn that most of the Senate’s newly elected Republicans are big boosters of fossil fuels and don’t agree with the mainstream scientific consensus on global warming. Here’s an overview of their statements on climate change, ranging from a few who seem to at least partly accept to science to those who flat-out reject it….
by Ian Millhiser Posted on November 5, 2014 at 10:28 am Updated: November 5, 2014 at 12:34 pm
The English language lacks superlatives strong enough to describe how bad last night was for Democrats. Republicans captured a majority in the Senate. They reelected several controversial governors. And they achieved their second “wave” election in just three election cycles. And yet, when the new, GOP-controlled Senate opens its first session next January, it will be strikingly unrepresentative of the voters who elected its members. A ThinkProgress review of the electoral results from 2010, 2012 and 2014 Senate races reveals that millions more Americans actually cast a vote for a Democratic Senate candidate than voted for a Republican candidate during the three election cycles that built the incoming Senate….
The millions of dollars spent in Iowa and other states for candidates who support action on climate change had little effect on voters’ decisions Tuesday, experts say. The question is whether environmental activists can make it a pivotal issue in Iowa’s first-in-the-nation caucuses in 2016.
October 31, 2014 By Dave Foster
- 2014 Strategic Sustainability Performance Plan (PDF)
- U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Climate Change Adaptation Plan (PDF)
WASHINGTON (Oct. 31, 2014) — The United States Army Corps of Engineers today released its Climate Change Adaptation Plan and annual Strategic Sustainability Plan in response to Executive Orders 13514 and 13653. “The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has been factoring climate change and its impacts in to all its missions and operations for decades,” said Jo-Ellen Darcy, assistant secretary of the Army for civil works and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers senior sustainability officer. “The Corps of Engineers is working with the Obama Administration to identify and address the existing and future risks and vulnerabilities of climate change and ensure that communities and ecosystems are protected and flourish.” “We are making sustainability a part of all the decisions we make in designing, constructing, and managing water infrastructure,” she explained. “In the coming years we will reduce greenhouse gas emission, reduce non-tactical vehicle petroleum consumption, and increase renewable electricity consumption.”…
by Ari Phillips Posted on November 3, 2014
On Monday, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Justice Department announced a major settlement involving automakers Hyundai and Kia over alleged violations of the Clean Air Act when reporting greenhouse gas emissions…..
by Ari Phillips Posted on November 2, 2014 at 1:57 pm Updated: November 2, 2014 at 5:15 pm
Santa Barbara rose to prominence in the environmental movement after a massive 1969 offshore oil spill drew national attention to the issue and changed the industry forever. Since then, the city and broader region has been a leader in environmental awareness, even as it sits on massive fossil fuel deposits. With residents set to vote on an anti-fracking ballot measure Tuesday, the next evolution in that ongoing dynamic could be one of the biggest turning points yet. “It’s no surprise that international oil giants have funneled money into the anti-Measure P effort,” Lauren Hanson, vice president of the Goleta Water Board and long-time area resident, told ThinkProgress. Goleta is located immediately next to Santa Barbara. “That this is so important to them — to take over beautiful Santa Barbara County at virtually any cost — is a demonstration of cynical corporate overreaching at its worst.” They had better prepare for a long, long struggle here. Hanson said the real surprise has been that the onslaught of industry money hasn’t discouraged residents, and that even if the oil companies win this round “they had better prepare for a long, long struggle here.”
California is famous for its ballot initiatives and if the lopsided governor’s race isn’t captivating potential voters this year, then down-ballot items should. On top of a major water initiative, Proposition 1, which would authorize a $7.12 billion bond for California’s water system, there are several local fracking measures that could have statewide and nationwide implications going forward. There are a record number of anti-fracking measures on ballots across the country this year, according to InsideClimate News. These include four Ohio towns, Denton, Texas, and Santa Barbara, San Benito Mendocino counties in California. And considering California was the third-highest crude oil producing state in 2013, interest in its anti-fracking initiatives extends far beyond state lines. For evidence of the stakes in California, look no further than the industry investment in fighting the measures. Major oil and gas companies such as Chevron, ExxonMobil, and Occidental Petroleum have pumped more than $7.5 million into the pro-oil coalition Californians for Energy Independence in an attempt to defeat the bans, according to the California Secretary of State’s campaign finance database.
