Ecology, Climate Change and Related News

Conservation Science for a Healthy Planet

Archive: Mar 2018

  1. Methane: Importance to Global Warming & Understanding Emission Sources – Webinar for Point Blue by Professor Robert Howarth, Cornell

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    • We need to stop use of natural gas (esp. dramatic increase in shale gas/fracking) because of methane leaks and the accelerated risks of reaching climatic tipping points.
    • The dramatic methane increase over the past decade is not from cows.

    March 19, 2018 Webinar presentation by Professor Robert Howarth, PhD to Point Blue

    We were very fortunate to have Professor Bob Howarth of Cornell University, the David R. Atkinson Professor of Ecology & Environmental Biology, present an excellent webinar for Point Blue scientists on climate change and methane last week.  Below is a link to the recording and here is a link to a pdf of the presentation: Howarth Methane and global change — Point Blue Conservation Science — March 19 2018 pdf.

    See Zoom Recording here (306 MB)

    Howarth Methanecows and methane March 2018 Howarth

  2. Advancing UN efforts on agriculture for climate change mitigation and adaptation– webinar recordings now available

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    • Agriculture is a special topic under the UNFCCC, cross-linking between adaptation and mitigation and covering all countries under the convention
    • In a recent webinar, participants discussed how the Koronivia Joint Work on Agriculture can help agricultural development address a triple threat: food security, climate resilience, and mitigation (read more here).

    March 5 2018 GFAR (Global Forum on Agricultural Research and Innovation) Presentations & Recordings from the Global Webinar

    In light of the recent adopted decision by the Parties at the Bonn Climate Change Conference in November 2017 known as the Koronivia* joint work on agriculture, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) organized a global webinar to provide participants with a better understanding of the key opportunities and challenges involved in advancing Koronivia joint work on agriculture and an opportunity for dialogue on the topics identified in the Koronivia decision ahead of the Subsidiary Bodies for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA) and Implementation (SBI) meetings to take place from 30 April – 10 May 2018 in Bonn, Germany.

    Through discussions it was noted that, many countries are already strongly affected by the adverse effects of climate change, including but not limited to droughts, pests and diseases. This requires support to increase resilience and sufficient climate finance in agriculture to make informed investments. In this sense, agriculture is a special topic under the UNFCCC, cross-linking between adaptation and mitigation and covering all countries under the convention. The Koronivia joint work is a chance to align the efforts of all stakeholders in the agricultural community – and we can take full advantage of this!

    Read blog

    Keynote speakers included representatives from the European Union, New Zealand, UNFCCC and Uruguay.

    Moderator: Julia Wolf, Natural Resources Officer, FAO Presentation | Recording

    Herwig Ranner, European Commission in the Directorate General for Agriculture and Rural Development Presentation | Recording

    Dirk Nemitz, Programme Officer for agriculture, forestry and other land-use at the UNFCCC Presentation | Recording

    Victoria Hatton,  Senior Policy Analyst, Ministry for Primary Industries, New ZealandPresentation | Recording

    Walter Oyhantcabal, Director of the Climate Change and Sustainability Unit in Uruguay’s Ministry of Livestock, Agriculture and Fisheries Presentation | Recording

    Bruce Campbell, Director of the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security Presentation | Recording

    Martial Bernoux, Coordinator of the Mitigation of Climate Change in Agriculture Programme, FAO Presentation | Recording

    As a follow up to the webinar, regional webinars are expected to be organized throughout the year. Please be on the lookout for these Koronivia regional dialogues!

    For more information on Koronivia joint work on agriculture, please visit: www.fao.org/climate-change/resources/learning/

    *Koronivia grass is a leafy, procumbent, creeping, stoloniferous perennial grass

  3. Rapid emissions reductions would keep CO2 removal and costs in check: 20% below countries’ Paris pledges

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    • Emissions reduction efforts in the next decade pledged by governments under the Paris climate agreement are by far not sufficient to attain the explicit aim of the agreement — they will not keep warming below the 2-degrees-limit.
    • Emissions in 2030 would need to be at least 20 percent below what countries have pledged under the Paris climate agreement to keep costs and CO2 removal in check.
    • Rapid short-term emissions reductions are the most robust way of preventing climate damages and large-scale deployment of carbon removal technologies can only be avoided when reliable CO2 prices are introduced as soon as possible.

