Ecology, Climate Change and Related News

Conservation Science for a Healthy Planet

Category Archive: Adaptation and Nature-based Solutions

  1. Well-managed grazing and grass-finishing systems in Midwest can reduce carbon footprint of beef, while lowering overall CO2

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    Potential mitigation of midwest grass-finished beef production emissions with soil carbon sequestration in the United States of America

    Future of Food: Journal on Food, Agriculture and Society 4 (3) Winter 2016

    Jason E Rowntree Rebecca Ryals +4 more authors  [note that Rebecca Ryals co-authored some of the Marin Carbon Project studies]

    Conclusion: The recent call for improved management of grazing systems as part of an international climate change mitigation strategy is critical, particularly in light of many existing beef LCAs [life cycle assessments] that have concluded that beef cattle produced in grazing systems are a particularly large sources of GHG emissions. To identify the best opportunities to reduce GHG emissions from beef production, a systems approach that considers the potential to increase soil C and reduce ecosystem-level GHG emissions is essential. Using a combination of on-farm collected data, literature values, and IPCC Tier 1 methodology, we generated an LCA that indicates highly-managed grass-finished beef systems in the Upper Midwestern United States can mitigate GHG emissions through SCS while contributing to food provisioning at stocking rates as high as 2.5 AU ha-1. From this data, we conclude that well-managed grazing and grass-finishing systems in environmentally appropriate settings can positively contribute to reducing the carbon footprint of beef cattle, while lowering overall atmospheric CO2 concentrations.

  2. DRAWDOWN- 100 substantive measures to reverse global warming

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    DRAWDOWN– July 2017

    Summary of Solutions by Overall Rank

    Drawdown maps, measures, models, and describes the 100 most substantive solutions to global warming. For each solution, we describe its history, the carbon impact it provides, the relative cost and savings, the path to adoption, and how it works. The goal of the research that informs Drawdown is to determine if we can reverse the buildup of atmospheric carbon within thirty years. All solutions modeled are already in place, well understood, analyzed based on peer-reviewed science, and are expanding around the world.

    Drawdown is the work of a prominent and growing coalition of geologists, engineers, agronomists, researchers, fellows, writers, climatologists, biologists, botanists, economists, financial analysts, architects, companies, agencies, NGOs, activists, and other experts who draft, model, fact check, review, and validate all text, inputs, sources, and calculations. Our purpose is to provide helpful information and tools to a wide variety of actors who are dedicated to meaningful change: students, teachers, researchers, philanthropists, investors, entrepreneurs, business people, farmers, policymakers, engaged citizens, and more.

    Introduction to Scenarios  Full list of advisors here

  3. Measuring the Benefits of Regenerative Agriculture- TomKat Ranch and Ag Tech

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    • once the benefits of regenerative ranching can be fully quantified – through soil carbon measurements, forage density, and more [working with Point Blue and others]– it could become a mainstay of both ranching and soil management.
    • Holistic or planned grazing can lead to to increased forage production, soil fertility, resistance to drought, water retention, and sequestration of carbon into the soil..
    • TomKat Ranch is betting that the rise of precision agriculture and big data technologies could help prove the financial viability of regenerative ranching, as well as the environmental benefits/

    August 9 2017 read full article at AgFunder News/Successful Farming

    Regenerative agriculture is a method of farming that aims to restore the fertility of the soil and the overall health of the land it’s conducted on….consistent with sustainable agriculture practices, … limiting the use of synthetic inputs like pesticides and fertilizers and limiting tillage of the soil, which can negatively impact soil health. Often, regenerative agriculture involves livestock.

    This might seem confusing if you’ve read the countless headlines that livestock farming is the biggest culprit of greenhouse gas emissions – according to the FAO it accounts for 18% of emissions – but there is a school of thought that’s gathering momentum and evidence that managing livestock in certain ways not only can reduce the negative impact of livestock farming on the environment but also can actually regenerate the land and have a positive impact….’

    Through what’s called holistic planned grazing, or rotational grazing, ranchers strategically move their cattle around the land so that no one area is too depleted, yet every inch of rangeland is trimmed and fertilized by the cows.

    These methods can lead to increased forage production, soil fertility, resistance to drought, water retention, and the sequestration of carbon from the atmosphere into the soil, among other benefits.

    TomKat Ranch, a proponent of regenerative ranching, is betting that the rise of precision agriculture and big data technologies could help prove the financial viability of regenerative ranching, as well as the environmental benefits. The idea of adding only what is absolutely necessary to an agricultural process is a fundamental principle behind precision farming, and TomKat is working to apply these principles to cattle grazing.

    Kevin Watt, land and livestock manager at TomKat Ranch in California, thinks that once the benefits of regenerative ranching can be fully quantified – through soil carbon measurements, forage density, and more – it could become a mainstay of both ranching and soil management.

    “When you’re doing something that is regenerative, you’re basically saying that your productive asset should not be losing value. Your productive asset should be gaining value, and that appeals to everybody,” Watt told AgFunderNews….We caught up with Watt at the Forbes Agtech Summit in Salinas, California, to find out what kind of technology he’ll need to make his case and what challenges are standing in the way…

    …”We have onsite conservation scientists from Point Blue Conservation Science doing very meticulous technician-driven soil tests, vegetation surveys, and wildlife surveys that we can compare to our very rigorous management records and see what strategies grow us more grass, which ones grow us more beef, which ones keep our streams running longer. For every 1% of soil organic matter change or growth, we get an extra 25,000 gallons of water per acre being stored. That’s a USDA figure so people know about this.


