Ecology, Climate Change and Related News

Conservation Science for a Healthy Planet

Category Archive: Adaptation and Nature-based Solutions

  1. Groundwater Recharge- from Drought to Deluge and Back Again

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    June 22, 2017 by Judy Corbett Calfornia Economic Summit

    ….Common sense dictates that we build water reserves during rainy years that will carry us through the lean years. While dams have been the reserve strategy in the past, recent experience has shown they have limitations…..UC Merced scientist Mohammad Safeeq has pointed to groundwater storage as a viable option, noting that California has enough unused groundwater storage capacity to hold 850 to 1,300 million-acre feet of water. This dwarfs the state’s current surface water storage capacity of 42 million-acre feet….

    … NRDC and partners studied the effects of 15 years of development in 20 sprawling cities and found that by covering over aquifer recharge areas, each had lost enough groundwater to meet the average daily needs of 1.5 to 3.6 million of their residents….

    …Fortunately, …are currently researching and mapping areas with good recharge potential – areas with soil types that allow water to penetrate accompanied by a geologic makeup under the soil that filters and sends water to the aquifer.

    Once special recharge sites are identified, we need to preserve or restore them. Here, progress is being made in both urban and in rural areas. For example, Santa Cruz and Butte Counties both have general plan language protecting important recharge sites from development.

    The City of Los Angeles Department of Water and Power is now providing incentive programs to schools, homeowners, and businesses to capture stormwater and direct it to areas where it can be absorbed. While naturally recharged groundwater is a very inexpensive, it still requires funding for infrastructure changes, land purchases, and the like. Funding could come from federal, state and/or local entities, including those responsible for flood management…

    To get where we need to go, multi-benefit groundwater recharge projects must expand in number and scale. …working together, they can assure the ultimate success of California’s new Sustainable Groundwater Management Act….

  2. Coastal Green Infrastructure Effectiveness Database

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    Digital Coast Launches Green Infrastructure Effectiveness Database


    Decision-makers want to understand how to effectively use nature-based practices to protect people, property, and infrastructure from storms and sea level rise. For this purpose, OCM assembled a collection of sources on the effectiveness of green infrastructure. NCCOS and the NOAA Climate Program Office provided input. The new Green Infrastructure Effectiveness Database provides a means of quickly searching for source information and studies. The database also illuminates gaps in information and areas for enhanced study.

  3. Rockaway, NY Boardwalk Shows Climate Adaptation Costs

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    By June 5th, 2017 See full ClimateCentral article here

    ROCKAWAY PENINSULA, N.Y. — Beachgoers in this New York City oasis can now flip-flop along a fully rebuilt boardwalk, one that reflects a coastal reimagination underway along the Mid-Atlantic and that heralds the staggering costs ahead of adapting to a changing climate. ….Nearly five years later [after Hurricane Sandy], the wooden walkway has been replaced by more than five miles of sand-toned concrete atop 50 million pounds of sandbags and a retaining wall that holds in place new sand dunes. It is meant to help protect residents and residences from storm surges.

    The boardwalk and dunes were built at a cost of $70 million a mile, with the final segment of beachfront walkway put in place last month.

    The new boardwalk along Rockaway Beach incorporates coastal protection features. Credit: John Upton/Climate Central

    ….Subway lines and rail yards were rebuilt and fortified against flood risks after Sandy. Emergency shelters were built and volunteerism has been promoted. Building codes have been revised. Electrical equipment is being placed high in skyscrapers instead of at ground or basement level, where it risks being inundated.

    ….The boardwalk cost $340 million, paid for by federal taxpayers using some of the $50 billion in Sandy relief funding authorized by Congress and signed by President Obama in 2013. The sand dunes in front of it cost more than $35 million to build, and they will need to be replenished after the next big storm or to counter erosion….

    ….“The boardwalk shows we can both adapt and still have many of the benefits of what was there before,” said Robert Freudenberg, vice president of energy and environmental programs at the Regional Plan Association, a think tank based in New York City. “As a cautionary tale, it shows us that adaptation takes time.