    March 28, 2018 Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) Read full ScienceDaily article here

    Rapid greenhouse-gas emissions reductions are needed if governments want to keep in check both the costs of the transition towards climate stabilization and the amount of removing already emitted CO2 from the atmosphere. To this end, emissions in 2030 would need to be at least 20 percent below what countries have pledged under the Paris climate agreement, a new study finds….

    Removing CO2 from the atmosphere through technical methods including carbon capture and underground storage (CCS) or increased use of plants to suck up CO2 comes with a number of risks and uncertainties, and hence the interest of limiting them.

    ….”Emissions reduction efforts in the next decade pledged by governments under the Paris climate agreement are by far not sufficient to attain the explicit aim of the agreement — they will not keep warming below the 2-degrees-limit,”…”To stabilize the climate before warming crosses the Paris threshold, we either have to undertake the huge effort of halving emissions until 2030 and achieving emission neutrality by 2050 — or the emissions reductions would have to be complemented by CO2 removal technologies. In our study, we for the first time try to identify the minimum CO2 removal requirements — and how these requirements can be reduced with increased short-term climate action.”

    …It turns out that, according to the computer simulations done by the scientists, challenges for likely keeping warming below the threshold agreed in Paris would increase sharply if CO2 removal from the atmosphere is restricted to less than 5 billion tons of CO2 per year throughout the second half of the century. This is substantial. It would mean for instance building up an industry for carbon capture and storage that moves masses comparable to today’s global petroleum industry. Still, 5 billion tons of CO2 removal is modest compared to the tens of billion tons that some scenarios used in climate policy debates assume. Current CO2 emissions worldwide are more than 35 billion tons per year…

    …first, rapid short-term emissions reductions are the most robust way of preventing climate damages, and second, large-scale deployment of CDR technologies can only be avoided when reliable CO2 prices are introduced as soon as possible….”Ramping up climate policy ambition for 2030 to reduce emissions by 20 percent is economically feasible. It is all about short-term entry points: rapidly phasing out coal in developed countries such as Germany and introducing minimum prices for CO2 in pioneer coalitions in Europe and China makes sense almost irrespective of the climate target you aim for. In contrast, our research shows that delaying action makes costs and risks skyrocket. People as well as businesses want stability, and this is what policy-makers can provide — if they act rapidly.”

    Jessica Strefler, Nico Bauer, Elmar Kriegler, Alexander Popp, Anastasis Giannousakis, Ottmar Edenhofer. Between Scylla and Charybdis: Delayed mitigation narrows the passage between large-scale CDR and high costs. Environmental Research Letters, 2018; 13 (4): 044015 DOI: 10.1088/1748-9326/aab2ba

  4. Dramatic increase in flooding on East Coast roads

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    • roads along the East Coast have experienced a 90 percent increase in flooding over the past 20 years

    March 28, 2018 University of New Hampshire read full ScienceDaily article here

    Researchers have found that in the past 20 years roads along the East Coast have experienced a 90 percent increase in flooding — often making the roads in these communities impassable, causing delays, as well as stress, and impacting transportation of goods and services.

    ….They estimate that this causes over 100 million hours of delays each year for drivers on those roads and that number could rise to more than 3.4 billion hours by 2100. By the middle of the century (2056 -2065), they predict nuisance flooding could occur almost daily at specific sites along the shores of Connecticut, New Jersey, Maryland, the District of Columbia, North Carolina, and Florida under an intermediate sea-level-rise scenario….