Most of this money went to Santa Barbara County, which has received over $5.7 million from the oil industry — more than is being spent on any congressional race in any district in California this year. Proponents of Measure P, as the Santa Barbara anti-fracking initiative is called, have raised just over $350,000. The rest of the Californians for Energy Independence cash has gone to oppose a similar ballot measure in San Benito County farther up the coast and inland. Measure P would prohibit “high intensity” oil and gas operations such as fracking, acid well stimulation treatments and cyclic steam injection. Currently, Santa Barbara County has around 1,167 active onshore wells, about a third of which use steam injection and very few, if any, of which use conventional fracking. Hanson said it’s important to note that the County has already established implementing ordinances for Measure P, to be ready if and when it passes, that offer a variety of exemptions for future drilling proposals. Therefore, this is not an outright ban on all future projects. “Measure P would make it much more difficult for high intensity petroleum operations to come into Santa Barbara County on the scale envisioned by industry players,” said Hanson. Earlier this year, a California bill that would have banned fracking while the state studied its risks was defeated in the state senate by the narrow margin of 18-16. The oil industry, including the Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA), spent heavily lobbying against the bill. Altogether the industry — including WSPA, Chevron, and BP — spent more than $56 million lobbying the California Legislature from 2009 through 2013.
Water World Timothy Krantz, a professor of environmental studies at the University of Redlands, east of Los Angeles, said that communities would normally look to state or federal regulations for something like fracking that crosses political and geographical borders. Absent that leadership, local groups are attempting to exert some authority of their own as the larger debate over fracking regulations progresses, with statewide regulations probably more than a year away. ….
By FRANK BRUNI NY Times Opinion November 5, 2014
You two haven’t been so well acquainted. In the new, post-midterms Congress, is there hope for a more respectful relationship?
By ANDREW RESTUCCIA | 11/5/14 12:32 AM EST Updated: 11/5/14 2:21 AM EST
For Tom Steyer and other environmentalists, $85 million wasn’t enough to help Democrats keep the Senate blue or win more than a single governor’s mansion in Tuesday’s toughest races. The billionaire’s super PAC and other green groups saw the vast majority of their favored candidates in the battleground states go down to defeat, despite spending an unprecedented amount of money to help climate-friendly Democrats in the midterm elections….
…”Our issues have been an important part of this election, and while they may not have been the largest part, polling clearly shows they weren’t the liabilities our opponents hoped they’d be,” Sierra Club political director Melissa Williams said. “That is momentum to build on and a clear signal to candidates in elections to come.” NextGen also fell short on the fundraising front. Steyer’s aides said in February that the billionaire hoped to spend $100 million or more on the midterms — half from his own fortune and half from outside donors. But while Steyer contributed at least $57.6 million of his own money to his super PAC, according to public filings, he was unable to match that sum with cash from other climate-minded donors. Steyer emerged as the nation’s top individual contributor for 2014, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, at least among donors whose giving is subject to public disclosure. While Democrats lost the Senate on Tuesday, NextGen, LCV, the Sierra Club and other environmental groups made the case that they had an impact on several races. In New Hampshire, the groups pummeled Republican Scott Brown over his stance on climate change and tied him to the oil industry. In Michigan, greens rallied around Peters, one of the few Democrats who consistently talked about climate change on the campaign trail. They released brutal ads tying Republican Terri Lynn Land to the Koch brothers and an unpopular pile of oil refinery byproduct in Detroit.
The groups argued that they also made waves in states like Florida and Colorado, even though Democrats lost there.
Posted: 03 Nov 2014 07:23 AM PST
More than half of ships involved in the 100 largest oil spills of the past three decades were registered in states that consistently fail to comply with international safety and environmental standards, researchers have determined.
Around 50,000 trucks drive along a freeway leaving the ports of L.A. and Long Beach every weekday.
Adele Peters November 5, 2014
L.A.’s highway of the future could cut down on the city’s famous pollution. Every weekday, around 50,000 trucks drive back and forth along a freeway leaving the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, the two largest ports in the country. The diesel exhaust from those trucks is one of the reasons that the area also has the country’s worst air pollution. But that may change as the result of a new experiment, as one stretch of the freeway will be transformed into an electric road. Using the same type of overhead wires that power electric streetcars or some buses, the road will automatically charge passing trucks.