    With sea level rise accelerating, pushing floodwaters into coastal cities from Miami to Boston and west to Hawaii, Freudenberg said “adaptation should be a part of every infrastructure project that we do right now” — but funding poses profound challenges.

    Freudenberg’s group is researching financial options, which it plans to outline in a fall report, such as creating adaption funds topped with surcharges on insurance premiums.

    “We have 3,700 miles of coastline in this region that need to be adapted,” Freudenberg said. “This is going to be the investment of a generation, and right now there’s no budget for it.”

  4. Rising groundwater from sea level rise impacts coastal roads

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    Seacoast roads under new threat from rising sea level

    June 1, 2017 University of New Hampshire

    Some roads, as far as two miles from the shore, are facing a new hazard that currently cannot be seen by drivers — rising groundwater caused by increasing ocean water levels….
    ….Groundwater levels are higher than sea levels and that drives the groundwater discharge to the ocean. But as sea levels begin to rise, this forces groundwater to slowly move up to maintain the equilibrium, inching closer to the pavement base layers that need to stay dry to defend their strength….

    Jayne F. Knott, Mohamed Elshaer, Jo Sias Daniel, Jennifer M. Jacobs, Paul Kirshen. Assessing the Effects of Rising Groundwater from Sea Level Rise on the Service Life of Pavements in Coastal Road Infrastructure. Transportation Research Record: Journal of the Transportation Research Board, 2017; 2639: 1 DOI: 10.3141/2639-01

  5. Artificial wetland atop Dutch toxic landfill site is now capturing and storing carbon

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    Posted: 31 May 2017 06:22 AM PDT  full article here at ScienceDaily

    Precise carbon measurements indicate that peat is already being formed at the Volgermeerpolder near Amsterdam (NL), a toxic waste landfill site that was capped with foil with an artificial wetland on top. The new peat will offer an extra layer of protection against the poisonous and toxic waste in the future….

    ….According to the researchers the results are not only applicable to cap polluted land, but also for the capturing and storage of greenhouse gases through new peat formation and preventing subsidence which is not only an issue in bog mires in the Netherlands, but also presents a problem in places such as Venice, Florida, and Southeast Asia.

    Sarah F. Harpenslager, Ciska C. Overbeek, Jeroen P. van Zuidam, Jan G.M. Roelofs, Sarian Kosten, Leon P.M. Lamers. Peat capping: Natural capping of wet landfills by peat formation. Ecological Engineering, 2017; DOI: 10.1016/j.ecoleng.2017.04.040

  6. Planting 400 acres of pines to survive climate change, give more time to adapt

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    If you want to plant a pine tree that might survive the climate upheavals that are already remaking northern Minnesota’s boreal forest, where should it go? Scientists from the Nature Conservancy and elsewhere now think they know. This summer they’re embarking on a project to plant 400 acres with cold-loving evergreens like jack pine and tamarack in carefully selected “conifer strongholds” — places that they predict will stay cooler or wetter or have better soil, increasing the chances that a few of each species will survive for the next generation as Minnesota grows warmer.

    …The aim is to preserve northern forest species — not just the trees but also the mosaic of plants and animals that rely on them — to maintain biodiversity. Now, climate change is forcing a different kind of evolution on the southern, most vulnerable, edge of the boreal forest. The giant, long-living pines are disappearing, replaced by more southern species like red maple as tree species across the country move in response to rapid changes in temperature and moisture brought on by 100 years of rising carbon levels in the atmosphere.

    A study of 86 eastern tree species published last week by Purdue University scientists found that many [tree species] have already migrated west in response to increased rainfall in the central part of the country, and north in response to higher average temperatures.