    Photo: Roads closed due to high tide floods in Portsmouth, N.H.
    Credit: Lisa Graichen/UNH

    Jennifer M. Jacobs, Lia R. Cattaneo, William Sweet, Theodore Mansfield. Recent and Future Outlooks for Nuisance Flooding Impacts on Roadways on the US East Coast. Transportation Research Record: The Journal of the Transportation Research Board, 2018; 036119811875636 DOI: 10.1177/0361198118756366

  5. Past mass extinction had prior warning: warning signs today

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    • Warning signs for mass extinction do exist, contrary to previous assumptions.
    • The first indicators of a mass extinction were evident as early as 700,000 years prior to the actual even
    • ‘The increased rate of extinction 250 million years ago (Permian Triassic) in all habitats we are currently observing is attributable to the direct influence of humans, such as destruction of habitat, over-fishing and pollution. However, the dwarfing of animal species in the oceans in particular can be quite clearly attributed to climate change. We should take these signs very seriously.’
    March 27, 2018 University of Erlangen-Nuremberg read full ScienceDaily article
    Mass extinctions throughout the history of the Earth have been well documented. Scientists believe that they occurred during a short period of time in geological terms. In a new study, paleobiologists have now shown that signs that the largest mass extinction event in the Earth’s history was approaching became apparent much earlier than previously believed, and point out that the same indicators can be observed today….

    … around 250 million years ago at the Permian-Triassic boundary… gigantic volcanic eruptions and the greenhouse gas emissions they caused wiped out around 90 percent of all animal species according to estimates. ….In a new study a team of researchers from Germany and Iran have proved that this crisis happened over a longer period of time….

    ….Their results show that the first indicators of a mass extinction were evident as early as 700,000 years prior to the actual event. Several species of ammonoids were killed off at that time and the surviving species became increasingly smaller in size and less complex the closer the main event became. The warning signs of mass extinction are also visible today….

    Wolfgang Kiessling, Martin Schobben, Abbas Ghaderi, Vachik Hairapetian, Lucyna Leda, Dieter Korn. Pre–mass extinction decline of latest Permian ammonoids. Geology, 2018; 46 (3): 283 DOI: 10.1130/G39866.1
  6. Nature-based solutions needed for better management of water, says UN report

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    • We need to increase our use of nature-based solutions – where we work more with nature – says a new report on global water management by the United Nations.
    • World Water Development Report 2018demonstrates how nature‐based solutions (NBS) use or mimic natural processes to enhance water availability (e.g., soil moisture retention, groundwater recharge), improve water quality (e.g., natural and constructed wetlands, riparian buffer strips), and reduce risks associated with water‐related disasters and climate change (e.g., floodplain restoration, green roofs). Read more / Download the report in English | Français | Español

    ….“We need new solutions in managing water resources,” says Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UNESCO, “so as to meet emerging challenges to water security caused by population growth and climate change.”

    nature-based solutions - global water managementGreater use of nature-based solutions will help us toward a more holistic approach to managing global water resources. Image: CP/pixabay composite.

    The 2018 United Nations World Water Development Report featured recently at the 8th World Water Forum in Brasilia, Brazil.

    Holistic approach to water management

    The report argues that nature-based solutions are one of the many essential tools for moving toward “a more holistic approach to water management.”

    Nature-based solutions support the idea that water is not an isolated element but an inseparable part of a cycle of evaporation, precipitation, and absorption through the soil.

    Grasslands, forests, and wetlands – and the extensive vegetation cover that they provide – have a profound effect on the water cycle and by focusing on them we can do much to improve the amount and quality of water that is available.

    The report says that we need to make more use of environmental engineering that focuses on “green infrastructure” rather than just “grey infrastructure” solutions provided by traditional civil engineering.

    This does not mean that we do not continue to seek civil engineering solutions in the form of irrigation canals, reservoirs, and water treatment plants, but look to increase nature-based solutions to complement them.

    Benefits of ‘green infrastructure’

    Green infrastructure has much to offer water-intensive applications such as agriculture. For example, it can help to reduce soil erosion, pollution, and the amount of water required by making irrigation systems more efficient.

    An example of this is the change that has occurred in recent decades in the Indian state of Rajasthan, which suffered one of its worst droughts ever in 1986.

    In the years that followed, collaboration between an NGO and local communities established ways of harvesting water that regenerated forests and soils.

    As a result, forest cover in the state increased by 30 percent, groundwater levels went up several meters, and productivity of croplands improved.

