Ecology, Climate Change and Related News

Conservation Science for a Healthy Planet

Archive: Mar 2015

  1. Water Crisis: 40% shortfall by 2030, U.N. says

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    40% shortfall by 2030, U.N. says 

    ASSOCIATED PRESS  March 21, 2015 NEW DELHI — The world could suffer a 40 percent shortfall in water in just 15 years unless countries dramatically change their use of the resource, a U.N. report warned Friday. Many underground water reserves are already running low, while rainfall patterns are predicted to become more erratic with climate change. As the world’s population grows to an expected 9 billion by 2050, more groundwater will be needed for farming, industry and personal consumption. The report predicts global water demand will increase 55 percent by 2050, while reserves dwindle.
    If current usage trends don’t change, the world will have only 60 percent of the water it needs in 2030, it said. 

    Having less available water risks catastrophe on many fronts: Crops could fail, ecosystems could break down, industries could collapse, disease and poverty could worsen, and violent conflicts over access to water could become more frequent. “Unless the balance between demand and finite supplies is restored, the world will face an increasingly severe global water deficit,” the annual World Water Development Report said, noting that more efficient use could guarantee enough supply in the future. The report, released in New Delhi two days before World Water Day, calls on policymakers and communities to rethink water policies, urging more conservation as well as recycling of wastewater as is done in Singapore. Countries may also want to consider raising prices for water, as well as searching for ways to make water-intensive sectors more efficient and less polluting, it said. In many countries including India, water use is largely unregulated and often wasteful. Pollution of water is often ignored and unpunished. At least 80 percent of India’s population relies on groundwater for drinking to avoid bacteria-infested surface waters.  In agriculture-intense India, where studies show some aquifers are being depleted at the world’s fastest rates, the shortfall has been forecast at 50 percent or even higher. Climate change is expected to make the situation worse, as higher temperatures and more erratic weather patterns could disrupt rainfall. 
    About 748 million people worldwide now have poor access to clean drinking water, the report said, cautioning that economic growth alone is not the solution — and could make the situation worse. 

     

  2. Arctic Sea Ice Extent Hits Record Winter Low As Thickness Collapses

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    The 2015 Arctic sea ice maximum is the lowest on record. Here it’s compared to the 1979-2014 average maximum shown in yellow. A distance indicator shows the difference between the two in the Sea of Okhotsk north of Japan. Via NASA.

    Arctic Death Spiral: Sea Ice Extent Hits Record Winter Low As Thickness Collapses

    by Joe Romm Posted on March 26, 2015 at 3:37 pm

    Arctic sea ice has been in a virtual death spiral for over three decades now with serious implications for extreme weather, sea level rise, and permafrost melt. Not only has the surface area or extent of sea ice declined sharply, but so has the ice thickness during the summer minimum (when the melt season ends in September) — dropping a remarkable 85 percent from 1975 to 2012, according to a recent study. The extent of Arctic sea ice hits a winter maximum in early March. This year, the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) — along with NOAA and NASA — said the maximum extent was likely reached on February 25. This was not only the second earliest maximum, “it is also the lowest in the satellite record.”….As NASA points out, this record low winter maximum does not guarantee a record summertime minimum. Moreover the maximum is less significant than the minimum. “Scientifically, the yearly maximum extent is not as interesting as the minimum. It is highly influenced by weather and we’re looking at the loss of thin, seasonal ice that is going to melt anyway in the summer and won’t become part of the permanent ice cover,” explained NASA sea ice scientist Walt Meier. “With the summertime minimum, when the extent decreases it’s because we’re losing the thick ice component, and that is a better indicator of warming temperatures.” The best indicator of the sustained impact of global warming on the Arctic is the stunning decline in the thickness of the sea ice that has accompanied the shrinking of its surface area. A February study published in The Cryosphere, “Arctic sea ice thickness loss determined using subsurface, aircraft, and satellite observations,” offers the most comprehensive and up-to-date analysis of the Arctic death spiral, combining eight different data sets, including ones from submarines, aircraft, and satellites. This study’s conclusion is alarming:

    annual mean ice thickness has decreased from 3.59 meters [11.8 feet] in 1975 to 1.25 m [4.1 feet] in 2012, a 65% reduction. This is nearly double the 36% decline reported by an earlier study….

    In September the mean ice thickness has declined from 3.01 to 0.44 m [from 9.9 to 1.4 feet!], an 85 % decline. “The ice is thinning dramatically,” explained climatologist Ron Lindsay, the lead author — much faster than previously estimated… Summertime Arctic sea ice is not long for this world. Because of Arctic amplification, the Arctic warms twice as fast (or more) than the Earth as a whole does. Earlier this month, a study projected the rate of warming for the Arctic will soon exceed 1.0°F (0.55°C) per decade — and could hit 2°F per decade post-2050 if we don’t reverse carbon pollution trends ASAP. This is especially troublesome because a key accelerator of Arctic amplification is sea ice loss.
    Global warming melts highly reflective white ice and snow, exposing in its place the dark blue sea or dark land, both of which absorb much more solar energy. A great deal of recent research suggests that Arctic amplification, including sea ice loss, is already worsening extreme weather. Similarly, such amplified warming means that the rapidly-melting Greenland ice sheet, which warming has already made unstable, is likely to start collapsing even faster, which would push sea level rise higher than previously estimated, upwards of six feet this century. Finally, a 2008 study, “Accelerated Arctic land warming and permafrost degradation during rapid sea ice loss,” concluded that “simulated western Arctic land warming trends during rapid sea ice loss are 3.5 times greater than secular 21st century climate-change trends. The accelerated warming signal penetrates up to 1500 km [930 miles] inland.” So our current period of rapid sea ice loss threatens to triple Arctic land warming, which would speed up the release of large amounts of carbon from defrosting permafrost — a dangerous amplifying feedback which could add as much as 1.5°F to total planetary warming this century.

  3. Ocean acidification likely hampers tiny shell builders in Southern Ocean

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    Shell-shocked: Ocean acidification likely hampers tiny shell builders in Southern Ocean

    Posted: 25 Mar 2015 10:51 AM PDT

    A ubiquitous type of phytoplankton — tiny organisms that are the base of the marine food web — appears to be suffering from the effects of ocean acidification caused by climate change.
    According to authors of a new study, the single-celled organism under study is a type of “calcifying” plankton called a coccolithophore, which makes energy from sunlight and builds microscopic calcium carbonate shells, or plates, to produce a chalky suit of armor….
    The coccolithophore E. huxleyi is important in the marine carbon cycle and is responsible for nearly half of all calcium carbonate production in the ocean, said lead study author Natalie Freeman, a doctoral student in the CU-Boulder’s Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences (ATOC). The new study indicates there has been a 24 percent decline in the amount of calcium carbonate produced in large areas of the Southern Ocean over the past 17 years. NOAA scientists have estimated that global oceans have become up to 30 percent more acidic since the Industrial Revolution. “While we generally expect acidification to negatively impact coccolithophore calcification and growth, other environmental stressors such as warming may have influenced these processes,” said Lovenduski. The two researchers, who also are affiliated with CU-Boulder’s Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research, used data collected by the SeaWiFS and MODIS satellite instruments. “These results suggest that large-scale shifts in the ocean carbon cycle are already occurring and highlight organism and marine ecosystem vulnerability in a changing climate,” wrote the CU-Boulder researchers in GRL.

     

    Natalie M. Freeman, Nicole S. Lovenduski. Decreased calcification in the Southern Ocean over the satellite record. Geophysical Research Letters, 2015; DOI: 10.1002/2014GL062769

  4. Rethinking wetland restoration: Smaller wetlands more valuable than previously thought

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    Rethinking wetland restoration: Smaller wetlands more valuable than previously thought

    Posted: 24 Mar 2015 01:40 PM PDT

    Most efforts to protect and restore wetlands mistakenly focus on preserving only total wetland area, with no consideration of ecosystem services provided by different wetland types, according to a new study from the University of Waterloo. The study, published in the peer-reviewed journal Ecological Applications last month, shows wetland loss follows a strong pattern, with smaller, isolated wetlands being lost in much greater numbers than larger wetlands. ….not only have we drained large numbers of smaller, isolated wetlands, but that the remaining wetlands have much simpler shapes, leading to an extensive loss of wetland perimeter. It has been shown that wetland perimeters provide important habitat for aquatic species and allow for more chemical reactivity to improve water quality. Smaller wetlands also function best as a group, forming an interconnected “landscape mosaic” which provide unique habitat and safe breeding grounds for species such as salamanders and migratory birds. As described in another recent paper by Basu in the journal Bioscience, these small, geographically isolated wetlands act like landscape filters, preventing excess nutrients, sediments and contaminants from entering larger waterways. Unfortunately, many restoration efforts have focused simply on restoring wetland area, with no consideration of the type or size of the wetlands being restored. “We didn’t expect to see such a strong, preferential loss of smaller wetlands,” says Basu, who is also cross-appointed with Civil and Environmental Engineering and a member of the Water Institute. “It’s not just a local phenomenon. Smaller wetlands are the least protected under most environmental regulations.”

     

    Kimberly J. Van Meter, Nandita B. Basu. Signatures of human impact: size distributions and spatial organization of wetlands in the Prairie Pothole landscape. Ecological Applications, 2015; 25 (2): 451 DOI:

  5. West Coast ocean waters shifting to lower-productivity regime, new report finds

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    West Coast waters shifting to lower-productivity regime, new report finds

    Posted: 17 Mar 2015 09:27 AM PDT

    Large-scale climate patterns that affect the Pacific Ocean indicate that waters off the West Coast have shifted toward warmer, less productive conditions that may affect marine species from seabirds to salmon, according to the 2015 State of the California Current Report delivered to the Pacific Fishery Management Council. The report by NOAA Fisheries’ Northwest Fisheries Science Center and Southwest Fisheries Science Center assesses productivity in the California Current from Washington south to California. The report examines environmental, biological and socio-economic indicators including commercial fisheries and community health. “We are seeing unprecedented changes in the environment,” Toby Garfield, Director of the Environmental Research Division at the SWFSC, told the Council when presenting the report, citing unusually high coastal water and air temperatures over the last year. Climate and ecological indicators are “pointing toward lower primary productivity” off California, Oregon and Washington, he said. That could translate into less food for salmon and other marine species, added Chris Harvey of the Northwest Fisheries Science Center. High mortality of sea lion pups in Southern California and seabirds on the Oregon and Washington coasts in recent months may be early signs of the shift. Among the highlights of the new State of the California Current Report:

    • Record-high sea surface temperatures combined with shifts in the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, North Pacific Gyre Oscillation and weaker upwelling of deep, cold waters indicate declining productivity in the California Current.
    • After several productive years the biomass of tiny energy-rich organisms called copepods, which support the base of the West Coast food chain and provide important food for salmon, has declined significantly.
    • California sea lion pups and seabirds called Cassin’s auklets found dying and emaciated in large numbers in recent months may reflect the transition to less productive marine conditions.
    • Although commercial fishery landings have remained high in recent years, the fishing fleet has become more specialized in terms of targeting specific fisheries. That may expose the vessels to more fluctuations of catch and revenue if those fisheries decline.
  6. Rangelands, water, carbon and global warming

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    How Maintaining California’s Rangelands Benefits Wildlife and Water Supplies

     

    By Bonnie Dickson and Laurel Rogers, USGS California Water Science Center March 25 2015 Posted by www.climate.calcommons.org

     

    “Results from this study reinforce the role of open rangelands in capturing water and reducing runoff. Maintaining rangelands can help mitigate the effects of climate change and drought.”

     

    Grassland habitats on rangelands in California’s Central Valley and surrounding foothills could decline by as much as 37 percent by 2100 due to changes in land use and climate, according to “Integrated climate and land use change scenarios for California rangeland ecosystem services: wildlife habitat, soil carbon, and water supply,” by USGS researchers funded by the California Landscape Conservation Cooperative. In addition to habitat loss, the study shows that increased development of rangelands for urban use exacerbates the ongoing issues surrounding rainwater runoff. When this issue is combined with periods of drought, the area will suffer from reduced opportunities for groundwater recharge, especially on deep soils. “Results from this study reinforce the role of open rangelands in capturing water and reducing runoff,” said Dr. Kristin Byrd, the study’s lead author and a physical scientist with the USGS. “Maintaining rangelands can help mitigate the effects of climate change and drought.”

    Rangelands are the largest land cover by area in California, covering more than one-half of the state. Though more commonly known for livestock grazing, rangelands provide multiple ecosystem services such as habitats for fish and wildlife and carbon sequestration. Rangelands also provide opportunities for surface and subsurface water collection and storage. To better understand the potential detrimental effects of climate change and land use change on rangeland ecosystem services, scientists worked with ranchers and land managers to develop six scenarios for the Central Valley and surrounding foothills. The model scenarios were consistent with three Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change emission scenarios. To date, there are few studies that examine the combined effects of climate and land use change on rangelands. “Results show the importance of accounting for recharge areas, which provide opportunities for water storage in dry years, in climate-smart land use planning efforts. Given projections for agriculture, more modeling is needed on feedbacks between agricultural expansion on rangelands and water supply,” said Lorraine Flint, co-author and research hydrologist with the USGS.


    Above: Results of the projections for three scenarios can be compared side by side in the online mapping tool produced by the project.

    Find out more

    Online maps from the research can be accessed at the project’s website “Threat Assessments on California Rangelands“. These maps are made available for easy access and comparison along with instructions for using them to inform land use decisions.

    An outreach program for landowners and land managers has been developed by Defenders of Wildlife (link is external) and the California Rangeland Conservation Coalition (link is external) to communicate how results can be applied to conservation and land management decisions.

    All data, publications, and materials resulting from the project are accessible on the project’s webpage on the Climate Commons.

     

    Integrated climate and land use change scenarios for California rangeland ecosystem services: wildlife habitat, soil carbon, and water supply

    Landscape Ecology April 2015, Volume 30, Issue 4, pp 729-750, Open Access Date: 05 Feb 2015

    Kristin B. Byrd, Lorraine E. Flint, Pelayo Alvarez, Clyde F. Casey, Benjamin M. Sleeter, Christopher E. Soulard, Alan L. Flint, Terry L. Sohl

    Download PDF (3,604 KB)
    View Article

     

    In addition to biodiversity conservation, California rangelands generate multiple ecosystem services including livestock production, drinking and irrigation water, and carbon sequestration. California rangeland ecosystems have experienced substantial conversion to residential land use and more intensive agriculture.
    To understand the potential impacts to rangeland ecosystem services, we developed six spatially explicit (250 m) climate/land use change scenarios for the Central Valley of California and surrounding foothills consistent with three Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change emission scenario narratives. We quantified baseline and projected change in wildlife habitat, soil organic carbon (SOC), and water supply (recharge and runoff). For six case study watersheds we quantified the interactions of future development and changing climate on recharge, runoff and streamflow, and precipitation thresholds where dominant watershed hydrological processes shift through analysis of covariance.