“Essentially, it’s CO2 free,” says Matthias Schlelein, CFO for Siemens Mobility, the company that created the technology for the e-highway. “You get cleaner air, and you also have quieter traffic. Truck operators have lower energy costs.” When a truck pulls onto the electrified stretch of road, sensors on the roof will automatically detect the wires overhead and connect. If a driver wants to change lanes, the truck can quickly disconnect….
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Dr. Nancy Foster Scholarship Program recognizes outstanding scholarship and encourages independent graduate level research—particularly by female and minority students—in NOAA mission-related sciences of oceanography, marine biology and maritime archaeology, including all science, engineering and resource management of ocean and coastal areas. Scholarship selections are based on academic excellence, letters of recommendations, research and career goals, as well as
financial need. Dr. Nancy Foster Scholarships may provide (subject to appropriations)
yearly support of up to $42,000 per student (a 12-month stipend of $30,000 in addition to an education allowance of up to $12,000), and up to $10,000 of support for a 4-6 week program collaboration at a NOAA facility. Masters students may be supported for up to two years, and doctoral students for up to four years. Depending on funding, approximately three to four scholarships are awarded each year. Completed applications must be received by Grants.gov by December 10, 2014
at 5:00 p.m. Eastern Time
For more information about the Dr. Nancy Foster Scholarship Program and to download a copy of this Federal Funding Opportunity, visit http://fosterscholars.noaa.gov
Ecosystem Vulnerability Assessment – Patterns of Climate Change Vulnerability in the Southwest
November 18, 2014 1:00 PM PST
Speaker Jack Triepke, US Forest Service, will discuss an ecosystem-based climate change vulnerability assessment of adequate spatial and thematic detail to support local decisions.
The assessment methods resulted in an all-lands vulnerability dataset for upland ecosystems of Arizona and New Mexico, based on the anticipated effects of climate change in the late 21st century. Individual plant communities were analyzed and scored according to the degree of departure from their present-day climate preferences. Click here to register.
Transposing Extreme Rainfall to Assess Climate Vulnerability
November 12, 3:30-4:30 PM (EST)
Climate models predict significant increases in the magnitude and frequency of extreme rainfalls. However, climate model projections of precipitation vary greatly across models. For communities that have not experienced extreme storms in recent memory, useful information on their vulnerability to extreme rainfall can be obtained by hydrologic modeling based on high-resolution rainfall data from one or more extreme storms that have occurred elsewhere in the region. The presenters on this webinar have found that state and local decision makers are very receptive to using this approach to anticipate and adapt to impacts from extreme rainfall events. Register
Making Decisions in Complex Landscapes: Headwater Stream Management Across Multiple Agencies Using Structured Decision Making November 19, 3:30-4:30 PM (EST) –
There is growing evidence that headwater stream ecosystems are vulnerable to changing climate and land use, but their conservation is challenged by the need to address the threats at a landscape scale, often through coordination with multiple management agencies and landowners. Identifying obstacles to and opportunities for shared decision making among resource agencies and managers may lead to improvements in the selection of optimal management strategies for landscape-scale resources. This project provides an example of cooperative landscape decision making to address the conservation of headwater stream ecosystems in the face of climate change using case studies from two watersheds in the northeastern United States.
Correlation and Climate Sensitivity of Human Health and Environmental Indicators in the Salish Sea – Swinomish Indian Tribal Community November 20, 1:00-2:00 PM (EST) –
This webinar will discuss a project that focused on the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community, whose traditional territories are particularly vulnerable to threats like sea-level rise and increased storms. These sensitivities of species and habitats to climate were cross-walked with recently developed Coast Salish community health indicators (e.g., ceremonial use, knowledge exchange, and physiological well-being). The goal of this project was to demonstrate how Indigenous Knowledge can be used in conjunction with established landscape-level conservation indicators (e.g., shellfish and water- uality) and employed to identify resource management priorities. Results will show assessments of these indicators and priorities of the Swinomish Tribe and Tsleil-Waututh Nation compared to and integrated with climate forecasts. This presentation will provide a template for how other tribal communities can use these methods to assist with climate change adaptation.
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.
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
Measuring Up: How to Track and Evaluate Local Sustainability Projects – EPA Webinar
Tuesday, November 18, 2014
2:00 pm – 3:30 pm EST
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.
Monday, January 12, 2015 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. Sheraton Grand Sacramento
California’s historic drought is revealing strengths and weaknesses in how we manage our precious water resources. At this half-day event—coinciding with the beginning of a new legislative session—participants will examine Australia’s millennium drought, consider climate change and future droughts in California, look back at lessons from 2014, and look forward to policy priorities for 2015. This event is made possible with funding from the California Water Foundation, an initiative of the Resources Legacy Fund.