    “For too long,” says Azoulay, “the world has turned first to human-built, or ‘grey’, infrastructure to improve water management. In so doing, it has often brushed aside traditional and Indigenous knowledge that embraces greener approaches.”….

  7. Biodiversity and nature’s benefits continue dangerous decline, scientists warn; Destruction of nature as dangerous as climate change, scientists warn

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    • Unsustainable exploitation of the natural world threatens food and water security of billions of people, major UN-backed biodiversity study reveals
    • 75% of Earth’s land areas are degraded– new report warns that environmental damage threatens the well-being of 3.2 billion people. Yet solutions are within reach.
    • Climate change will be the fastest-growing cause of species loss in the Americas by midcentury, according to this new set of reports from the leading global organization on ecosystems and biodiversity.
    • Rapid expansion and unsustainable management of croplands and grazing lands is the main driver of land degradation, causing significant loss of biodiversity and impacting food security, water purification, the provision of energy, and other contributions of nature essential to people. This has reached “critical levels” in many parts of the world…Wetlands have been hit hardest, with 87 percent lost globally in the last 300 years…Wetlands continue to be destroyed in Southeast Asia and the Congo region of Africa, mainly to plant oil palm.
    • Landmark reports highlight options to protect and restore nature and its vital contributions to people.

    March 23 2018 Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) See National Geographic story here; See GuardianUK news coverage here;  Read ScienceDaily article here

    Biodiversity — the essential variety of life forms on Earth — continues to decline in every region of the world, significantly reducing nature’s capacity to contribute to people’s well-being. This alarming trend endangers economies, livelihoods, food security and the quality of life of people everywhere, according to four landmark science reports written by more than 550 leading experts, from over 100 countries.

    Read the 5th new IPBES assessment report press release, on global land degradation and restoration report here.

     

    • Projections include:
      • The unprecedented growth in consumption, demography and technology will roughly quadruple the global economy in the first half of the twenty-first century.
      • Unless urgent and concerted action is taken, land degradation will worsen in the face of population growth, unprecedented consumption, an increasingly globalized economy, and climate change.
      • Land degradation and climate change are likely to force 50 to 700 million people to migrate by 2050.
      • By 2050, land degradation and climate change will reduce crop yields by an average of 10% globally, and up to 50% in certain regions.
      • The capacity of rangelands to support livestock will continue to diminish in the future, due to both land degradation and loss of rangeland area.
      • Biodiversity loss is projected to reach 38–46% by 2050.
    • Opportunities to accelerate action identified in the report include:
      • Improving monitoring, verification systems and baseline data;
      • Coordinating policy between different ministries to simultaneously encourage more sustainable production and consumption practices of land-based commodities;
      • Eliminating ‘perverse incentives’ that promote land degradation and promoting positive incentives that reward sustainable land management; and
      • Integrating the agricultural, forestry, energy, water, infrastructure and service agendas.
    • Remedial Options
      1. National and international responses to land degradation are often focused on mitigating damage already caused….Land degradation is rarely, if ever, the result of a single cause and can thus only be addressed through the simultaneous and coordinated use of diverse policy instruments and responses at the institutional, governance, community and individual levels.
      2. Land managers, including indigenous peoples and local communities, have key roles to play in the design, implementation and evaluation of sustainable land management practices.
      3. Proven approaches to halting and reversing land degradation include:
      • Urban planning, replanting with native species, green infrastructure development, remediation of contaminated and sealed soils (e.g. under asphalt), wastewater treatment and river channel restoration.
      • Better, more open-access information on the impacts of traded commodities.
      • Coordinated policy agendas that simultaneously encourage more sustainable consumption of land-based commodities.
      • Eliminating perverse incentives that promote degradation – subsidies that reward overproduction, for example – and devising positive incentives that reward the adoption of sustainable land management practices.
      • Rangelands:
        • Land capability and condition assessments and monitoring
        • Grazing pressure management
        • Pasture and forage crop improvement
        • Silvopastoral management
        • Weed and pest management
        • Rangelands with traditional grazing in many dryland regions have benefitted from maintaining appropriate fire regimes and the reinstatement or development of local livestock management practices and institutions. A variety of passive or active forest management and restoration techniques have successfully conserved biodiversity and avoided forest degradation while yielding multiple economic, social and environmental benefits.
      • Combating land degradation resulting from invasive species involves the identification and monitoring of invasion pathways and the adoption of eradication and control measures (mechanical, cultural, biological and chemical).
      • Responses to land degradation from mineral resource extraction include:
        • on-site management of mining wastes (soils and water)
        • reclamation of mine site topography
        • conservation and early replacement of topsoil
        • restoration and rehabilitation measures to recreate functioning grassland, forest, wetland and other ecosystems