     

    The scenarios show that across the region, habitat loss is expected to occur predominantly in grasslands, primarily due to future development (up to a 37 % decline by 2100), however habitat loss in priority conservation errors will likely be due to cropland and hay/pasture expansion (up to 40 % by 2100). Grasslands in the region contain approximately 100 teragrams SOC in the top 20 cm, and up to 39 % of this SOC is subject to conversion by 2100. In dryer periods recharge processes typically dominate runoff. Future development lowers the precipitation value at which recharge processes dominate runoff, and combined with periods of drought, reduces the opportunity for recharge, especially on deep soils.

     

    Results support the need for climate-smart land use planning that takes recharge areas into account, which will provide opportunities for water storage in dry years. Given projections for agriculture, more modeling is needed on feedbacks between agricultural expansion on rangelands and water supply.

     


    Defining sustainable beef


    Food fight: Should the government link beef to global warming?



    By Kurtis Alexander March 21, 2015 Updated: March 21, 2015 9:06pm

     

    When a panel of nutrition experts told the federal government last month that consuming beef was not only bad for humans but destructive to the environment, many thought the idea of eating sustainably had finally gone mainstream.

    No longer would it be just the Bay Area and the likes of Portland and Vermont that weighed whether their food choices harmed the planet. Leaders in Washington would step up and promote farms that don’t waste water and spew greenhouse gases, and the wisdom of an Earth-friendly diet would resonate across a burger-loving nation. Not so fast. The panel’s advice for how the government should update its influential dietary guidelines has stirred a backlash, led by the meat industry and some members of Congress. They say panel members overstepped their mandate to counsel on nutrition. One online petition to reject the group’s environmental concerns, joined by plenty of people who simply want to enjoy their protein without hassle, demanded, “Hands off My Hot Dog.”

     

    Supporters of the panel now worry that policymakers in charge of rewriting the food guidelines this year may dismiss any suggestion that people eat with the planet in mind, denying sustainability a place in the national dialogue. “I don’t know how the politics of this will play out,” said Marion Nestle, a New York University nutrition professor who recently taught a class at UC Berkeley, has written extensively on food policy and supports the advisory group’s findings. “But I will be very surprised if that (part on sustainability) comes out in the guidelines as strong as the committee suggested.”

     

    Updated guidelines

    Every five years, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health and Human Services are charged with updating the nation’s dietary recommendations. The work helps craft school and military menus and shapes the consumer-oriented food pyramid, now redesigned as a plate. And every five years, a food fight ensues because huge amounts of money are at stake, including the nation’s $10 billion-plus school lunch program. This is the first year, however, that the government’s advisory panel has significantly weighed environmental issues, drawing in a debate with a flavor that’s historically reserved for oil pipelines and auto emissions. While people are putting more and more thought into their food decisions, such as reducing pesticides and mercury in diets, those choices are often driven by personal health. Taking into account the well-being of a warming planet is not as common. And it’s certainly more abstract.

     

    In the advisory panel’s 571-page report, the group says no food needs to be eliminated from the American diet, but it singles out “animal-based food,” particularly beef, as using a disproportionate share of land, water and energy and producing harmful greenhouse gases. Critics counter that the panel not only had no business discussing the environment, but also wasn’t qualified to do so. And they certainly didn’t like the panel’s bottom line: that eating less beef is an Earth-friendly move.

    “We believe that sustainability is an important topic. It’s certainly one that cattle farmers and ranchers welcome,” said Shalene McNeill, director of human nutrition research for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. “But the panel members don’t have the expertise to take on the topic of sustainability. … Nutrition experts have typically not had that training.”

     

    Sustainability is indeed a complex subject. No single measure exists for evaluating it, much less a universal seal of certification. Some people might favor a foreign food produced organically over a local one produced with pesticides, citing toxic agricultural runoff, while others might prefer the local food because it means less carbon dioxide emitted during transit. This month, heavyweights in the meat industry, including McDonald’s and Tyson Foods, announced the formation of the U.S. Roundtable for Sustainable Beef. The goal is to examine the concept of sustainability and see how beef producers might get on board. McDonald’s has said it wants to source sustainable beef by next year. Already, though, a subset of the industry claims to be operating sustainably. Efforts to raise cattle in harmony with the environment were pioneered decades ago in Northern California, where grass-fed herds have long roamed free of feedlots and growth hormones, and their meat has been welcomed at many Bay Area restaurants.

     

    Grazing over feeding

    “Not all ranching and farming entities are the same,” said sixth-generation rancher Loretta Swickard, whose family’s Five Dot Ranch doesn’t use antibiotics or hormones and pledges to responsibly manage its rangeland in nine Northern California counties. “We have a passion for what we’re doing, and we wouldn’t do it if we didn’t think we were benefiting the environment and the consumer.” Places like Five Dot Ranch have been praised for promoting grazing over feeding with mostly grains, which typically require more water and energy to produce. They’re also credited with treating animals more humanely and even producing healthier, tastier food. Since they embrace the spirit of sustainability that the federal panel is pushing, many of these producers believe they will get along fine no matter what the government says about beef.

     

    But the question of whether their cattle are that much better for the planet is hardly settled. Cows inevitably generate methane, a potent gas that contributes to global warming, no matter how they’re raised. About 2.2 percent of the country’s heat-trapping emissions are owed to beef production, the equivalent of roughly 33 coal-fired power plants, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists. The recent dietary report concludes simply that a plant-based diet has “less environmental impact.”

     

    Many in Congress are either not convinced or not interested in the advice, and are defending the beef industry. Several lawmakers, mostly Republicans, have criticized the panel’s report, saying “lean meat” in moderation should be encouraged in the American diet and that sustainability was beyond the scope of the advisory body. A letter this month from 30 senators to the USDA and the Department of Health and Human Services relayed these concerns. It also requested more time for stakeholders to weigh in before policymakers draft the guidelines, expected late this year. The public comment period has since been extended through May 8, with a hearing scheduled for Tuesday in Bethesda, Md.

     

    As the debate rages, neither USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack nor Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell has said whether sustainability will play a role in the dietary recommendations. New York University’s Nestle, who hosts the blog Food Politics, said recent efforts by Vilsack to calm worried beef producers suggest environmental concerns won’t be in the final guidelines. While dozens of health and environmental organizations have lined up to support the inclusion of sustainability, including the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future and Friends of the Earth, they’re no match for big business, Nestle said. “They don’t have anywhere near the credibility (with policymakers) that the beef industry does,” she said. “The industry is talking dollars and jobs. And it’s un-American not to like beef.”

     

    The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and the meat processing sector cumulatively spent nearly $5 million on lobbying last year, according to the political money tracking website OpenSecrets.org.

    Despite the push to leave sustainability out of the discussion, panel member Miriam Nelson, a nutrition professor at Tufts University outside Boston, said in an interview that the evidence linking food choices to environmental welfare has become too strong to ignore. “The science in the last decade is robust. It’s strong,” she said, noting that other countries have begun considering the environmental toll of food in dietary policies. “It seemed like it was the right time” for the U.S.

    Conveniently, Nelson pointed out, foods that are less sustainable are also generally less healthful. The advisory panel, for example, considers red meat a health risk, and suggests cutting back on it. The environment becomes just one more reason to do so. Already the private sector has begun to recognize an increasing demand for environmentally friendly products, said Dave Rochlin, who runs an innovation program at the Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley and works with companies to reduce their impact on the climate.

     

    Promoting sustainability

    Major corporations like General Mills and Walmart are starting to promote sustainability and have been buying competitors known for environmental commitments, such as Burt’s Bees and Ben and Jerry’s.

    “There have always been pockets of consumer demand for sustainable products,” Rochlin said. “I don’t want to say it was a red state-blue state thing. But now, these products are becoming mainstream.” At Alfred’s Steakhouse in San Francisco, a landmark for beef lovers since 1928, the dimly lit dining room still boasts its old red leather booths, crystal chandeliers, jazz music heavy on the horns, and a meat locker proudly displaying its aged cuts. But the menu has a new item: grass-fed filet mignon from a small, local producer, among other Earth-conscious dishes. “It hasn’t always been like this,” said owner Marco Petri, whose family bought the restaurant more than 40 years ago. “This city has a low tolerance for big producers (now). … And people want to know where their food came from.”Down the street, outside Super Duper Burgers, which advertises all-natural beef and organic shakes, city resident Sam Smith, 28, said he watches what he eats, mainly for health reasons, but he’s also been factoring in the environment. “It’s become more important to me not just to cut back on how much meat I eat,” he said, “but to make sure I eat the right kind of meat.”

  7. Conservation Science News March 27, 2015

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    FYI, here is the link to Congressman Jared Huffman’s fabulous congratulatory video
    for Point Blue’s 50th anniversary. Enjoy!

     

    Focus of the Week

    1ECOLOGY, BIODIVERSITY, RELATED

    2CLIMATE CHANGE AND EXTREME EVENTS with special DROUGHT section

    3ADAPTATION and HOPE

    4- POLICY

    5- RENEWABLES, ENERGY AND RELATED

    6-
    RESOURCES and REFERENCES

    7OTHER NEWS OF INTEREST 

    8IMAGES OF THE WEEK

    ——————————–

    NOTE: Please pass on my weekly news update that has been prepared for
    Point Blue Conservation Science
    staff.  You can find these weekly compilations posted on line
    by clicking here or at the CA Landscape Conservation Cooperative website.  For more information please see www.pointblue.org.


    The items contained in this update were drawn from www.dailyclimate.org, www.sciencedaily.com, SER The Society for Ecological Restorationhttp://news.google.com, www.climateprogress.org, www.slate.com, www.sfgate.com, The Wildlife Society NewsBrief, CA BLM NewsBytes and other sources as indicated.  This is a compilation of information available on-line, not verified and not endorsed by Point Blue Conservation Science.  
    You can view past issues of this at the.  You can also receive this news compilation by signing up for the California Landscape Conservation Cooperative  Newsletter or the Bay Area Ecosystems Climate Change Consortium listserve.  You can also email me directly at Ellie Cohen, ecohen at pointblue.org with questions or suggestions. 

    Founded as Point Reyes Bird Observatory, Point Blue’s 140 scientists advance nature-based solutions to climate change, habitat loss and other environmental threats to benefit wildlife and people, through bird and ecosystem science, partnerships and outreach.  We work collaboratively to guide and inspire positive conservation outcomes today — for a healthy, blue planet teeming with life in the future.  Read more about our 5-year strategic approach here.

     

     

    Focus of the Week– Rangelands, water, carbon and global warming

     


     

    How Maintaining California’s Rangelands Benefits Wildlife and Water Supplies

     

    By Bonnie Dickson and Laurel Rogers, USGS California Water Science Center March 25 2015 Posted by www.climate.calcommons.org

     

    “Results from this study reinforce the role of open rangelands in capturing water and reducing runoff. Maintaining rangelands can help mitigate the effects of climate change and drought.”

     

    Grassland habitats on rangelands in California’s Central Valley and surrounding foothills could decline by as much as 37 percent by 2100 due to changes in land use and climate, according to “Integrated climate and land use change scenarios for California rangeland ecosystem services: wildlife habitat, soil carbon, and water supply,” by USGS researchers funded by the California Landscape Conservation Cooperative. In addition to habitat loss, the study shows that increased development of rangelands for urban use exacerbates the ongoing issues surrounding rainwater runoff. When this issue is combined with periods of drought, the area will suffer from reduced opportunities for groundwater recharge, especially on deep soils. “Results from this study reinforce the role of open rangelands in capturing water and reducing runoff,” said Dr. Kristin Byrd, the study’s lead author and a physical scientist with the USGS. “Maintaining rangelands can help mitigate the effects of climate change and drought.”

    Rangelands are the largest land cover by area in California, covering more than one-half of the state. Though more commonly known for livestock grazing, rangelands provide multiple ecosystem services such as habitats for fish and wildlife and carbon sequestration. Rangelands also provide opportunities for surface and subsurface water collection and storage. To better understand the potential detrimental effects of climate change and land use change on rangeland ecosystem services, scientists worked with ranchers and land managers to develop six scenarios for the Central Valley and surrounding foothills. The model scenarios were consistent with three Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change emission scenarios. To date, there are few studies that examine the combined effects of climate and land use change on rangelands. “Results show the importance of accounting for recharge areas, which provide opportunities for water storage in dry years, in climate-smart land use planning efforts. Given projections for agriculture, more modeling is needed on feedbacks between agricultural expansion on rangelands and water supply,” said Lorraine Flint, co-author and research hydrologist with the USGS.


    Above: Results of the projections for three scenarios can be compared side by side in the online mapping tool produced by the project.

    Find out more

    Online maps from the research can be accessed at the project’s website “Threat Assessments on California Rangelands“. These maps are made available for easy access and comparison along with instructions for using them to inform land use decisions.

    An outreach program for landowners and land managers has been developed by Defenders of Wildlife (link is external) and the California Rangeland Conservation Coalition (link is external) to communicate how results can be applied to conservation and land management decisions.

    All data, publications, and materials resulting from the project are accessible on the project’s webpage on the Climate Commons.

     

    Integrated climate and land use change scenarios for California rangeland ecosystem services: wildlife habitat, soil carbon, and water supply

    Landscape Ecology April 2015, Volume 30, Issue 4, pp 729-750, Open Access Date: 05 Feb 2015

    Kristin B. Byrd, Lorraine E. Flint, Pelayo Alvarez, Clyde F. Casey, Benjamin M. Sleeter, Christopher E. Soulard, Alan L. Flint, Terry L. Sohl

    Download PDF (3,604 KB)
    View Article

     

    In addition to biodiversity conservation, California rangelands generate multiple ecosystem services including livestock production, drinking and irrigation water, and carbon sequestration. California rangeland ecosystems have experienced substantial conversion to residential land use and more intensive agriculture.
    To understand the potential impacts to rangeland ecosystem services, we developed six spatially explicit (250 m) climate/land use change scenarios for the Central Valley of California and surrounding foothills consistent with three Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change emission scenario narratives. We quantified baseline and projected change in wildlife habitat, soil organic carbon (SOC), and water supply (recharge and runoff). For six case study watersheds we quantified the interactions of future development and changing climate on recharge, runoff and streamflow, and precipitation thresholds where dominant watershed hydrological processes shift through analysis of covariance.

     

    The scenarios show that across the region, habitat loss is expected to occur predominantly in grasslands, primarily due to future development (up to a 37 % decline by 2100), however habitat loss in priority conservation errors will likely be due to cropland and hay/pasture expansion (up to 40 % by 2100). Grasslands in the region contain approximately 100 teragrams SOC in the top 20 cm, and up to 39 % of this SOC is subject to conversion by 2100. In dryer periods recharge processes typically dominate runoff. Future development lowers the precipitation value at which recharge processes dominate runoff, and combined with periods of drought, reduces the opportunity for recharge, especially on deep soils.

     

    Results support the need for climate-smart land use planning that takes recharge areas into account, which will provide opportunities for water storage in dry years. Given projections for agriculture, more modeling is needed on feedbacks between agricultural expansion on rangelands and water supply.

     


    Defining sustainable beef


    Food fight: Should the government link beef to global warming?