Please register by January 6, 2015. There is no charge to attend, but space is limited. Breakfast and lunch will be provided. This event will also be webcast live.
2015 California Climate & Agriculture Summit March 24 and 25, 2015
UC Davis Conference Center— Call for Workshop and Poster Presentations
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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October 16, 2014 1:32 AM ET Adam Frank
It’s not everyday that a world famous climate scientist gets himself arrested in front of the White House. But that’s exactly what happened to James Hansen in 2011 as part of a protest against the Keystone Pipeline. In the 1980s it was Hansen’s highly respected work that helped people realize that the climate change we humans were driving was real — and really dangerous. For lots of folks, Hansen’s movement from climate scientist to climate activist made him a hero. But to others, particularly some scientists, Hansen’s role on the front lines of activism raised a profound and deeply troubling question.
In an age where the intersection of science and politics makes daily headlines, when is it OK for scientists to become political? Researchers like Hansen are moved to action because their own studies reveal a threat — as Hansen’s does with climate change. In their eyes, civic duty demands they use their authority as scientists to advocate loudly for a resolution to that threat. Michael Mann, a climate scientist who was reluctantly pulled into a public role, likens this response to the “If You See Something Say Something” catchphrase of homeland security. As Mann wrote in The New York Times last year:
“In my view, it is no longer acceptable for scientists to remain on the sidelines. I should know. I had no choice but to enter the fray. I was hounded by elected officials, threatened with violence and more — after a single study I co-wrote a decade and a half ago found that the Northern Hemisphere’s average warmth had no precedent in at least the past 1,000 years. Our “hockey stick” graph became a vivid centerpiece of the climate wars, and to this day, it continues to win me the enmity of those who have conflated a problem of science and society with partisan politics.”
For Mann, the lessons of his own experience make it clear that scientists must speak out on the consequences of their own work, or watch that work be dismissed or distorted.
“If scientists choose not to engage in the public debate, we leave a vacuum that will be filled by those whose agenda is one of short-term self-interest,” Mann wrote.
For but other researchers, there is a distinction between communicating science’s understanding about the world and advocating for a particular response to it. The communication part is, without doubt, within the domain of scientists. But advocacy can take us into a very different and very difficult realm — the realm of policy, the realm of science and politics….
Posted: 05 Nov 2014 08:25 AM PST
Researchers have drawn parallels between decline of Assyrian civilization and today’s situation in Syria and Iraq. There’s more to the decline of the once mighty ancient Assyrian Empire than just civil wars and political unrest. Archaeological, historical, and paleoclimatic evidence suggests that climatic factors and population growth might also have come into play.
Posted: 05 Nov 2014 07:13 AM PST
Many pollutants with the potential to meddle with hormones — with bisphenol A, better known as BPA, as a prime example — are already common in the environment. In an effort to clean up these pollutants found in the soil and waterways, scientists are now reporting a novel way to break them down by recruiting help from nanoparticles and light.
Posted: 06 Nov 2014 07:17 AM PST
People shed more weight on an entirely plant based diet, even if carbohydrates are also included, a study has concluded. Other benefits of eating a vegan diet include decreased levels of saturated and unsaturated fat, lower BMIs, and improved macro nutrients….Weight loss was not the only positive outcome for participants in the strictly vegan group. They also showed the greatest amount of decrease in their fat and saturated fat levels at the two and six month checks, had lower BMIs, and improved macro nutrients more than other diets. Eschewing all animal products appears to be key for these positive results. “I personally was surprised that the pesco-vegetarian group didn’t fare better with weight loss. In the end, their loss was no different than the semi-vegetarian or omnivorous groups,” McGrievy said.
Posted: 06 Nov 2014 05:26 AM PST
The health benefits of switching to a Mediterranean style diet and upping the amount of time spent exercising for a period of just eight weeks can still be seen a year after stopping the regime, a new study has shown.
A cartoon by Kathy Zhang illustrates the asymmetrical nature of the fight over climate policy. Stasis is easy. Credit Kathy Zhang from: One Factor Blunting Impact of Green Spending on Election: Inertia By Andrew C. Revkin NY Times November 5, 2014 4:18 pm
Ellie Cohen, President and CEO
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