    ….If that’s what happens [stay within 2C], then the conifer stronghold will work, he said. But if carbon emissions and climate change continue to accelerate, then in time, northern Minnesota will instead look a lot like Kansas, Frelich said, and no boreal species will survive long-term. Cornett hopes to provide conifers more time on the Minnesota landscape no matter what happens. She and foresters from the University of Minnesota and elsewhere have identified 30 such strongholds, totaling 400 acres, in the forests north of Duluth and in the St. Louis River watershed, where they will plant seedlings this year. Next year they plan to plant 50,000 more at other sites in northeast Minnesota.

    The conifer stronghold data comes from a much bigger effort by the Nature Conservancy to map and identify areas across the national landscape that are most likely to promote biodiversity in the future. In short, rather than tracking and protecting places because of the species that are there, it focuses on geology. A limestone valley, for example, will be home to a different set of species than a granite mountain no matter what the climate.

    Species are important, but they are going to change over time,” said Mark Anderson, the Boston Nature Conservancy scientist who is heading the project nationally. “We want to conserve these stages so they have a place to thrive.”

  7. Heat island effect could double climate change costs; cool roofs and pavements key part of solution

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    • Measures that could limit the high economic and health costs of rising urban temperatures are a major priority for policy makers
    • Changing 20 per cent of a city’s roofs and half of its pavements to ‘cool’ forms could save up to 12 times what they cost to install and maintain, and reduce air temperatures by about 0.8 degrees

    May 29, 2017 University of Sussex  see full article here

    Overheated cities face climate change costs at least twice as big as the rest of the world because of the ‘urban heat island’ effect, new research shows.  …The urban heat island occurs when natural surfaces, such as vegetation and water, are replaced by heat-trapping concrete and asphalt, and is exacerbated by heat from cars, air conditioners and so on. This effect is expected to add a further two degrees to global warming estimates for the most populated cities by 2050. Higher temperatures damage the economy in a number of ways — more energy is used for cooling, air is more polluted, water quality decreases and workers are less productive, to name a few….Although cities cover only around one per cent of Earth’s surface, they produce about 80 per cent of Gross World Product, consume about 78 per cent of the world’s energy and are home to over half of the world’s population. Measures that could limit the high economic and health costs of rising urban temperatures are therefore a major priority for policy makers…The cheapest measure, according to this modelling, is a moderate-scale installation of cool pavements and roofs. Changing 20 per cent of a city’s roofs and half of its pavements to ‘cool’ forms could save up to 12 times what they cost to install and maintain, and reduce air temperatures by about 0.8 degrees….

    Francisco Estrada, W. J. Wouter Botzen, Richard S. J. Tol. A global economic assessment of city policies to reduce climate change impacts. Nature Climate Change, 2017; DOI: 10.1038/NCLIMATE3301

    Climate change could make cities 8C hotter – scientists Monday 29 May 2017

    Under a dual onslaught of global warming and localised urban heating, some of the world’s cities may be as much as 8C (14.4F) warmer by 2100, researchers have warned. Such a temperature spike would have dire consequences for the health of city-dwellers, rob companies and industries of able workers, and put pressure on already strained natural resources such as water. The projection is based on the worst-case scenario assumption that emissions of greenhouse gases continue to rise throughout the 21st century. The top quarter of most populated cities, in this scenario, could see temperatures rise 7C or more by century’s end, said a study in the journal Nature Climate Change.

  8. Ecosystem restoration should integrate natural and social sciences, appropriate monitoring

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    Effective restoration of aquatic ecosystems

    Authors propose a novel conceptual framework that will yield more effective ecosystem restoration: the Operational Restoration Unit

    Posted: 24 May 2017 11:03 AM PDT

    Despite having increased human wellbeing in the past, intense modifications by multiple and interacting pressures have degraded ecosystems and the sustainability of their goods and services. For ecosystem restoration to deliver on multiple environmental and societal targets, the process of restoration must be redesigned to create a unified and scale-dependent approach that integrates natural and social sciences as well as the broader restoration community, say researchers….