    By Kurtis Alexander March 21, 2015 Updated: March 21, 2015 9:06pm

     

    When a panel of nutrition experts told the federal government last month that consuming beef was not only bad for humans but destructive to the environment, many thought the idea of eating sustainably had finally gone mainstream.

    No longer would it be just the Bay Area and the likes of Portland and Vermont that weighed whether their food choices harmed the planet. Leaders in Washington would step up and promote farms that don’t waste water and spew greenhouse gases, and the wisdom of an Earth-friendly diet would resonate across a burger-loving nation. Not so fast. The panel’s advice for how the government should update its influential dietary guidelines has stirred a backlash, led by the meat industry and some members of Congress. They say panel members overstepped their mandate to counsel on nutrition. One online petition to reject the group’s environmental concerns, joined by plenty of people who simply want to enjoy their protein without hassle, demanded, “Hands off My Hot Dog.”

     

    Supporters of the panel now worry that policymakers in charge of rewriting the food guidelines this year may dismiss any suggestion that people eat with the planet in mind, denying sustainability a place in the national dialogue. “I don’t know how the politics of this will play out,” said Marion Nestle, a New York University nutrition professor who recently taught a class at UC Berkeley, has written extensively on food policy and supports the advisory group’s findings. “But I will be very surprised if that (part on sustainability) comes out in the guidelines as strong as the committee suggested.”

     

    Updated guidelines

    Every five years, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health and Human Services are charged with updating the nation’s dietary recommendations. The work helps craft school and military menus and shapes the consumer-oriented food pyramid, now redesigned as a plate. And every five years, a food fight ensues because huge amounts of money are at stake, including the nation’s $10 billion-plus school lunch program. This is the first year, however, that the government’s advisory panel has significantly weighed environmental issues, drawing in a debate with a flavor that’s historically reserved for oil pipelines and auto emissions. While people are putting more and more thought into their food decisions, such as reducing pesticides and mercury in diets, those choices are often driven by personal health. Taking into account the well-being of a warming planet is not as common. And it’s certainly more abstract.

     

    In the advisory panel’s 571-page report, the group says no food needs to be eliminated from the American diet, but it singles out “animal-based food,” particularly beef, as using a disproportionate share of land, water and energy and producing harmful greenhouse gases. Critics counter that the panel not only had no business discussing the environment, but also wasn’t qualified to do so. And they certainly didn’t like the panel’s bottom line: that eating less beef is an Earth-friendly move.

    “We believe that sustainability is an important topic. It’s certainly one that cattle farmers and ranchers welcome,” said Shalene McNeill, director of human nutrition research for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. “But the panel members don’t have the expertise to take on the topic of sustainability. … Nutrition experts have typically not had that training.”

     

    Sustainability is indeed a complex subject. No single measure exists for evaluating it, much less a universal seal of certification. Some people might favor a foreign food produced organically over a local one produced with pesticides, citing toxic agricultural runoff, while others might prefer the local food because it means less carbon dioxide emitted during transit. This month, heavyweights in the meat industry, including McDonald’s and Tyson Foods, announced the formation of the U.S. Roundtable for Sustainable Beef. The goal is to examine the concept of sustainability and see how beef producers might get on board. McDonald’s has said it wants to source sustainable beef by next year. Already, though, a subset of the industry claims to be operating sustainably. Efforts to raise cattle in harmony with the environment were pioneered decades ago in Northern California, where grass-fed herds have long roamed free of feedlots and growth hormones, and their meat has been welcomed at many Bay Area restaurants.

     

    Grazing over feeding

    “Not all ranching and farming entities are the same,” said sixth-generation rancher Loretta Swickard, whose family’s Five Dot Ranch doesn’t use antibiotics or hormones and pledges to responsibly manage its rangeland in nine Northern California counties. “We have a passion for what we’re doing, and we wouldn’t do it if we didn’t think we were benefiting the environment and the consumer.” Places like Five Dot Ranch have been praised for promoting grazing over feeding with mostly grains, which typically require more water and energy to produce. They’re also credited with treating animals more humanely and even producing healthier, tastier food. Since they embrace the spirit of sustainability that the federal panel is pushing, many of these producers believe they will get along fine no matter what the government says about beef.

     

    But the question of whether their cattle are that much better for the planet is hardly settled. Cows inevitably generate methane, a potent gas that contributes to global warming, no matter how they’re raised. About 2.2 percent of the country’s heat-trapping emissions are owed to beef production, the equivalent of roughly 33 coal-fired power plants, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists. The recent dietary report concludes simply that a plant-based diet has “less environmental impact.”

     

    Many in Congress are either not convinced or not interested in the advice, and are defending the beef industry. Several lawmakers, mostly Republicans, have criticized the panel’s report, saying “lean meat” in moderation should be encouraged in the American diet and that sustainability was beyond the scope of the advisory body. A letter this month from 30 senators to the USDA and the Department of Health and Human Services relayed these concerns. It also requested more time for stakeholders to weigh in before policymakers draft the guidelines, expected late this year. The public comment period has since been extended through May 8, with a hearing scheduled for Tuesday in Bethesda, Md.

     

    As the debate rages, neither USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack nor Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell has said whether sustainability will play a role in the dietary recommendations. New York University’s Nestle, who hosts the blog Food Politics, said recent efforts by Vilsack to calm worried beef producers suggest environmental concerns won’t be in the final guidelines. While dozens of health and environmental organizations have lined up to support the inclusion of sustainability, including the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future and Friends of the Earth, they’re no match for big business, Nestle said. “They don’t have anywhere near the credibility (with policymakers) that the beef industry does,” she said. “The industry is talking dollars and jobs. And it’s un-American not to like beef.”

     

    The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and the meat processing sector cumulatively spent nearly $5 million on lobbying last year, according to the political money tracking website OpenSecrets.org.

    Despite the push to leave sustainability out of the discussion, panel member Miriam Nelson, a nutrition professor at Tufts University outside Boston, said in an interview that the evidence linking food choices to environmental welfare has become too strong to ignore. “The science in the last decade is robust. It’s strong,” she said, noting that other countries have begun considering the environmental toll of food in dietary policies. “It seemed like it was the right time” for the U.S.

    Conveniently, Nelson pointed out, foods that are less sustainable are also generally less healthful. The advisory panel, for example, considers red meat a health risk, and suggests cutting back on it. The environment becomes just one more reason to do so. Already the private sector has begun to recognize an increasing demand for environmentally friendly products, said Dave Rochlin, who runs an innovation program at the Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley and works with companies to reduce their impact on the climate.

     

    Promoting sustainability

    Major corporations like General Mills and Walmart are starting to promote sustainability and have been buying competitors known for environmental commitments, such as Burt’s Bees and Ben and Jerry’s.

    “There have always been pockets of consumer demand for sustainable products,” Rochlin said. “I don’t want to say it was a red state-blue state thing. But now, these products are becoming mainstream.” At Alfred’s Steakhouse in San Francisco, a landmark for beef lovers since 1928, the dimly lit dining room still boasts its old red leather booths, crystal chandeliers, jazz music heavy on the horns, and a meat locker proudly displaying its aged cuts. But the menu has a new item: grass-fed filet mignon from a small, local producer, among other Earth-conscious dishes. “It hasn’t always been like this,” said owner Marco Petri, whose family bought the restaurant more than 40 years ago. “This city has a low tolerance for big producers (now). … And people want to know where their food came from.”Down the street, outside Super Duper Burgers, which advertises all-natural beef and organic shakes, city resident Sam Smith, 28, said he watches what he eats, mainly for health reasons, but he’s also been factoring in the environment. “It’s become more important to me not just to cut back on how much meat I eat,” he said, “but to make sure I eat the right kind of meat.”

     

     

     

     

    West Coast waters shifting to lower-productivity regime, new report finds

    Posted: 17 Mar 2015 09:27 AM PDT

    Large-scale climate patterns that affect the Pacific Ocean indicate that waters off the West Coast have shifted toward warmer, less productive conditions that may affect marine species from seabirds to salmon, according to the 2015 State of the California Current Report delivered to the Pacific Fishery Management Council. The report by NOAA Fisheries’ Northwest Fisheries Science Center and Southwest Fisheries Science Center assesses productivity in the California Current from Washington south to California. The report examines environmental, biological and socio-economic indicators including commercial fisheries and community health. “We are seeing unprecedented changes in the environment,” Toby Garfield, Director of the Environmental Research Division at the SWFSC, told the Council when presenting the report, citing unusually high coastal water and air temperatures over the last year. Climate and ecological indicators are “pointing toward lower primary productivity” off California, Oregon and Washington, he said. That could translate into less food for salmon and other marine species, added Chris Harvey of the Northwest Fisheries Science Center. High mortality of sea lion pups in Southern California and seabirds on the Oregon and Washington coasts in recent months may be early signs of the shift. Among the highlights of the new State of the California Current Report:

    • Record-high sea surface temperatures combined with shifts in the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, North Pacific Gyre Oscillation and weaker upwelling of deep, cold waters indicate declining productivity in the California Current.
    • After several productive years the biomass of tiny energy-rich organisms called copepods, which support the base of the West Coast food chain and provide important food for salmon, has declined significantly.
    • California sea lion pups and seabirds called Cassin’s auklets found dying and emaciated in large numbers in recent months may reflect the transition to less productive marine conditions.
    • Although commercial fishery landings have remained high in recent years, the fishing fleet has become more specialized in terms of targeting specific fisheries. That may expose the vessels to more fluctuations of catch and revenue if those fisheries decline.

    A mile deep, ocean fish facing health impacts from human pollution

    Posted: 25 Mar 2015 12:23 PM PDT

    Deep-water marine fish living on the continental slopes at depths from 2,000 feet to one mile have liver pathologies, tumors and other health problems that may be linked to human-caused pollution, one of the first studies of its type has found. Fish have been found with a blend of male and female sex organs including. The findings appear to reflect general ocean conditions.

     

    Rethinking wetland restoration: Smaller wetlands more valuable than previously thought

    Posted: 24 Mar 2015 01:40 PM PDT

    Most efforts to protect and restore wetlands mistakenly focus on preserving only total wetland area, with no consideration of ecosystem services provided by different wetland types, according to a new study from the University of Waterloo. The study, published in the peer-reviewed journal Ecological Applications last month, shows wetland loss follows a strong pattern, with smaller, isolated wetlands being lost in much greater numbers than larger wetlands. ….not only have we drained large numbers of smaller, isolated wetlands, but that the remaining wetlands have much simpler shapes, leading to an extensive loss of wetland perimeter. It has been shown that wetland perimeters provide important habitat for aquatic species and allow for more chemical reactivity to improve water quality. Smaller wetlands also function best as a group, forming an interconnected “landscape mosaic” which provide unique habitat and safe breeding grounds for species such as salamanders and migratory birds. As described in another recent paper by Basu in the journal Bioscience, these small, geographically isolated wetlands act like landscape filters, preventing excess nutrients, sediments and contaminants from entering larger waterways. Unfortunately, many restoration efforts have focused simply on restoring wetland area, with no consideration of the type or size of the wetlands being restored. “We didn’t expect to see such a strong, preferential loss of smaller wetlands,” says Basu, who is also cross-appointed with Civil and Environmental Engineering and a member of the Water Institute. “It’s not just a local phenomenon. Smaller wetlands are the least protected under most environmental regulations.”

     

    Kimberly J. Van Meter, Nandita B. Basu. Signatures of human impact: size distributions and spatial organization of wetlands in the Prairie Pothole landscape. Ecological Applications, 2015; 25 (2): 451 DOI: 10.1890/14-0662.1

     

    Impacts of Surface Water Diversions for Marijuana Cultivation on Aquatic Habitat in Four Northwestern California Watersheds

    Scott Bauer et al Published: March 18, 2015 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0120016

    Abstract

    Marijuana (Cannabis sativa L.) cultivation has proliferated in northwestern California since at least the mid-1990s. The environmental impacts associated with marijuana cultivation appear substantial, yet have been difficult to quantify, in part because cultivation is clandestine and often occurs on private property. To evaluate the impacts of water diversions at a watershed scale, we interpreted high-resolution aerial imagery to estimate the number of marijuana plants being cultivated in four watersheds in northwestern California, USA. Low-altitude aircraft flights and search warrants executed with law enforcement at cultivation sites in the region helped to validate assumptions used in aerial imagery interpretation. We estimated the water demand of marijuana irrigation and the potential effects water diversions could have on stream flow in the study watersheds. Our results indicate that water demand for marijuana cultivation has the potential to divert substantial portions of streamflow in the study watersheds, with an estimated flow reduction of up to 23% of the annual seven-day low flow in the least impacted of the study watersheds. Estimates from the other study watersheds indicate that water demand for marijuana cultivation exceeds streamflow during the low-flow period. In the most impacted study watersheds, diminished streamflow is likely to have lethal or sub-lethal effects on state-and federally-listed salmon and steelhead trout and to cause further decline of sensitive amphibian species.

    [Note- as one of our staff wrote: Besides posing a danger to our field crews, poisoning wildlife, and interrupting scientific studies, now this – marijuana grows are using an extreme amount of water!]

     

    30 new species discovered in Los Angeles in first-ever intensive urban biodiversity survey

    Posted: 25 Mar 2015 12:23 PM PDT

    Thirty new insect species of the fly family Phoridae have been discovered in the LA region of California. Describing 30 species in a single paper is rare, but what’s especially striking is that all these come from urban Los Angeles.

     

    Download report (PDF, 795KB)

    Impacts of NRCS’ Migratory Bird Habitat Initiative

    March 23, 2015

    NRCS swiftly launched the Migratory Bird Habitat Initiative following the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill to enable farmers to create and enhance habitat for migratory birds, providing an alternative to habitat in impacted coastal ecosystems. NRCS invested $40 million in the initiative, which led to conservation practices implemented on more than 470,000 acres in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri and Texas. Mississippi State University completed a three-year evaluation of bird use of habitat and availability of food in rice fields, catfish ponds and wetlands managed through MBHI. The results were released in a report in fall 2014=Download the report to learn more. (PDF, 795KB). This report includes findings that demonstrate the importance of landscape-level conservation efforts. The evaluation began in November 2010. The study’s findings demonstrate:

    • Rice fields flooded early through MBHI were home to an average 15 migratory birds per acre, compared to two birds per acre on rice fields not flooded;
    • Catfish ponds flooded early showed heavy biodiversity with 40 species of ducks, shorebirds and other waterbirds visiting them;
    • Over seven times more migrating shorebirds were observed on shallowly flooded idled catfish ponds enrolled in MBHI than on other catfish ponds;
    • MBHI-enrolled catfish ponds in Mississippi met nearly all the established shorebird migration habitat goal for the region; and
    • MBHI-managed habitats provided up to 28 percent of the winter waterfowl food energy needed in the Mississippi Delta and up to 25 percent needed in southwestern Louisiana.

     

    Plants’ defensive responses have downstream effects on nearby ecosystems

    Posted: 17 Mar 2015 04:59 PM PDT

    Chemical changes that occur in tree leaves after being attacked by insects and mammals can impact nearby streams, which rely on fallen plant material as a food source, report scientists. The study shows how interactions between terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems are an essential part of understanding ecological responses to climate change….