      4. Examples of well-tested practices and techniques, both traditional and modern, to halt degradation of agricultural lands include:

      • Effective responses to avoid, reduce and reverse wetland degradation include:
        • controlling point and diffuse pollution sources
        • adopting integrated land and water management strategies; and
        • restoring wetland hydrology, biodiversity, and ecosystem functions through passive and active restoration measures, such as constructed wetlands

     

    Here is the America’s report from the IPBES- Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES).

    By the numbers- The Americas:

    Trends / data

    • 13%: the Americas’ share of world’s human population
    • 40%: share of world ecosystems’ capacity to produce nature-based materials consumed by people, and to assimilate by-products from their consumption
    • 65%: the proportion of nature’s contributions to people, across all units of analysis, in decline (with 21% declining strongly)
    • >50%: share of the Americas’ population with a water security problem
    • 61%: languages and associated cultures, in trouble or dying out
    • >95%: North American tall grass prairie grasslands transformed into human-dominated landscapes since pre-European settlement
    • 72% and 66% respectively: of tropical dry forest in Mesoamerica and the Caribbean have been transformed into human-dominated landscapes since pre-European settlement
    • 88%: Atlantic tropical forest transformed into human-dominated landscapes since pre-European settlement
    • 17%: Amazon forest transformed into human-dominated landscapes since pre-European settlement
    • 50%: decrease in renewable freshwater available per person since the 1960s
    • 200-300%: Increase in humanity’s ecological footprint in each subregion of the Americas since the 1960s
    • 9.5% and 25%: Forest areas lost in South America and Mesoamerica respectively since the 1960s
    • 0.4% and 43.4%: net gains in forest areas in North America and the Caribbean respectively since the 1960s
    • 1.5 million: approximate number of Great Plains grassland hectares loss from 2014 to 2015
    • 2.5 million: hectares under cultivation in Brazil’s northeast agricultural frontier in 2013, up from 1.2 million ha in 2003, with 74% of these new croplands taken from intact cerrado (tropical savanna) in that region
    • 15-60%: North American drylands habitat lost between 2000 and 2009
    • >50%: US wetlands lost since European settlement (up to 90% lost in agricultural regions)
    • >50%: decline in coral reef cover by the 1970s; only 10% remained by 2003

    Economic value of nature’s contributions to people

    • $24.3 trillion: estimated value per year of terrestrial nature’s contributions to people in the Americas (equivalent to the region’s gross domestic product)
    • $6.8, $5.3 and $3.6 trillion per year: nature’s contributions to people valued as ecosystem services in Brazil, USA and Canada respectively
    • >$500 million: annual cost of managing the impacts of invasive alien zebra mussels on infrastructure for power, water supply and transportation in the Great Lakes….
  8. Paul Ehrlich interview 50 years after “The Population Bomb”: Toxification of the planet with synthetic chemicals may be more dangerous to people and wildlife than climate change

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    by Damian Carrington March 22 2018 read full GuardianUK article here

    Fifty years after the publication of his controversial book The Population Bomb, biologist Paul Ehrlich warns overpopulation and overconsumption are driving us over the edge…

    A shattering collapse of civilisation is a “near certainty” in the next few decades due to humanity’s continuing destruction of the natural world that sustains all life on Earth, according to biologist Prof Paul Ehrlich.