    1. N. Friberg, N.V. Angelopoulos, A.D. Buijse, I.G. Cowx, J. Kail, T.F. Moe, H. Moir, M.T. O’Hare, P.F.M. Verdonschot, C. Wolter. Effective River Restoration in the 21st Century. Advances in Ecological Research, 55: 535-611 DOI: 10.1016/bs.aecr.2016.08.010

    From Abstract: …This modest success rate can partly be attributed to the fact that the catchment filter is largely ignored; large-scale pressures related to catchment land use or the lack of source populations for the recolonisation of the restored habitats are inadequately considered. The key reason for this shortfall is a lack of clear objective setting and planning processes. Furthermore, we suggest that there has been a focus on form rather than processes and functioning in river restoration, which has truncated the evolution of geomorphic features and any dynamic interaction with biota. Finally, monitoring of restoration outcomes is still rare and often uses inadequate statistical designs and inappropriate biological methods which hamper our ability to detect change.

    2. Nikolai Friberg, Tom Buijse, Caitríona Carter, Daniel Hering, Bryan M. Spears, Piet Verdonschot, Therese Fosholt Moe. Effective restoration of aquatic ecosystems: scaling the barriers. Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Water, 2017; 4 (1): e1190 DOI: 10.1002/wat2.119

    Abstract: The focus of ecosystem restoration has recently shifted from pure rehabilitation objectives to both improving ecological functioning and the delivery of ecosystem services. However, these different targets need to be integrated to create a unified, synergistic, and balanced restoration approach. This should be done by combining state-of-the-art knowledge from natural and social sciences to create manageable units of restoration that consider both the temporal and multiple spatial scales of ecosystems, legislative units, and policy agendas. Only by considering these aspects combined can we accomplish more cost-efficient restoration resulting in resilient ecosystems that provide a wealth of ecosystem services and the possibility for sustainable economic development in the future. We propose a novel conceptual framework that will yield more effective ecosystem restoration: the Operational Restoration Unit. This is based on scale-dependent restoration actions that can adhere easily to the relevant environmental legislation, encompass the spatial and temporal resilience of aquatic ecosystems, and consider the sum of human pressures acting on water bodies. This opens up possibilities for an effective integration of the restoration agenda into the delivery of major policy objectives of economic growth, regional development, and human security. WIREs Water 2017, 4:e1190. doi: 10.1002/wat2.1190

    For further resources related to this article, please visit the WIREs website.

  9. California’s Healthy Soils Incentive Program- CalCAN update

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    CA Department of Food & Agriculture Finalizing Healthy Soils Program

    Posted by Brian Shobe, California Agriculture and Climate Network (CalCAN) May 22 2017

    As farmers and ranchers in the U.S. and abroad experience the reality of more extreme and unpredictable weather, soil carbon sequestration is catching national and international attention as a means of climate change mitigation and adaptation. California is poised to lead the way with its soon-to-be-launched Healthy Soils Incentives Program, the nation’s first program to directly incentivize farmers for adopting practices that improve soil health, sequester carbon and reduce greenhouse gas emissions overall.

    According to the California Department of Food and Agriculture’s (CDFA) most recent proposed Healthy Soils program framework, farmers and ranchers will be eligible to apply for up to $50,000 to defray the costs of adopting healthy soils practices (pictured below) over the course of three years...

    …some proposed program details raised significant concerns … CDFA agreed to release the program’s draft request for proposal (RFP) for public comment and subsequent revision before officially launching the program….Below, we outline our recommendations for the proposed program framework.

    -Allow on-farm compost to be eligible for compost application…

    -Clarify how payments and payment timelines will work for different practices, as well as how that will affect the 3rd year matching fund requirement…

    -Simplify the application for applicant feasibility…

    -Require soil tests from award recipients, not applicants…

    -Reward applicants for conservation plans and matching funds, but not so much that it creates a structural disadvantage to limited-resource and small-scale farmers…

    -Shift the demonstration program back to its intended goal of expanding the impact and adoption of Healthy Soils practices