     

     

    Photo: UC Berkeley, Nanyan Technical University

    UC scientists study beetle flight with tiny computers

    By David Perlman SF Chron March 24, 2015 Updated: March 24, 2015 6:55pm

    Researchers Michel M. Maharbiz and Hitoko Sato strapped tiny computer and radios on the back of beetles for their experiments.Two researchers curious about how insects actually fly have been strapping computers and radios on the backs of beetles in a UC Berkeley lab and watching them twist and turn and hover in the air. A UC Berkeley electrical engineer and a former graduate student in his lab had two goals in mind when they began their experiment seven years ago:

    •To study the beetles’ muscles as a key to investigating the mysteries of insect flight;

    •And to see if the research experiments might help in building tiny flying robots, small enough to flit through open windows or caves or ruined buildings, for a variety of missions such as search-and-rescue operations.

     


     


    Six tons of poached ivory destroyed

    ASSOCIATED PRESS March 21, 2015 ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia — Black smoke billowed into the air of the Ethiopian capital Friday as 6.1 tons of illegal elephant tusks, ivory trinkets, carvings and various forms of jewelry went up in flames on a wooden pyre. Government officials had started the blaze to discourage poaching and the ivory trade.
    Ethiopia becomes the second African country this year to burn its ivory stockpile as global efforts increase for the conservation of elephants, a vulnerable species whose numbers are quickly dwindling as they are killed for their ivory tusks. Dawud Mome, Director General of the Ethiopian Wildlife and Conservation Authority, said the ivory was confiscated from various people in the last 20 years. Most of the ivory was being smuggled through Ethiopia to a third country, he says. “Poaching is increasingly becoming a major concern in our country,” he said, adding that the contraband was seized in collaboration with local police and Interpol. Since 2010, 734 people have been arrested for connections with the illegal ivory trade, the majority of them Chinese nationals passing through Bole International Airport in Addis Ababa, the African Wildlife Foundation said in a statement. Abate Tulu, an official from Ethiopia’s wildlife authority, said the country’s elephant population was more than 15,000 in the 1970s but the poaching scourge in the eighties’ decimated the herds. Ethiopia currently has only 1,900 elephants and the wildlife authority says the poaching threat persists. Kenya destroyed 15 tons of ivory recovered from poachers and smuggler earlier this month. Gabon, China, U.S. among others have also destroyed their ivory stockpiles in the past years, said Kenyan elephant expert Patrick Omondi. Save The Elephants said last year that 100,000 elephants were killed in Africa between 2010 and 2012. Last month, China imposed a one-year ban on ivory imports amid criticism that its citizens’ huge appetite for ivory threatens the existence of Africa’s elephants.

     

     

    Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary, located 42 miles north of San Francisco, will expand from 529 square miles to 1,286 square miles. Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary will expand from 1,282 square miles to 3,295 square miles of ocean and coastal waters. (NOAA)

    Massive Expansion for Marine Sanctuaries outside Golden Gate

    By Olivia Allen-Price Mar 12, 2015 KQED Radio

    Well, at least someone in the Bay Area is getting more housing. Two marine sanctuaries off the coast of Northern California are more than doubling in size under a federal agency decision announced Thursday. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary will now extend from south of the islands, whose jagged granite peaks can be seen on the clearest of days from the mainland, to the waters off Point Arena, in Mendocino County. Currently, the northern edge of the protected waters is off Bodega Bay. The Farallones sanctuary will grow from 1,282 square miles to 3,295 square miles. The adjoining Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary, northwest of the Golden Golden Gate, will be extended westward into the Pacific and grown from 529 to 1,286 square miles. The sanctuary will be off-limits to oil drilling, and large industrial developments cannot set up shop along the coastline to use ocean water. In total, more than 2,700 square miles are being added to sanctuaries. A nutrient-rich upwelling zone originating off Point Arena makes this region an incredibly productive ecosystem. The varied habitats within the sanctuaries support a wide range of sea life, including 25 endangered or threatened species, thousands of breeding seabirds and one of the most significant white shark populations on the planet. Not into sharks? Fear not. There are a lot of cute things in these waters, too. Among the 36 types of marine mammals you’ll find are blue, gray and humpback whales, harbor seals, elephant seals, Pacific white-sided dolphins and Steller sea lions. “This expansion is the outcome of a tremendous collaborative effort by government, local communities, academia and elected officials to provide additional protection for critical marine resources,” said Daniel J. Basta, director of NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, in a press release. “It presents a bold vision for protecting the waters off the Northern California coast for current and future generations.” The boundaries of the expansion are final, and will go into effect after a 45-day congressional review period. Learn more about the wildlife in the region and the scientific work being done on the Farallon Islands in this QUEST video.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Shell-shocked: Ocean acidification likely hampers tiny shell builders in Southern Ocean

    Posted: 25 Mar 2015 10:51 AM PDT

    A ubiquitous type of phytoplankton — tiny organisms that are the base of the marine food web — appears to be suffering from the effects of ocean acidification caused by climate change.
    According to authors of a new study, the single-celled organism under study is a type of “calcifying” plankton called a coccolithophore, which makes energy from sunlight and builds microscopic calcium carbonate shells, or plates, to produce a chalky suit of armor….
    The coccolithophore E. huxleyi is important in the marine carbon cycle and is responsible for nearly half of all calcium carbonate production in the ocean, said lead study author Natalie Freeman, a doctoral student in the CU-Boulder’s Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences (ATOC). The new study indicates there has been a 24 percent decline in the amount of calcium carbonate produced in large areas of the Southern Ocean over the past 17 years. NOAA scientists have estimated that global oceans have become up to 30 percent more acidic since the Industrial Revolution. “While we generally expect acidification to negatively impact coccolithophore calcification and growth, other environmental stressors such as warming may have influenced these processes,” said Lovenduski. The two researchers, who also are affiliated with CU-Boulder’s Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research, used data collected by the SeaWiFS and MODIS satellite instruments. “These results suggest that large-scale shifts in the ocean carbon cycle are already occurring and highlight organism and marine ecosystem vulnerability in a changing climate,” wrote the CU-Boulder researchers in GRL.

     

    Natalie M. Freeman, Nicole S. Lovenduski. Decreased calcification in the Southern Ocean over the satellite record. Geophysical Research Letters, 2015; DOI: 10.1002/2014GL062769

     

     


    The 2015 Arctic sea ice maximum is the lowest on record. Here it’s compared to the 1979-2014 average maximum shown in yellow. A distance indicator shows the difference between the two in the Sea of Okhotsk north of Japan. Via NASA.

    Arctic Death Spiral: Sea Ice Extent Hits Record Winter Low As Thickness Collapses

    by Joe Romm Posted on March 26, 2015 at 3:37 pm

    Arctic sea ice has been in a virtual death spiral for over three decades now with serious implications for extreme weather, sea level rise, and permafrost melt. Not only has the surface area or extent of sea ice declined sharply, but so has the ice thickness during the summer minimum (when the melt season ends in September) — dropping a remarkable 85 percent from 1975 to 2012, according to a recent study. The extent of Arctic sea ice hits a winter maximum in early March. This year, the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) — along with NOAA and NASA — said the maximum extent was likely reached on February 25. This was not only the second earliest maximum, “it is also the lowest in the satellite record.”….As NASA points out, this record low winter maximum does not guarantee a record summertime minimum. Moreover the maximum is less significant than the minimum. “Scientifically, the yearly maximum extent is not as interesting as the minimum. It is highly influenced by weather and we’re looking at the loss of thin, seasonal ice that is going to melt anyway in the summer and won’t become part of the permanent ice cover,” explained NASA sea ice scientist Walt Meier. “With the summertime minimum, when the extent decreases it’s because we’re losing the thick ice component, and that is a better indicator of warming temperatures.” The best indicator of the sustained impact of global warming on the Arctic is the stunning decline in the thickness of the sea ice that has accompanied the shrinking of its surface area. A February study published in The Cryosphere, “Arctic sea ice thickness loss determined using subsurface, aircraft, and satellite observations,” offers the most comprehensive and up-to-date analysis of the Arctic death spiral, combining eight different data sets, including ones from submarines, aircraft, and satellites. This study’s conclusion is alarming:

    annual mean ice thickness has decreased from 3.59 meters [11.8 feet] in 1975 to 1.25 m [4.1 feet] in 2012, a 65% reduction. This is nearly double the 36% decline reported by an earlier study….

    In September the mean ice thickness has declined from 3.01 to 0.44 m [from 9.9 to 1.4 feet!], an 85 % decline. “The ice is thinning dramatically,” explained climatologist Ron Lindsay, the lead author — much faster than previously estimated… Summertime Arctic sea ice is not long for this world. Because of Arctic amplification, the Arctic warms twice as fast (or more) than the Earth as a whole does. Earlier this month, a study projected the rate of warming for the Arctic will soon exceed 1.0°F (0.55°C) per decade — and could hit 2°F per decade post-2050 if we don’t reverse carbon pollution trends ASAP. This is especially troublesome because a key accelerator of Arctic amplification is sea ice loss.
    Global warming melts highly reflective white ice and snow, exposing in its place the dark blue sea or dark land, both of which absorb much more solar energy. A great deal of recent research suggests that Arctic amplification, including sea ice loss, is already worsening extreme weather. Similarly, such amplified warming means that the rapidly-melting Greenland ice sheet, which warming has already made unstable, is likely to start collapsing even faster, which would push sea level rise higher than previously estimated, upwards of six feet this century. Finally, a 2008 study, “Accelerated Arctic land warming and permafrost degradation during rapid sea ice loss,” concluded that “simulated western Arctic land warming trends during rapid sea ice loss are 3.5 times greater than secular 21st century climate-change trends. The accelerated warming signal penetrates up to 1500 km [930 miles] inland.” So our current period of rapid sea ice loss threatens to triple Arctic land warming, which would speed up the release of large amounts of carbon from defrosting permafrost — a dangerous amplifying feedback which could add as much as 1.5°F to total planetary warming this century.

     

     

     

    The 2°C target has been said to carry an increased risk of sea level rise, shifting rainfall patters and extreme weather events such as floods, droughts, and heat waves.Credit: © meryll / Fotolia[Click to enlarge image]

    Two degree Celsius climate change target ‘utterly inadequate’, expert argues

    March 27, 2015 BioMed Central

    The official global target of a two degree Celsius temperature rise is ‘utterly inadequate’ for protecting those at most risk from climate change, says an expert. The commentary presents a rare inside-view of a discussion at the Lima Conference of the Parties on the likely consequences of accepting an average global warming target of 2 degrees Celsius versus 1.5 degrees Celsius. The official global target of a 2°C temperature rise is ‘utterly inadequate’ for protecting those at most risk from climate change, says a lead author on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), writing a commentary in the open access journal Climate Change Responses. The commentary presents a rare inside-view of a two-day discussion at the Lima Conference of the Parties (COP) on the likely consequences of accepting an average global warming target of 2°C versus 1.5°C (measured from pre-industrial times until 2100). The discussions were part of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) ‘structured expert dialogue’ in December 2014. They reveal unevenly distributed risks and political power differentials between high-income countries insisting on a 2°C target and low- and many middle-income countries pushing for 1.5°C or lower. The 2°C target has been said to carry an increased risk of sea level rise, shifting rainfall patters and extreme weather events such as floods, droughts, and heat waves, particularly targeting the Polar Regions, high mountain areas, and the Tropics. The author Petra Tschakert from The Pennsylvania State University and a coordinating lead author of the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report says: “The consensus that transpired during this session was that a 2°C danger level seemed utterly inadequate given the already observed impacts on ecosystems, food, livelihoods, and sustainable development….”A low temperature target is the best bet to prevent severe, pervasive, and potentially irreversible impacts while allowing ecosystems to adapt naturally, ensuring food production and security, and enabling economic development to proceed in a sustainable manner.”

    In her commentary, Tschakert explains that the target of keeping the global average temperature rise to below 2°C originates from early studies in the 1970s. This target became anchored in policy debates over the decades, and was officially sanctioned as the long-term global goal for greenhouse gas emission reductions at the COP15 in Copenhagen in 2009. Despite support from high and upper middle-income countries with high emissions, the 2°C target has been subject to repeated criticism from climate scientists, economists, and political and social scientists. Alliances representing over 70% of the parties around the table, including over 100 low- and middle-income countries and small island states, have repeatedly said that a 2°C rise is unsafe for their communities, and insist on a long-term goal to keep global average temperatures below 1.5°C. These states include the Pacific nation of Tuvalu that was recently hit by Cyclone Pam. While the 2°C target is now being re-evaluated, no reference to an explicit 1.5°C target is included in the 2014 Lima Call for Climate Action, despite specific remarks on the lower temperature limit being made throughout the negotiations.

    ….In terms of ecosystems, it was said that limiting warming at 1.5°C could keep sea level rise below 1m, saving half of the world’s corals, and leave some of the Arctic summer ice intact. Tschakert says: “These implications emphasize what is truly at stake — not a scientific bickering of what the most appropriate temperature target ought to be, but a commitment to protect the most vulnerable and at risk populations and ecosystems, as well as the willingness to pay for abatement and compensation. This should happen now, and not only when climate change hits the rich world.” The findings are timely as the long-term goal to stay below 2°C warming is currently undergoing a 2013-15 Review, the results of which are expected this June and could be adopted in Paris at COP21 in December 2015. Tschakert concludes in her commentary: “The crux of the matter is no longer about the scientific validity of one temperature target over another… It is first and foremost about overcoming deeply entrenched divisions on value judgments, responsibility, and finance… It is about acknowledging that negative impacts of climate change under a 0.8°C temperature increase are already widespread, across the globe, and that danger, risk, and harm would be utterly unacceptable in a 2°C warmer world, largely for ‘them’ — the mollusks, and coral reefs, and the poor and marginalized populations… even if this danger hasn’t quite hit home yet for ‘us‘.”