    The toxification of the planet with synthetic chemicals may be more dangerous to people and wildlife than climate change, says Ehrlich.
    The toxification of the planet with synthetic chemicals may be more dangerous to people and wildlife than climate change, says Ehrlich. Photograph: Linh Pham/Getty Images

    In May, it will be 50 years since the eminent biologist published his most famous and controversial book, The Population Bomb. But Ehrlich remains as outspoken as ever.

    The world’s optimum population is less than two billion people – 5.6 billion fewer than on the planet today, he argues, and there is an increasing toxification of the entire planet by synthetic chemicals that may be more dangerous to people and wildlife than climate change….

     
  9. Plants really do feed their friends: new insights into how soil microbiomes might improve carbon storage and plant productivity

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    • Researchers prove complex connection between plants and what soil microbes eat
    • Their study could help scientists identify ways to enhance the soil microbiome for improved carbon storage and plant productivity
    • They found that the microbes that flourished in the area around plant roots preferred a diet more rich in organic acids than the less successful microbes in the community.
    • “By controlling the types of microbes that thrive around their roots, plants could be trying to protect themselves from less friendly pathogens while promoting other microbes that stimulate nutrient supply.”

    March 22, 2018 DOE/Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

    Researchers have discovered that as plants develop they craft their root microbiome, favoring microbes that consume very specific metabolites. Their study could help scientists identify ways to enhance the soil microbiome for improved carbon storage and plant productivity….

    “For more than a century, it’s been known that plants influence the makeup of their soil microbiome, in part through the release of metabolites into the soil surrounding their roots,” said Berkeley Lab postdoctoral researcher Kateryna Zhalnina, the study’s lead author. “Until now, however, it was not understood whether the contents of this cocktail released by plants was matched by the feeding preferences of soil microbes in a way that would allow plants to guide the development of their external microbiome.”

    Microbes within soil improve the ability of plants to absorb nutrients and resist drought, disease, and pests. They mediate soil carbon conversion, affecting the amount of carbon stored in soil or released into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide. The relevance of these functions to agriculture and climate are being observed like never before.

    Just one gram of soil contains tens of thousands of microbial species.

    …Their study took a close look at the rhizosphere of an annual grass (Avena barbata) common in California and other Mediterranean ecosystems….

    …”It’s exciting that we can potentially use the plant’s own chemistry to help nourish beneficial microbes within soil. Population growth, especially, has created a demand for identifying more reliable ways to manipulate the soil microbiome for beneficial outcome.

    Kateryna Zhalnina, Katherine B. Louie, Zhao Hao, Nasim Mansoori, Ulisses Nunes da Rocha, Shengjing Shi, Heejung Cho, Ulas Karaoz, Dominique Loqué, Benjamin P. Bowen, Mary K. Firestone, Trent R. Northen, Eoin L. Brodie. Dynamic root exudate chemistry and microbial substrate preferences drive patterns in rhizosphere microbial community assembly. Nature Microbiology, 2018; DOI: 10.1038/s41564-018-0129-3

  10. US national parks increasingly important for bird conservation in face of climate change

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    • Projected average national park may have 29 percent more species in winter, 6 percent more in summer
    • their findings reinforce the importance of the U.S. National Parks to the conservation of birds in the face of climate change and the value of monitoring species distribution to better inform conservation and management strategies.

    March 21, 2018  PLOS read full ScienceDaily article here

    See related: Point Blue Spring 2018 Quarterly on Our Public Lands and Waters: A Living Laboratory to Secure our Future

    US national parks could become even more important for the conservation of bird species in the face of climate change, according to a new study.

    ….Wu and colleagues related species distribution models from the North American Breeding Bird Survey (summer) and Audubon Christmas Bird Count (winter) observations to climate data from the early 2000s and projected to 2041-2070. The researchers analyzed climate suitability projections over time for 513 species across 274 national parks, under a high and low greenhouse gas emission scenario. They then classified climate suitability for birds as improving, worsening, stable, potential colonization, and potential extirpation….

    Joanna X. Wu, Chad B. Wilsey, Lotem Taylor, Gregor W. Schuurman. Projected avifaunal responses to climate change across the U.S. National Park System. PLOS ONE, 2018; 13 (3): e0190557 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0190557