    Petra Tschakert. 1.5°C or 2°C: a conduit’s view from the science-policy interface at COP20 in Lima, Peru. Climate Change Responses, 2015; 2 (1) DOI: 10.1186/s40665-015-0010-z

     

    Florida Tech scientists are forecasting that Porites lobata colonies like this one will actually gain new habitat at higher latitudes in a warming ocean. Credit: Image courtesy of Florida Institute of Technology

    Climate refuges found where corals survive, grow

    Posted: 25 Mar 2015 12:23 PM PDT

    Reef-building corals, already thought to be living near their upper thermal limits, are experiencing unprecedented declines as the world’s oceans continue to warm. New evidence from scientists at Florida Institute of Technology shows there may be some climate refuges where corals will survive in the future. The study appears in the March issue of Global Change Biology

     

    Chris Cacciapaglia, Robert van Woesik. Reef-coral refugia in a rapidly changing ocean. Global Change Biology, 2015; DOI: 10.1111/gcb.12851

     

     

    Greenhouse gases unbalanced: How human intervention changes wetlands

    Posted: 25 Mar 2015 05:23 AM PDT

    Natural wetlands usually emit methane and sequester carbon dioxide. Anthropogenic interventions, in particular the conversion of wetlands for agriculture, result in a significant increase in carbon dioxide emissions, which overcompensate potential decreases in methane emission. A large international research team now calculated that the conversion of arctic and boreal wetlands into agricultural land would result in an additional cumulative radiative forcing of about 0.1 mJ per square meter for the next 100 yearsThe conversion of temperate wetlands into agricultural land would even result in a cumulative radiative forcing of 0.15 mJ per square meter. Converting forested wetlands into managed forests also contributes to increased warming, albeit much less than the conversion of non-forested wetlands….Wetlands are unique ecosystems, which — under natural conditions — are the single largest natural source of the greenhouse gas methane (CH4) but at the same time an important sink for the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide (CO2). The climate footprint of these ecosystems depends on the balance of these two important greenhouse gases. Despite methane being 28 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide (in a 100 year time span), the conversion of natural wetlands into agricultural or forested ecosystems and its associated decrease in methane emissions still leads to an overall warming effect. “The human impact on wetlands, such as drainage, results in a shift of the climate footprint of that wetland” says Torsten Sachs at the GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences, co-author of the study. “The overall balance of these two differently active greenhouse gases and thus the climate footprint of a wetland over different time spans depend on the relative sign and magnitude of these ecosystem-atmosphere fluxes.” The global impact is still rather uncertain due to large temporal and spatial variability and a lack of data on the complex interactions between environmental drivers such as temperatures of land, water, and sediment, water levels, vegetation, nutrient availability, among others, and the additional anthropogenic impacts such as land use change.

     

     

    WATER CRISIS 

    40% shortfall by 2030, U.N. says 

    ASSOCIATED PRESS  March 21, 2015 NEW DELHI — The world could suffer a 40 percent shortfall in water in just 15 years unless countries dramatically change their use of the resource, a U.N. report warned Friday. Many underground water reserves are already running low, while rainfall patterns are predicted to become more erratic with climate change. As the world’s population grows to an expected 9 billion by 2050, more groundwater will be needed for farming, industry and personal consumption. The report predicts global water demand will increase 55 percent by 2050, while reserves dwindle.
    If current usage trends don’t change, the world will have only 60 percent of the water it needs in 2030, it said. 

    Having less available water risks catastrophe on many fronts: Crops could fail, ecosystems could break down, industries could collapse, disease and poverty could worsen, and violent conflicts over access to water could become more frequent. “Unless the balance between demand and finite supplies is restored, the world will face an increasingly severe global water deficit,” the annual World Water Development Report said, noting that more efficient use could guarantee enough supply in the future. The report, released in New Delhi two days before World Water Day, calls on policymakers and communities to rethink water policies, urging more conservation as well as recycling of wastewater as is done in Singapore. Countries may also want to consider raising prices for water, as well as searching for ways to make water-intensive sectors more efficient and less polluting, it said. In many countries including India, water use is largely unregulated and often wasteful. Pollution of water is often ignored and unpunished. At least 80 percent of India’s population relies on groundwater for drinking to avoid bacteria-infested surface waters.  In agriculture-intense India, where studies show some aquifers are being depleted at the world’s fastest rates, the shortfall has been forecast at 50 percent or even higher. Climate change is expected to make the situation worse, as higher temperatures and more erratic weather patterns could disrupt rainfall. 
    About 748 million people worldwide now have poor access to clean drinking water, the report said, cautioning that economic growth alone is not the solution — and could make the situation worse. 

     

     

    A difficult climate: New study examines the media’s response to the IPCC

    Posted: 25 Mar 2015 05:27 AM PDT

    A study has for the first time analyzed how Twitter, TV and newspapers reported the IPCC’s climate evidence. Understanding how media coverage varies is important because people’s knowledge and opinions on climate change are influenced by how the media reports on the issue.

     

    DROUGHT:

     

     

     

     

     

    OLYMPIC VALLEY, CA- MARCH 21: A snowboarder threads his way through patches of dirt at Squaw Valley Ski Resort, March 21, 2015 in Olympic Valley, California. Many Tahoe-area ski resorts have closed due to low snowfall as California’s historic drought continues. (Photo by Max Whittaker/Getty Images)

    California drought: Sierra Nevada snowpack hits historic low

    By Peter Fimrite SF Chron Updated 8:06 pm, Friday, March 27, 2015

    The abominable snowpack in the Sierra Nevada reached an unprecedented low this week, dipping below the historic lows in 1977 and 2014 for the driest winter in 65 years of record-keeping.
    Electronic surveys show the water content of the snow throughout the Sierra is a shocking 8 percent of the historical average for this time of year, by far the driest it has been since 1950 because of the lack of rain and snowfall and the exceedingly high temperatures. It is a troubling milestone that water resources officials say is bound to get even lower as the skies remain stubbornly blue
    . “It’s certainly sobering when you consider that the snowpack in a normal year provides about 30 percent of what California needs in the summer and fall,” said Doug Carlson, the spokesman for the California Department of Water Resources. “What this suggests is that we will have very little water running off. It accentuates the severity of the drought and emphasizes the importance of people cutting back on their water use.” The department is planning to conduct its monthly snow survey on April 1, the date water resources officials use as a benchmark because it is when the snowpack normally begins to melt and fill up the state’s reservoirs. Meteorologists see nothing on the horizon that could pull the state out of its increasingly frightful drought. The snowpack is already far below the historic low, which happened in 1977 and again last year, when the snowpack was 25 percent of normal on April 1.

    The surveyors measure the depth and water content of the snow in 230 places, called snow courses, in the mountains stretching from north to south. Their results are combined with electronic measurements taken from as many as 130 places around the Sierra to calculate California’s drinking water supply for the year. The state has been publishing statewide snowpack measurements in the Sierra since 1950, but there are several places where measurements go back as far as 1926. At Phillips Station, near the Sierra-at-Tahoe resort, an average of 66.5 inches of snow is normally on the ground on April 1. “We don’t expect to find any snow up there on Wednesday,” Carlson said Friday. “It’s pretty spooky.” The snow in the Sierra has been declining since the first snow survey on December 30, when electronic readings found the statewide snow water content was 50 percent of normal for that date. That survey followed several storms in December But the readings plummeted to 25 percent of average on Jan. 29 and 19 percent of average on March 3. The measurements are important because snow makes up 60 percent of the water that is captured in California’s reservoirs when it melts in the spring and 30 percent of the state’s overall water supply during a normal year. Curiously, California’s biggest reservoirs have managed to hold steady despite the dismal snowpack. Shasta Lake, the state’s largest reservoir, has 74 percent of what it normally holds at this time of year. Lake Oroville, the second-largest reservoir and the most important source for the State Water Project, is carrying 67 percent of what it normally holds at this time of year. Shasta and Oroville carry 80 percent of the state’s reservoir supply. The water is used to irrigate 8 million acres of farmland and quench the thirst of close to 30 million people. The problem, experts say, is that the reservoirs will not be getting much additional supply from snow melt, a crucial source in California’s dry Mediterranean summer climate. Meanwhile, the reservoirs that serve farming communities are wretchedly low. Pine Flat Dam, on the Kings River, is only 32 percent of normal, and Exchequer, or McClure Dam, on the Merced River, stands at only 16 percent of normal. Some of the smaller reservoirs are in real danger of going completely dry this summer.


    Thirsty crops should require state regulation
    L.A. Times, George Skelton  March 23, 2015
    This is what the Brown administration OPINION isn’t talking about as it tightens the spigot on landscaping: Urban use accounts for only 20% of California’s developed water. Agriculture sucks up 80%. Some calculate it a little differently: 10% urban, 40% agriculture and 50% environment — meaning every drop in the rivers and marshes. Same thing. Yet, no one in Sacramento wants to tell farmers how to use water — what they can and cannot plant and irrigate. No edicts equivalent to “lawn-watering only twice a week” or “hosing down the driveway is forbidden.” No such directives as “tomatoes are OK because they’re not water guzzlers and can be fallowed in a dry year,” but “hold off planting more gulping almond orchards in the desert.”

    Maybe, however, it’s time for state government to consider regulating crops based on their water needs as California’s drought lingers menacingly and we head into the uncertain future of global warming. After all, we think nothing of telling other landowners what they can put on their property. We don’t allow a new housing tract to sprout unless the developer can identify a source of water. We zone everything in urban areas — requiring government permission to build a house, a strip mall, a factory or a refinery. Yet, a farmer can plant whatever he pleases, even if surface water is flowing at a trickle and the aquifer is collapsing. This is what Times water reporter Bettina Boxall wrote last week: “Parts of the San Joaquin Valley are deflating like a tire with a slow leak as growers pull more and more water from the ground. “The land subsidence is cracking irrigation canals, buckling roads and permanently depleting storage space in the vast aquifer that underlies California’s heartland … hastening the day, experts warn, when [farmers] will be forced to let more than a million acres of cropland turn to dust…. [But] it’s easier for growers to keep pumping than rein in their use.” In one area of the San Joaquin Valley, Boxall reported, the “land has been sinking at the staggering rate of a foot a year.” And the groundwater table has plunged 150 feet in the last 15 years. There’s no longer a drought buffer….

     

     

    Photo: Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press The California Aqueduct has sent water from Northern California to Southern California, sometimes to the detriment of native fish populations, for decades.

    How to discourage water wars: don’t give away water

    By Jay Lund and Peter Moyle SF Chron OPINION March 20, 2015 Updated: March 20, 2015 3:45pm

    The California Aqueduct has sent water from Northern California to Southern California, sometimes to the detriment of native fish populations, for decades. When labor is scarce, people move to better jobs with higher wages. When land is scarce, landowners are offered higher prices for its use. When drought makes water scarcer in California, those with senior water rights are offered more money to move their water to other users. But fish are asked to give up their water for free.

    California would do better if it cultivated a more civilized ethic where there is no free water during a drought. Perhaps we should treat environmental uses of water more as a matter of economics, to help the environment and the economy.

    This year and last year, the State Water Resources Control Board relaxed environmental protections for fish to export more water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta for farms and cities. Reducing fish flows without compensation during a drought has some attractions, but overall seems like a risky idea. On the plus side, it’s a principle that, during a drought, everyone should get less water, including the environment. The reality is that some small reductions in environmental flows may not harm fish, but would have great economic value to cities and farms. Variability in flows is natural for many of California’s native ecosystems. Droughts might provide useful variability, if properly managed. However, reductions in environmental flows during drought usually have costs, including:

    •Potential direct harm to fish in the short term, and in the longer term, severely reducing native fish populations and sometimes making it easier for invasive species to become established.

    •Risks that additional native fish or other aquatic species will become legally listed as threatened or endangered, which can reduce long-term water withdrawals for economic water uses.

    •Encouraging water fights, rather than using negotiation or markets to rebalance and reallocate water. This is uncivilized and encourages greater conflicts over water.

    The amount of environmental flows that cities and farms will gain this year is relatively small, about 40,000 acre-feet of water. But in a drought year, 40,000 acre-feet of water south of the delta is probably worth more than $1,000 an acre-foot or about $40 million. While this is a tiny proportion of agricultural production or urban economies, those next in line for this water will find it worth fighting for. The high value of small amounts of water during droughts is a harsh challenge for science, environmental advocates and those interested in thoughtful water policy. How can we make this a more civilized choice?

    Let the fish sell their water. That is, convert some drought portion of environmental flows to a marketable water quantity, owned by the fish agencies. This would allow environmental water uses to be fairly compensated by those gaining from reductions in environmental flows, just as other high-priority water rights holders are compensated for their reductions in water use during a drought. This seems more fair, gives incentives to water users to behave better, and encourages conflicts to be speedily negotiated instead of indefinitely litigated…..



    DWR Report Describes Past and Ongoing Droughts; A Wealth of Information in Comparison of California’s Worst Historical Droughts


    March 25, 2015
    Maven From the CA Department of Water Resources:

    Severe droughts are nothing new to California, home to the highest variable precipitation in the United States.  In the midst of a fourth dry year, the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) has released an in-depth report comparing the severity and impacts of California’s most significant droughts, which stretched from 1929 to 1934, 1976 to 1977 and 1987 to 1992.  The report also details the ongoing drought, which began in 2012. “California’s Most Significant Droughts:  Comparing Historical and Recent Conditions,”…presents a wealth of information about California’s climate; federal, state, and local water systems; surface and groundwater resources; and historical precipitation.  It also provides a summary of lessons learned from previous droughts and highlights the need for better data about groundwater conditions, improved drought prediction capability, and better drought preparedness for small water systems.

    The report also describes:

    • The atmosphere-ocean dynamics that influence drought in California;
    • Highlights of past droughts, such as the extremely severe 1929-34 dry spell that occurred when irrigated acreage in the state was relatively small and the population was less than six million people;
    • The setting for past droughts in terms of  major water project development, population, and irrigated acreage in the state;
    • Historical attempts to cope with drought, such as the temporary emergency pipeline constructed across the San Rafael Bridge to bring imported water to southern Marin County in 1976-77;
    • Estimated economic loss data, where available, from the  historical droughts, including farmland fallowing and timberland destroyed by wildfire and bark beetle infestation;
    • Changes in institutional settings that affect California’s response to drought, such as environmental protection laws that have modified water project operations; and
    • Historical deliveries made by the State Water Project and the Central Valley Project from 1977 to the present.

    The appendix of the report includes a copy of each gubernatorial executive order or emergency proclamation issued related to drought since 1977. Charts, maps, and graphs in the report illustrate such information as the at-risk small water systems around the state, a comparison of storage in key reservoirs during various drought years, changes in the Colorado River total system storage over time, changes in California’s statewide mean temperature departure since 1900, and maximum salinity intrusion into the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta in previous droughts. The report was prepared by DWR Deputy Drought Manager and Interstate Resources Manager Jeanine Jones. “The water years of 2012-14 stand as California’s driest three consecutive years in terms of statewide precipitation,” said Jones, “and we do not know how long this drought will last.  It’s important for Californians to remember that drought is a part of life in California and we can learn from history as we try to emerge from each drought better prepared for the next.” In January 2014, Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. declared a drought state of emergency and asked Californians to voluntarily curb their water use by 20 percent.    Vast tracts of farmland have been fallowed and some communities have been short on drinking water. Every Californian can help stretch the state’s limited supplies by using water carefully. Outdoor landscaping needs little water in the winter, so shut off sprinklers, especially for the first couple of weeks after a rain. Replace washers in leaking faucets or make other repairs to stop leaks. Run dishwashers and clothes washers only with full loads. For more water-saving tips, visit www.saveourwater.com.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Green roofs: Passive cooling for buildings

    March 27, 2015 Universidad Politécnica de Madrid

    Researchers from Universidad Politécnica de Madrid and Università Politecnica delle Marche have found that green roofs with high vegetation density are 60% more efficient than non-green roofs. The main goal of this research conducted by the Universidad Politécnica de Madrid (UPM) and the Università Politecnica delle Marche (UNIVPM) was to show energy efficiency of green roofs. Researchers have developed a numerical model that was able to verify the effects on passive cooling of buildings caused by the density variation of vegetation of green roofs. With just an error between 5% and 7%, this model could be used to study the energy saving produced by these architectural elements….This study is focused on three specific aspects: to assess the impact of vegetation density on energy efficiency of a roof located at a Mediterranean coastal climate; develop a simplified numeral model that can estimate thermal resistance values equivalent to plants and substrates, and finally, to verify the numerical model by using experimental data. Results show that, when vegetation density is high, the incoming heat into the building through the roof is 60% lower than the incoming heat without vegetation.
    Besides, researchers found that a roof with a high density vegetation works as a passive cooling system, in fact, the energy released from the building through the roof during the summer is a 9% of the incoming energy during the same period.

     

     

     

    CA has become the first state to get 5 percent of its electricity from large-scale solar facilities, such as the Ivanpah solar power plant in the Mojave Desert. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

    California first state to get 5 percent of electricity from solar

    By David R. Baker SF Chron Updated 4:14 pm, Tuesday, March 24, 2015

    California’s decade-long push to add solar power is showing some big results. The federal government reported Tuesday that California has become the first state to get 5 percent of its electricity from large-scale solar power installations. In 2014, solar power plants in California generated 9.9 million megawatt hours of electricity, more than all other states combined. And the report, from the U.S. Energy Information Administration, doesn’t even count the output of rooftop solar arrays on homes and many businesses. Only installations capable of generating at least 1 megawatt of electricity were included. California law requires utilities to get 33 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2020. That law prompted a wave of solar power plant construction that peaked in the last two years, with massive plants coming online. Some of those facilities —such as Topaz and Desert Sunlight — use the same photovoltaic panels that homeowners slap on their roofs. Others — including the Ivanpah plant designed by Oakland’s BrightSource Energy and funded by Google — employ fields of mirrors to focus sunlight (although questions about the amount of electricity Ivanpah actually generates continue to dog the plant)….

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    China’s vast manufacturing sector has fuelled its demand for energy

    Climate change: China official warns of ‘huge impact’

    22 March 2015 Last updated at 07:10 ET

    Climate change could have a “huge impact” on China, reducing crop yields and harming the environment, the country’s top weather scientist has warned, in a rare official admission.
    Zheng Guogang told Xinhua news agency that climate change could be a “serious threat” to big infrastructure projects. He said temperature rises in China were already higher than global averages.
    China, the world’s biggest polluter, has said its emissions of gases that cause climate change will peak by 2030.

    However, the country has not set a specific target for cutting emissions of the gases, mainly carbon dioxide. Mr Zheng, the head of China’s meteorological administration, said warming temperatures exposed his country to a growing “risk of climate change and climate disasters”. He said temperature rises in China had already been higher than the global average for the past century. These are rare admissions from a Chinese official, BBC Asia analyst Michael Bristow says. China’s leaders have acknowledged the damage from global warming but they usually do not lay out the full scale of the problems. Mr Zheng warned of more droughts, rainstorms, and higher temperatures, which would threaten river flows and harvests, as well as major infrastructure projects such as the Three Gorges Dam. He urged China to pursue a lower-carbon future. “To face the challenges from past and future climate change, we must respect nature and live in harmony with it,” the Xinhua news agency quoted him as saying.  “We must promote the idea of nature and emphasise climate security.”
    China and the US together produce around 45% of global carbon emissions.
    Leaders from the two countries are taking part in a summit in Paris this year that will aim for a global deal to cut carbon emissions by 2020.
    China’s decades-long pursuit of rapid economic growth has boosted demand for energy, particularly coal.
    Scientists fear that pledges made so far to cut emissions will not be enough to avoid the harmful impact of climate change….

     

     

     

    Desalination facilities and brine disposal

    • Draft Final Desalination Amendment with Draft Final Staff Report with Substitute Environmental Documentation was released March 20, 2015
    • Updated Fact Sheet available here: Fact Sheet

    State Water Board staff is developing an amendment to the Ocean Plan that would address issues associated with desalination facilities (Desalination Amendment). Desalination facilities and brine disposal were identified as Issue Number 4 in the 2011-2013 Triennial Review Workplan because several new desalination facilities have been planned along the California coast to augment existing water supplies. The operation and construction of desalination facilities can result in marine life mortality and harm to aquatic life beneficial uses. During the process of ocean desalination, organisms may be drawn in with the source water and enter the facility’s water processing system. Salt and minerals are removed from salt water to produce fresh water and organisms do not survive the desalination process. The salt, minerals, and other compounds produced as a by-product of desalination are discharged into the ocean as hyper-saline brine. Brine is denser than the receiving ocean water and, depending on discharge methods, may settle on the seafloor and have adverse effect on marine organisms. Currently, the Water Boards regulate brine discharges from these types of facilities through the issuance of National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits that contain conditions protective of aquatic life. However, the Ocean Plan does not yet have an objective for elevated salinity levels in the ocean, nor does it describe how brine discharges are to be regulated and controlled, leading to permitting uncertainty. The Ocean Plan also does not address possible impacts to marine life from new intakes for desalination facilities. The State Water Board is considering amendments to the Ocean Plan that would address desalination facilities. The proposed Desalination Amendment would include components that: 1) clarify the State Water Board’s authority over desalination facility intakes and discharges, 2) provide direction to the regional water boards regarding the determination required by California Water Code section 13142.5, subdivision (b) (hereafter 13142.5(b)), 3) include implementation provisions for a statewide narrative receiving water limitation for salinity, and an option for dischargers to apply for a facility-specific receiving water limitation, and 4) include monitoring and reporting requirements…

     

     

    California’s drought has entered its fourth year. In this picture from March 2014, water levels recede in a Cupertino reservoir. (Marcio Jose Sanchez / Associated Press)

    Senate approves water legislation to address drought, flooding

    By Chris Megerian
    LATimes March 26, 2015

    • The state Senate will consider a $1-billion spending plan billed as an emergency response to the drought
    • State Senate passes emergency drought relief plan; bill goes before Assembly

    The legislation now goes to the Assembly, which is scheduled to take up the issue on Thursday before it goes to Gov. Jerry Brown for his signature. If enacted, the proposal would fund upgrades to the state’s water infrastructure and provide food and water to struggling Central Valley communities. Sen. Lois Wolk (D-Davis) called the legislation “step one” in addressing the drought. However, the largest chunk of money, $660 million, would be spent on new flood control projects, not responding to the drought itself. That funding comes from a bond measure approved by voters a decade ago. “We’re, as they say, taking advantage of a crisis and moving forward,” Brown explained when announcing the proposal last week.Only $27.4 million outlined in the legislation is new spending that wasn’t included in previous budget proposals or bond measures. In addition, many of the projects being funded won’t be finished for year…

     

     

    CDFW’s Deer Conservation and Management Plan – Now Available for Public Review

    March 23, 2015

    The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) has completed its draft Deer Conservation and Management Plan, which is now available for public comment and review. The plan can be found at www.dfg.ca.gov/wildlife/hunting/deer/ .

    CDFW is proposing to develop 10 large-scale deer conservation units, which will assess how recent landscape and environmental changes have impacted deer population and habitat. The draft plan also covers five important areas: unit plans, population management, habitat conservation, monitoring and outreach. Each unit will prepare separate plans, which will also be available for public comment and review at a future date. In addition, movement corridors, winter and summer ranges and holding areas will be mapped and used to develop long-term conservation objectives. Areas needing restoration or rehabilitation will also be prioritized in order of importance to conservation and management objectives. The deadline for comments is April 30, 2015. Interested parties can submit comments via email at DeerPlan@wildlife.ca.gov, or by regular mail sent to Deer Plan, 1812 Ninth St., Sacramento, CA 95811.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Michael Macor / The Chronicle A very new wind turbine, which produces more power and kills fewer birds, stands above a group of old-style wind turbines off Dyer Road near Livermore.

    Michael Macor /
    The Chronicle 2013


    No more excuses to kill birds
    SF Chronicle Editorial March 23, 2015

    There is no better symbol of Californians’ efforts to save the Earth than the thousands of wind turbines on Altamont Pass near Livermore, the largest such concentration in the world. Yet the whirling blades, which produce clean power and reduce our reliance on oil, initially proved deadly for Earth’s creatures. Three of the four Altamont wind farm operators in Alameda County are on track to replace the bird-whacking models by October 2015 with taller, slower-turning blades that generate more power and kill far fewer birds. The fourth and the second largest, Altamont Winds Inc., will appeal to the Alameda County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday for permission to operate its old windmills for three more years. The supervisors must vote no.

    Altamont Winds has received conditional use permits in the past to continue operating with the understanding it would phase out 15 percent of its 920 turbines a year. If it had kept to that agreement, it would have decommissioned the old machines by 2015. Instead, it reneged on the deal twice and still has 828 old-generation turbines. Altamont Winds says it needs the permits extended to 2018 to have enough revenue to fund the replacement work. The other three companies, operating under a 2007 settlement of a lawsuit brought by environmental groups, are well on the way to replacing their old turbines. Repowering, as the replacement process is called, does require significant financial investment to take down the older models, and then site and install new turbines away from avian flyways. It also has benefits: One new turbine can generate as much power as 10 to 30 of the old; repowering would create jobs. For the bats and birds, re-powering is essential: It cuts mortality rates by 60 to 80 percent. Wind farms are valuable: The state requires 33 percent of California’s power come from renewable resources; the governor wants to go to 50 percent.
    Google is investing in renewable energy. The East County zoning board gave the request a thumbs-down, prompting the appeal. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Audubon California, the East Bay Regional Park District, and state Attorney General Kamala Harris have objected. An extension rewards bad behavior, creates inequalities with the operators who are repowering, and puts Alameda County at legal risk: It is illegal under state and federal laws to kill the raptors most often felled by the blades: golden eagles, red-tailed hawks, American kestrels and burrowing owls. Few buy this unreasonable excuse for more delay. The supervisors shouldn’t either.

     

     

    Wildlife rehabilitation technician Lauren Adams captures a surf scoter that’s still recovering from the January spill to give it a medical examination at the International Bird Rescue center in Fairfield. Hundreds of birds died after a non-petroleum-based substance polluted the bay, contaminating their feathers. Because the goo wasn’t oil, the response was hampered.

    Ravages of mystery goo: Can a law help?

    Resources target only oil, fuel spills; senators’ bill aims to erase that limit

    By Peter Fimrite SF Chron March 23, 2015

    Two California senators, angered by the tepid reaction to a mystery goo that has killed hundreds of birds on San Francisco Bay, are introducing legislation Monday to close a loophole that effectively froze state funding and prevented a unified multiagency response to the crisis. Sens. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, and Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley, say SB718 would create a funding mechanism for the rescue and rehabilitation of wildlife harmed by marine spills involving non-petroleum-based substances. California’s system for handling oil spills is considered one of the nation’s most sophisticated, but no money or resources are available when something other than oil or fuel is spilled.    The bill, co-sponsored by San Francisco Baykeeper and Audubon California, would authorize the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Office of Spill Prevention and Response to borrow up to $500,000 from the state’s oil disaster fund during spills that don’t involve petroleum. It is an effort to improve the response and bolster care for birds and wildlife slimed by unidentified substances like the sticky goop that circulated around the bay in mid-January, killing at least 320 aquatic birds.

    …   “It surprised many of us that there was no immediate state response, and assistance fell on nonprofits like the International Bird Rescue organization. That caused a delay in the rescue and rehabilitation of this wildlife and was a burden for these nonprofits,” Leno said. “Responsible parties should step forward. They don’t always do so. In the meantime, wildlife needs our attention and they need it quickly.” The goo, which has been identified as a nonpetroleum-based oil or fat, coated more than 600 birds, mostly along the Alameda, San Leandro and Hayward shorelines. The International Bird Rescue center in Fairfield treated and released 154 birds and is still caring for 19 gunked-up waterfowl. About 170 birds were found dead on the shore, and an additional 150 died in treatment. Wildlife advocates say many others probably died out at sea. ….   “This legislation clarifies that the state’s top priority during a spill of any kind is to immediately protect waterways and wildlife, regardless of what type of substance caused the problem,” Leno said.

       In 2007, the container ship Cosco Busan sideswiped the Bay Bridge and spilled more than 50,000 gallons of fuel oil into the bay. The disaster caused an uproar after it was revealed that miscommunication and foot-dragging allowed nearly an entire day to pass without attempts to contain the spill, which was initially believed to be smaller. Some 26 miles of shoreline were coated with oil, and an estimated 6,849 birds and thousands more fish were killed. The spill cost about $70 million to clean up. The incident prompted officials to improve training, planning and communications in preparation for the next bay emergency, which came in 2009 when the Panamanian tanker Dubai Star spilled bunker fuel south of the Bay Bridge. This time there was a four-hour gap between the time the spill was reported and the time booms were placed around the ship — time for black oil to disperse and wash ashore, authorities said. The response was better in 2013 when another tanker crashed into the foot of one of the Bay Bridge towers. No oil was spilled, but the response was immediate and comprehensive. California’s oil spill program is a product of the federal Oil Pollution Act of 1990, passed a year after the Exxon Valdez disaster in Alaska’s Prince William Sound. It requires oil tankers and other ships to, among other things, hire cleanup managers in case of an accident. The law requires ship owners to outline oil spill prevention and response plans, have enough insurance to cover up to $1 billion in damage, and designate a management company and “oil spill response organization” to clean up in the event of an accident. … The bottom line, he said, is that “if there is some sort of contaminant affecting wildlife, there should be some sort of fund or help for us to deal with it.”The bill is expected to be heard in policy committees this spring. Meanwhile, the Department of Fish and Wildlife is conducting more laboratory tests in an attempt to identify the substance that fouled the bay this winter. Once that is done, it is hoped, authorities will be able to identify the culprit.

     

    Desalination with nanoporous graphene membrane

    Posted: 25 Mar 2015 06:03 PM PDT

    Desalination is an energy-intensive process, which concerns those wanting to expand its application. Now, a team of experimentalists has demonstrated an energy-efficient desalination technology that uses a porous membrane made of strong, slim graphene — a carbon honeycomb one atom thick.

     

    New processing technology converts used packing peanuts to battery components

    Posted: 22 Mar 2015 05:03 AM PDT

    Researchers have shown how to convert waste packing peanuts into high-performance carbon electrodes for rechargeable lithium-ion batteries that outperform conventional graphite electrodes, representing an environmentally friendly approach to reuse the waste…

     

     

     

     
     

    A Multi-Benefit Approach to Flood Protection in California’s Central Valley

    Multi-benefit projects are designed to reduce flood risk and enhance fish and wildlife habitat by allowing rivers and floodplains to function more naturally. These projects create additional public benefits such as protecting farms and ranches, improving water quality, increasing groundwater recharge, and providing public recreation opportunities, or any combination thereof. In 2012, California’s Central Valley Flood Protection Board adopted the Central Valley Flood Protection Plan (CVFPP), which established a new framework for system-wide flood management and flood risk reduction in the Sacramento and San Joaquin River Basins. The CVFPP takes a new approach to flood protection that works with communities to improve flood safety while also supporting other public benefits such as clean water, natural areas that support fish and wildlife, and recreational areas in Central Valley communities where people can enjoy nature’s benefits. The CVFPP aspires to improve flood protection for over one million people and $70 billion in homes, businesses and infrastructure with the objective of providing 200-year flood protection to urban areas while reducing flood risks to small communities and agricultural lands. This site is a resource to support a multi-benefit approach to improving flood protection, meant for everyone working to make the CVFPP a success.

    Q: What is 200-year flood protection? A: 200-year flood protection is another way of saying there is a 1 in 200 chance of flooding in any given year. Because the Central Valley is vulnerable to large flood events, the legislature passed the Central Valley Flood Protection Act of 2008 to provide additional protection to the region.

    Q: Why does it matter? A: Millions of Central Valley residents live and work in high-risk flood zones. Courts have ruled that our government could be liable for billions of dollars in damages if a major flood damages private property, not to mention the cost of repairing levees, roads, and the state’s water transport system. Flooding could even impact the delivery of drinking water to over 25 million Californians from San Diego to Redding.  Every Californian has a stake in reducing flood risk in the Central Valley.

     

     

    UPCOMING CONFERENCES: 

     

    Sonoma County Adaptation Forum April 8 2015

    The North Bay Climate Adaptation Initiative and many other partners invite you to come to the first-ever county-scale adaptation forum in California… the Sonoma County Adaptation Forum  on April 8, at Sonoma State University. April 8 is an all-sector public forum on climate impacts and resilience strategies. In May we’ll follow with an invitation-only workshop of decision-makers in government, civil society, and business, aimed at writing a climate resilience “roadmap” for Sonoma County. Feel free to contact me for questions or any thoughts, and thanks for all you do.

     
     

    Communicating about Climate Impacts and Engaging Stakeholders in Solutions April 30 & May 1, 2015, 9:00am – 5:00pm, Romberg Tiburon Center, Tiburon, CA

    With Cara Pike from Climate Access. $310 includes lunch and all materials — Limited scholarships are available

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

     

    16th Bay Area Conservation Biology Symposium
    on May 2nd, 2015 Call for Abstracts & Opening of Registration

    The Berkeley Chapter of the Society for Conservation Biology would like to announce the 16th Bay Area Conservation Biology Symposium on May 2nd, 2015. Since the 1990s, this one-day conference has showcased the pioneering conservation biology science by graduate students at Bay Area universities and researchers at local agencies and NGOs. Our theme for this year is “Bridging Boundaries for Effective Conservation,” which will foster discussion around connectivity across institutions, disciplines, research methods, and landscapes. We now welcome abstract submissions for oral presentations and posters. Please visit the Registration & Abstracts page to submit your abstract.

    • Abstract submission closes: March 14th
    • Decisions on submitted abstracts: March 30th
    • Early registration closes: April 18th

    Please visit our website at www.bacbs2015.com for more information including plenary speakers, schedule, and directions. This event is sponsored by UC-Berkeley’s Dept. of Environmental Science, Policy, & Management. Questions? Email us at scb.berkeley@gmail.com.

     

    2015 Bay Area Open space Conference May 14, 2015
    The 2015 Open Space Conference will focus on innovation, attempts, and lessons learned across the broad field of land conservation. Join 500+ Bay Area leaders in conservation, parks and recreation, and resource management – as well as leaders in health, business, and policy – to learn how we can try, learn and repeat individually and collectively. The conference is on May 14 at the Craneway Pavilion in Richmond, next to the Rosie the Riveter Museum, and on the Bay Trail. Registration is here.

     

     


    National Adaptation Forum
    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.

     

     

    22nd annual conference

    California Society for Ecological Restoration (SERCAL)

    “Restoration for the Next Generation” May 12-14 2015 San Diego

    The annual SERCAL conference is attended by a diverse mix of researchers, students, consultants, nonprofit and agency scientists, planners, and landowners/managers, and is a great venue for professional development and for staying current with new advances in ecological restoration.  “Call for Abstracts” document (http://sercal.org/images/SERCALcfa2015web.pdf). The deadline for abstract submission is Feb. 4, 2015. Please note the five additional conference sessions (Wetlands/Water, Urban, Mitigation Banks, Special-status Plant Species, and Using Restoration to Accomplish Non-restoration Goals) – abstracts are being sought for these sessions as well. A poster session will also be held, and abstracts for this event are also welcome. The conference (May 13-14) will be proceeded by a day of field trips related to restoration in Southern California.

     

     

    First San Joaquin River Restoration Program Science Symposium

    June 11-12, 2015, Los Banos Community Center, Los Banos, CA.  More information will follow soon, but save the date!  

     

    American Water Resources Association (AWRA): “Climate Change Adaptation”  June 15 – 17, 2015 in New Orleans, Louisiana
    Abstracts due to AWRA website: 02/13/2015  

    The focus of the conference is on ACTION – how we more effectively develop and use climate change adaptation information to respond, build resilient systems, and influence decision makers. The conference will bring water professionals from federal, state, local, and private sectors together to focus on the issues that need to be addressed to develop effective strategies for mitigating climate change impacts such as sea-level rise, changes in precipitation patterns, increased severe weather events, and worsening droughts, AND more effectively communicate such information to decision makers. Conference sessions will be devoted to addressing the following questions:

    •     How can climate change adaptation be integrated into water, coastline, and riparian resource planning and management?
    •     How can data, models and tools aid in adaptive actions?
    •     What are social/cultural factors of climate change adaptation?
    •     How are businesses and economics impacted by climate change and can they serve as drivers of action?
    •     What adaptation actions should be taken to conserve, restore, protect, and enhance water quality and quantity?
    •     Moving from planning to action – what steps are needed? What do decision makers need?
    •     What engineering and infrastructural approaches are available to address climate change adaptation?

                                                             

    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.

     

     

     

    Grand Challenges in Coastal & Estuarine Science: Securing Our Future 8 – 12 November, 2015 Oregon Convention Center | Portland, Oregon
    Registration for the CERF 23rd Biennial Conference is now open! The CERF 2015 scientific program offers four days of timely, exciting and diverse information on a vast array of estuarine and coastal subjects. Presentations will examine new findings within CERF’s traditional scientific, education and management disciplines and encourage interaction among coastal and estuarine scientists and managers. Plus, there are plenty of workshops, field trips, and special events to get involved with that will make this conference one you won’t want to miss.

     

    December 13-18, 2015 San Francisco

    Abstract Submissions are OPEN for the 21st Biennial. We are currently accepting abstract submissions for workshops, oral, speed and poster presentations for the 21st Biennial Society for Marine Mammalogy Conference, to take place in San Francisco from December 13-18, 2015.  The submission deadline is May 15th, 2015.  Workshops will be held on December 12-13th.

     

     


    The 2016 Ocean Sciences Meeting will be held 21-26 February 2016 at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, located at 900 Convention Center Blvd., New Orleans, LA 70130. Cosponsored by AGU, ASLO, and TOS, the Ocean Sciences Meeting will consist of a diverse program covering topics in all areas of the ocean sciences discipline. The abstract submission site will open 15 July 2015; stay tuned for more details about how to be a part of the scientific program.

     

     

    FUNDING

     

    The NERRS Science Collaborative (NSC) is soliciting proposals for two types of projects.
     

    Science Transfer Projects

    ·       Proposals are due March 27

    ·       Awards of up to $45,000 total, for up to 2 years

    ·       Projects should extend, share and apply existing information, approaches, and/or techniques within the NERRS and with partners outside of the reserve system.

     
     

    All questions about these funding opportunities should be submitted to NERRS-info@umich.edu.  For additional information, please visit http://graham.umich.edu/water/nerrs/funding.

     

    USDA seeks grant proposals to increase recreational public access on private agricultural, forest lands

    WASHINGTON, Feb. 23, 2015 – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced $20 million is being made available to improve wildlife habitat and enhance public access for recreational opportunities on privately held and operated farm, ranch and forest lands. Funding is available to state and tribal governments through the Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Incentive Program (VPA-HIP), authorized in the 2014 Farm Bill… Today’s announcement marks the second funding round. The first round of funding under the NRCS-administered VPA-HIP occurred in fiscal year 2014. USDA provided $20 million for access to approximately 2.5 million acres in nine states and one tribal nation and to help state and tribal governments advance recreational opportunities through wildlife habitat and public access improvements on private lands. More information on the fiscal year 2014 grantees can be viewed at VPA-HIP 2014 Funding Grantees. For more information, see the notice on Grants.gov or the NRCS VPA-HIP website.

     

     

    IWJV [Intermountain West Joint Venture] Capacity Grants Program 2015 Request for Proposals (RFP) Now Available

    The IWJV Capacity Grants Program is intended to build capacity and catalyze partnerships that measurably contribute to the protection, restoration, or enhancement of priority bird habitats to support sustainable populations of birds in the Intermountain West. Successful capacity grants are meant to join conservation partners together—around priority areas, habitats, or bird species—to improve conservation program effectiveness. Click here to access the 2015 Capacity Grants RFP.

     

     

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

     

    Rangeland Watershed Initiative Partner Biologist, Petaluma, CA 

    For more info: Breanna Owens, bowens@pointblue.org, Rangeland Watershed Initiative Coordinator

    The Rangeland Watershed Initiative Partner Biologist is a Point Blue Conservation Science position in partnership with the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) that will focus on providing value added delivery of wildlife conservation programs on working lands through Farm Bill and other federal and state funding programs.  The Partner Biologist will actively participate with NRCS Field Conservationists, working lands producers, and other resource professionals in the development of ranch and farm conservation plans, including resources assessments, conservation practice design and implementation.  In particular, they will seek to expand the adoption of prescribed rangeland and cropland management practices under NRCS Farm Bill habitat conservation programs.  The Partner Biologist will also be involved with assessment and monitoring of conservation practices that have been applied on those working lands.  This position will provide technical assistance with NRCS field conservationists to working lands producers whose primary focus is on the implementation of conservation in rangeland cropland, wetland, and riparian habitats.  This position, dependent on funding, is intended to be a full time position for a 3-year term with benefits.  The position will be located in the NRCS Petaluma Field Office, covering Sonoma and Marin Counties of California.

     
     

    Policy Campaign Manager- Save the Bay (San Francisco)

    Help us recruit a seasoned professional to develop and manage winning issue advocacy campaigns for the region’s largest organization advocating for the Bay. Position details at:
    http://www.savesfbay.org/work-save-bay#policy

     

     

     

     

     

    • OTHER NEWS OF INTEREST

     

    Drought quiz: What saves you more water? It may not be what you think

    Brian Frank March 22, 08:00 AM

    File: View of the nearly-empty Uvas Reservoir and the face of the dam on Feb. 1, 2014. Ian Abbott/Flickr Creative Commons

    With California facing one of the worst droughts on the books and new restrictions imposed statewide by the state water board, a lot of us have been thinking about what each of us can do to cut back on water use. 

    How much water do you really save by shaving a couple minutes off your showers each day? And what happens when you start including the “water footprint” of products you buy and use every day? It takes about 170 gallons of water to grow one pound of wheat, for instance. So that bone-dry toast you slather with butter in the morning has hidden water costs. So does the butter, for that matter. We put together a quiz to see if you can figure out which products or routines consume the most water. Keep in mind the figures can vary pretty broadly depending on how the calculations are made and your individual situation. Either way, we hope you discover some new ways to help save water during this “epic drought.”

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    ————

    Ellie Cohen, President and CEO

    Point Blue Conservation Science (formerly PRBO)

    3820 Cypress Drive, Suite 11, Petaluma, CA 94954

    707-781-2555 x318

     

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

     

    Point Blue—Conservation science for a healthy planet.

     

  8. California has about one year of water left and PPIC Policy Recommendations

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    California has about one year of water left. Will you ration now?


    By Jay Famiglietti LA Times OpEd March 13, 2015

    • We’re not just up a creek without a paddle in California, we’re losing the creek too
    • Authorize mandatory water rationing across the state

    Given the historic low temperatures and snowfalls that pummeled the eastern U.S. this winter, it might be easy to overlook how devastating California’s winter was as well. As our “wet” season draws to a close, it is clear that the paltry rain and snowfall have done almost nothing to alleviate epic drought conditions. January was the driest in California since record-keeping began in 1895. Groundwater and snowpack levels are at all-time lows. We’re not just up a creek without a paddle in California, we’re losing the creek too. Statewide, we’ve been dropping more than 12 million acre-feet of total water yearly since 2011. Roughly two-thirds of these losses are attributable to groundwater pumping for agricultural irrigation in the Central Valley. Farmers have little choice but to pump more groundwater during droughts, especially when their surface water allocations have been slashed 80% to 100%. But these pumping rates are excessive and unsustainable. Wells are running dry. In some areas of the Central Valley, the land is sinking by one foot or more per year.

    As difficult as it may be to face, the simple fact is that California is running out of water — and the problem started before our current drought. NASA data reveal that total water storage in California has been in steady decline since at least 2002, when satellite-based monitoring began, although groundwater depletion has been going on since the early 20th century. Right now the state has only about one year of water supply left in its reservoirs, and our strategic backup supply, groundwater, is rapidly disappearing. California has no contingency plan for a persistent drought like this one
    (let alone a 20-plus-year mega-drought), except, apparently, staying in emergency mode and praying for rain.

    In short, we have no paddle to navigate this crisis. Several steps need be taken right now.

    • First, immediate mandatory water rationing should be authorized across all of the state’s water sectors, from domestic and municipal through agricultural and industrial. The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California is already considering water rationing by the summer unless conditions improve. There is no need for the rest of the state to hesitate. The public is ready. A recent Field Poll showed that 94% of Californians surveyed believe that the drought is serious, and that one-third support mandatory rationing.
    • Second, the implementation of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act of 2014 should be accelerated. The law requires the formation of numerous, regional groundwater sustainability agencies by 2017. Then each agency must adopt a plan by 2022 and “achieve sustainability” 20 years after that. At that pace, it will be nearly 30 years before we even know what is working. By then, there may be no groundwater left to sustain. Total water storage in California has been in steady decline since at least 2002 … while groundwater depletion has been ongoing since the early 20th century. –  
    • Third, the state needs a task force of thought leaders that starts, right now, brainstorming to lay the groundwork for long-term water management strategies. Although several state task forces have been formed in response to the drought, none is focused on solving the long-term needs of a drought-prone, perennially water-stressed California. Our state’s water management is complex, but the technology and expertise exist to handle this harrowing future. It will require major changes in policy and infrastructure that could take decades to identify and act upon. Today, not tomorrow, is the time to begin.
    • Finally, the public must take ownership of this issue. This crisis belongs to all of us — not just to a handful of decision-makers. Water is our most important, commonly owned resource, but the public remains detached from discussions and decisions. This process works just fine when water is in abundance. In times of crisis, however, we must demand that planning for California’s water security be an honest, transparent and forward-looking process. Most important, we must make sure that there is in fact a plan. Call me old-fashioned, but I’d like to live in a state that has a paddle so that it might also still have a creek.

    Jay Famiglietti is the senior water scientist at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory/Caltech and a professor of Earth system science at UC Irvine.

     

    New Melones Reservoir, February 20, 2015 Image: DWR

    New PPIC Publication: Policy Priorities for Managing Drought

     

    ….Farms

    California’s productive agricultural sector requires large volumes of water for irrigation during the dry summer months, typically using roughly four times as much water as cities.13 Over the past few decades, farmers have also adapted to growing water scarcity through major investments in irrigation efficiency and shifts toward crops that generate higher revenues per unit of water used.14 However, these adaptations have not generally increased drought resilience. In most of California’s farming regions, irrigation efficiency improves crop yields and quality, but it does not increase overall water availability.15 That is because irrigation water in less efficient systems generally is not wasted; water not consumed by crops either returns to streams where it is reused by others or else percolates through soils to recharge groundwater basins. Meanwhile, the long-term shift to high-revenue perennial nuts, fruits, and vines has made agricultural water demands more rigid, because it is more expensive to fallow this land during drought. As a result, the drought hit agriculture particularly hard. Statewide, approximately 5 percent of cropland—mainly used for lower-revenue annual crops—was fallowed, with total economic losses of more than $2 billion and 17,000 full- or part-time jobs.16

     

    Ecosystems

    California’s aquatic ecosystems and the species that depend on them were also hit hard. Many salmon- and steelhead-bearing rivers and streams on the North Coast and in the Central Valley had record-low flows and high temperatures. Unusually low flows into the Sacramento–San Joaquin Delta led to poor water quality. Surveys in fall 2014 found some fish species—including the protected delta smelt—at record or near-record lows (Figure 4), and 95 percent of the 2014 offspring from spawning winter-run Chinook salmon perished because of warm water.17 Fish rescue operations were needed for some native fish species.18 Finally, water for wildlife refuges was significantly cut back, reducing critical winter feeding habitat for birds during an unusually large Pacific Flyway migration.19

     

    ….State, federal, and local water managers have worked diligently to reduce the economic, social, and environmental harm from the current drought. But as the drought continues, the challenges will grow more acute. California can learn from experiences to date—and from Australia’s response to its Millennium Drought—to better prepare both for the year ahead and for future droughts.
    State leaders should address weaknesses in four areas of drought preparation and response, by:

    1. Manage Water More Tightly, with Better Information

    Australia’s Millennium Drought offers a useful case study for California. Before and during that drought, Australians invested significantly in tracking water, including accurate measurements of flow, quality, storage, diversions, discharges, and uses.23 This allowed water managers to tightly manage water allocation and delivery in fair, transparent, and flexible ways. By comparison, California’s water monitoring systems are primitive, with significant gaps in critical information. The resulting uncertainty creates inefficiencies, reduces transparency, and fosters conflict.

    California urgently needs to modernize water accounting to support transparent decisionmaking, both for drought curtailments and for water trading. Adopting new technologies (e.g., automated gaging, remote sensing, and improved hydrologic models) to monitor and predict water flow and quality is one piece of the equation. The other piece is requiring more accurate measurement and timely reporting of water diversions and discharges by major water-right-holders. Today, senior surface water-rights holders and those with riparian24 water rights must only report diversions—the amount of water they use on farms or deliver to urban customers—every three years. (Junior rights holders report diversions each year.) And outside of urban areas, no water diverters are required to report discharges—or the amount of water returned to streams after use—even though this constitutes a significant share of supplies on some rivers.

    The State Water Resources Control Board, working closely with the Department of Water Resources and the legislature, could enact meaningful reforms in water use reporting. Additional state funds are likely to be needed to improve water monitoring networks—from Proposition 1 or other sources. Federal funds also could help modernize these networks.

    2) Set Clear Priorities, Objectives, and Expectations

    The water board’s water curtailment actions in 2014 were highly controversial. Many water users questioned the fairness of curtailments, which relied solely on the seniority of water rights and failed to consider the efficiency of use and other factors. Critics also argued that the board did not identify amounts required to meet urgent public health and safety needs or the needs of the environment. By law these factors must be considered along with seniority, and in some circumstances they may take precedence over water rights.25

    During the Millennium Drought, some Australian states developed processes that greatly reduced uncertainty and controversy by clearly identifying priorities for public health and safety and giving due consideration to environmental impacts.26 The board could modify its curtailment processes to explicitly identify the magnitudes and priorities of these values in advance of a drought, and exercise these procedures in “dry runs” that simulate droughts, just as agencies have drills for earthquakes, floods, and fires.

    1. Promote Reasonable Use and Robust Supplies

    California cities and farms must also make further progress in managing demand and developing reliable supplies. Significant improvements are possible in the following areas:

    • Reduce urban landscape irrigation. Landscape irrigation accounts for roughly half of urban water use.27 In Australia, changes in urban landscaping significantly reduced urban demand. Local agencies can use financial incentives (e.g., rebates) and conservation-oriented water rates to encourage customers to install more efficient irrigation systems and to replace thirsty lawns with more California-friendly plants. Conference participants also highlighted the value of state action, to help local agencies withstand political pressures from residents. For instance, the legislature or the water board could set landscaping water use standards to be implemented by local agencies.28
    • Improve conservation-oriented pricing in cities. Water pricing—particularly tiered rates that charge higher per-gallon rates for greater water use—are important to promote urban conservation. Rates also need to provide revenue streams that are stable when water sales fall, so that utilities can still cover their fixed costs. Ideally, rate structures should allow per-gallon prices to increase during droughts. Unfortunately, very few of California’s urban utilities had robust drought pricing systems in place last year.29 Here again, the legislature or the water board could help by setting standards for local compliance.30
    • Strengthen water markets.
      Australia depended heavily on water markets to reduce the costs of the drought, and made numerous policy changes to enable water markets to function effectively in very dry years. Investments in (sometimes highly controversial) conveyance infrastructure expanded market access.31 California’s water market has helped both farms and cities cope with droughts, but this market can be strengthened with a more transparent approval process and strategic investments in monitoring and conveyance infrastructure.32
    • Continue diversifying urban supplies. Local agencies should continue to make investments in non-traditional supplies (such as recycled water and stormwater capture projects), interconnections, and storage. Proposition 1 authorizes matching funds for such projects.
    • Manage groundwater. As this drought has shown, groundwater is California’s most important drought reserve; it is critical to the health of the agricultural economy. Yet decades of overuse—most notably in the southern Central Valley—have depleted many groundwater basins and reduced their value for drought management. The new groundwater law holds great promise for managing future droughts. But the timeline is long, giving basins more than 25 years to attain sustainability. The state could support local efforts to expedite this process through additional legislation (e.g., to facilitate the allocation of pumping rights and trading), technical assistance (particularly in areas without a history of groundwater management), help in organizing local agencies, and funding (including Proposition 1 bond funds).
    • Prevent waste and unreasonable use. The State Water Resources Control Board should exercise its constitutional authority to ensure that California’s scarce water resources are “put to beneficial use to the fullest extent of which they are capable.” This might include encouraging changes in the timing of water diversions so that they best suit the needs of fish and wildlife – something Sacramento Valley rice growers agreed to this past year on a voluntary basis. Where appropriate, the board could also scrutinize individual users whose diversions harm other water users or the environment, and determine whether local restrictions on water trading constitute unreasonable use during severe droughts.

    Modernize Environmental Drought Management

    State and federal fish and wildlife agencies—working closely with water managers—undertook great efforts to reduce the environmental harm of this drought. But most efforts were made without advanced planning and without strong scientific input or review. Few investments were made in advance to reduce drought impacts; there has been limited monitoring of the effectiveness of emergency measures; and no strategy has been developed for recovering species when the drought ends.
    Failure to protect native species during drought can have costly long-term regulatory consequences, with new restrictions that limit future water supply and hydropower.

    California needs an aquatic and wetland drought management plan to improve the resilience of the state’s native biodiversity. This plan should set clear objectives for drought management, including priorities when limited water availability forces difficult trade-offs between species (for example, when storing water for late season flows to protect salmon reduces available water for delta smelt). The plan should also identify key river segments and minimum instream flows needed to maintain species of concern, guidelines for carryover storage in reservoirs to meet environmental needs, and emergency actions (such as captive breeding programs and refuge habitats) to prevent extinction. This plan should be developed by a biodiversity task force made up of independent experts, working closely with agency personnel.

    State and federal agencies should then use this plan to guide drought management. Implementation requires both a reliable source of funds and a reliable allocation of water for the environment. Proposition 1 authorizes nearly $1.5 billion for ecosystem investments, and at least half of the $2.7 billion authorized for storage projects must also support the environment. The legislature, which will oversee bond expenditures, could insist that agencies adopt an environmental drought plan and prioritize investments that increase the environment’s drought resilience. The legislature could also identify a reliable long-term funding mechanism that outlives the current bond.

    The Australian state of Victoria benefited greatly from this type of planning tool, which enabled environmental water managers to allocate environmental water where it was most needed during the drought.33 California should also consider two additional innovations that have proved very useful for managing Australia’s environment during the Millennium Drought and beyond. The first is purchase of water rights for the environment, which provides managers with a flexible tool for managing key habitats.34 The “Environmental Water Holder” is able to trade its annual water allocations to get water where it is most needed, and even use revenues from water leasing for other habitat improvements.35

    The second innovation is a financial contribution from water authorities. In the state of Victoria, this amounts to 5 percent of revenue from urban water services and 2 percent from rural (irrigation) water services.36 The receipts are used to promote sustainable water management and address adverse water-related environmental impacts. These funds can help develop critical drought habitat, purchase water during shortages, and recover populations following drought.

    CONCLUSION

    Implementing these four solutions—better water use information, clear priority-setting, stronger demand and supply management, and forward-looking environmental drought management—will improve California’s ability to weather droughts, a recurring feature of the state’s climate. Making these changes will be worth the effort, but it will entail some costs. And like all meaningful reforms, it will require overcoming institutional and political hurdles and objections from those who prefer the status quo. The Australians made these difficult policy changes during their long drought, leaving them better prepared for the next drought. California needs to do the same.

  9. Near-term acceleration in the rate of temperature change

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    Near-term acceleration in the rate of temperature change Nature Climate Change | Letter

    Steven J. Smith, James Edmonds, Corinne A. Hartin, Anupriya Mundra & Katherine Calvin Nature Climate Change (2015) doi:10.1038/nclimate2552 Received 24 June 2014 Accepted 27 January 2015 Published online 09 March 2015
    Abstract:
    Anthropogenically driven climate changes, which are expected to impact human and natural systems, are often expressed in terms of global-mean temperature1. The rate of climate change over multi-decadal scales is also important, with faster rates of change resulting in less time for human and natural systems to adapt2. We find that present trends in greenhouse-gas and aerosol emissions are now moving the Earth system into a regime in terms of multi-decadal rates of change that are unprecedented for at least the past 1,000 years. The rate of global-mean temperature increase in the CMIP5 (ref. 3) archive over 40-year periods increases to 0.25 ± 0.05 °C (1σ) per decade by 2020, an average greater than peak rates of change during the previous one to two millennia. Regional rates of change in Europe, North America and the Arctic are higher than the global average. Research on the impacts of such near-term rates of change is urgently needed

  10. Global warming messing with the jet stream and your weather

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    Visualization of a very wavy northern hemisphere jet stream. (Credit: NASA) \

    The scary idea that won’t go away: Global warming messing with the jet stream and your weather

    By Chris Mooney March 12 2015 Washington Post

    Is the rapid melting of the Arctic paying us back for our greenhouse gas emissions by messing with the jet stream — which carries weather through the northern hemisphere? And could that, in turn, explain recent breakouts of extremes all around the northern half of the world — including recent snowfall in the east coast? That’s what Rutgers University’s Jennifer Francis has argued in a series of papers going back to 2012 — but there has been quite a lot of criticism. Several distinguished climate researchers even wrote to Science magazine in early 2014 contesting the notion, saying that “we do not view the theoretical arguments underlying it as compelling.” And yet stubbornly, more published research keeps appearing and seeming to add support to the idea that the warming Arctic is changing the jet stream. That statement comes with an exclamation point on Thursday in particular, with a new paper out in Science that confirms many of Francis’s ideas and applies them not just to extreme winter weather but, in some ways even more troubling, to extremes of summer heat. The new paper, by Dim Coumou and two colleagues at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and the University of Potsdam in Germany, finds that the melting Arctic is indeed messing with the jet stream (as well as the broader atmospheric circulation) and our weather. But it also goes further by asserting that there’s a strong effect in the summer in particular. The progress of weather is slowing during the summer, the authors assert, and the result could be a very deadly one — including “more persistent heat waves in recent summers.” Or as the researchers put it, a weaker jet stream and atmospheric circulation in the summer, caused by a reduced differential in temperature between the equator and the north pole as the Arctic warms faster than the mid-latitudes, “has made weather more persistent and hence favored the occurrence of prolonged heat extremes.”… he Potsdam researchers looked at an atmospheric feature called “eddy kinetic energy,” which, as Francis explained, basically refers to the winds swirling around regions of high and low pressure. Those winds have decreased, the paper finds. “That’s why they’re saying that it’s more likely to have summer extreme events,” Francis said. “Because the weather just is not changing as much, and the weather systems themselves are just more stagnant and lethargic.” The new study points in particular to the devastating 2010 summer heat wave in Russia. “By late July and early August, numerous cities witnessed a crescendo of record breaking daily readings near 40ºC, more than +10ºC warmer than what would normally have been experienced at this warmest time of year,” noted the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration at the time. The resulting death toll could have been as high as 55,000. So how did such an extreme come about? The new paper notes that “the record breaking July temperatures over Moscow were associated with extremely low [eddy kinetic energy].” In other words, there was just not enough circulation of air to bring in cooler temperatures. “If this whole circulation slows down and there’s less energy in these storms, then basically we get more persistent weather situations, which can lead to some extreme heat waves,” said Stefan Rahmstorf, also a researcher at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research but not one of the study’s authors. So what’s the upshot for the ongoing debate over whether the Arctic is, indeed, messing with weather in the mid-latitudes all over the globe? “I think the balance of evidence is kind of moving towards confirming that there is this influence of the Arctic,” said Rahmstorf….

     

    The weakening summer circulation in the Northern Hemisphere mid-latitudes

    Dim Coumou1,*, Jascha Lehmann1,2Johanna Beckmann1,2 Science DOI: 10.1126/science.1261768 March 16, 2015

    Abstract
    Rapid warming in the Arctic could influence mid-latitude circulation by reducing the poleward temperature gradient. The largest changes are generally expected in autumn or winter but whether significant changes have occurred is debated. Here we report significant weakening of summer circulation detected in three key dynamical quantities: (i) the zonal-mean zonal wind, (ii) the eddy kinetic energy (EKE) and (iii) the amplitude of fast-moving Rossby waves. Weakening of the zonal wind is explained by a reduction in poleward temperature gradient. Changes in Rossby waves and EKE are consistent with regression analyses of climate model projections and changes over the seasonal cycle. Monthly heat extremes are associated with low EKE and thus the observed weakening might have contributed to more persistent heat waves in recent summers.