    We’ve learned that if you can get that feedback from your landscape, whether or not you share a philosophical interest in environmentalism or humane treatment of animals, you start to see that it really makes sense to evolve with your landscape; to see what the ROI is on every one of your management choices. That’s why precision ranching could be so transformative…”

  4. Trading Sustainably: local groundwater markets in CA under the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA)

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    Berkeley Law’s Center for Law, Energy and Environment June 2017

    California’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act [SGMA] opens the door for local groundwater markets but does not provide guidance about when they’d be appropriate as management tools. This report outlines considerations to help evaluate local groundwater markets as a viable tool that contributes to sustainably managing a particular groundwater basin.

    [In SGMA, sustainable yield is defined as the amount of groundwater that can be withdrawn annually without chronically lowering groundwater levels, causing seawater intrusion, degrading water quality, causing land subsidence or depleting interconnected surface water (for example, creeks, streams and rivers) in a manner that causes significant and adverse impacts.]

    Download the Executive Summary:

    Trading Sustainably – Executive Summary (June 2017)

    Download the Report:

    Trading Sustainably: Critical Considerations for Local Groundwater Markets Under the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (June 2017)

    Copyright 2017 Nell Green Nylen

  5. 10 Cities Taking a Nature-Driven Approach to Innovation

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    • Our most advanced and sophisticated cities also need to be sustainable and preserve natural areas
    • The smartest cities in the world are integrating nature to create a truly sustainable city.
    BY SKIP DESCANT / AUGUST 4, 2017 read full govtech article here

    It’s not enough for the country’s most advanced and sophisticated cities to be at the forefront of technological innovation with “smart” parking meters or informational kiosks. They also need to be sustainable and show an ability to preserve natural areas, according to Anil Ahuja, an engineering professional regarded as the “Smart Cities Guru” and author of the 2016 book Integration of Nature and Technology for Smart Cities.

    Ahuja has compiled the Top Ten U.S. Cities Integrating Nature & Technology report to highlight which cities are leaders at balancing new technology with good nature policies.

    “A smart city doesn’t just provide technology or economic solutions,” he said in a statement. “The smartest cities in the world are integrating nature to create a truly sustainable city. I have identified a number of cities in the United States that are excellent examples for other smart cities to model themselves after.”

    …[For example] Portland, Ore., promotes energy efficiency through a number of residential, commercial and government initiatives. It was the first city to create a local action plan to reduce carbon emissions. Portland aims to reduce emissions by 40 percent by 2030 and 80 percent by 2050.

    Ahuja’s top cities for integrating nature and technology listed alphabetically are:

    • Boston – Engaging its citizens through crowdsourced mobile technology to enable smart government.
    • Chicago – Leveraging data to make cities healthier, more efficient and more livable.
    • Los Angeles – Leveraging big data, mobile and cloud based technologies to save energy and improve efficiency.
    • New York – Maximizing real-time traffic information to reduce congestion, improve the flow of traffic and decrease carbon emissions.
    • Orlando – Recognized for its approach to smart operation of transportation, security and emergency management and energy waste reduction programs.
    • Portland, Ore. – Investing in IoT sensor networks and leveraging smart agriculture applications and big data to benefit the local region.
    • San Diego – Adopting the Climate Action Plan, which will improve public health and air quality, conserve water, and use current resources more efficiently.
    • San Francisco – Multiple initiatives including waste reduction, electric car charging and building performance optimization.
    • Seattle – A pioneer and leader for establishing and increasing the adoption of green standards.
    • Washington, D.C. – A leader in smart mobility and for its ratio of park acres to citizens.
  6. Financial incentives result in conservation of tropical forest diversity

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    • In a first of its kind study, researchers find landowners receiving payments are decreasing deforestation, maintaining biodiversity

    August 2, 2017 University of Missouri-Columbia  read full ScienceDaily article here

    The past few decades have seen the rise of global incentive programs offering payments to landowners to help reduce tropical deforestation. In what might be a first of its kind study, researchers have integrated forest imaging with field-level inventories and landowner surveys to assess the impact of conservation payments in Ecuador’s Amazon Basin forests. They found that conservation payment programs are making a difference in the diversity of tree species in protected spaces.

    ….”More than 7 billion acres of tropical rain forests were destroyed between 1995 and 2015, so policy makers established voluntary compensation programs to slow down tropical deforestation and degradation. While these programs seem to be making a difference, there aren’t enough on-the-ground evaluation tools to see if biodiversity is being maintained, too. Therefore, we looked for other ways to observe the value of these payments for forest conservation.”

    These assessments offer evidence that on-the-ground studies bringing together biophysical forest observations with socioeconomic factors offer a deeper understanding of the value of tropical forest conservation programs, Aguilar said.

    Phillip M. Mohebalian, Francisco X. Aguilar. Beneath the Canopy: Tropical Forests Enrolled in Conservation Payments Reveal Evidence of Less Degradation. Ecological Economics, 2018; 143: 64 DOI: 10.1016/j.ecolecon.2017.06.038

  7. For Birds & People — Water, Carbon, and Education, Point Blue E-News July 28 2017

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    July 2017 Point Blue E-News

    Data-Driven Water Management
    It takes science and partnership to figure out the best way to manage limited supplies of fresh water in California’s Central Valley for humans and wildlife. A recent paper co-authored by Point Blue scientists shows a worrisome mismatch in flooded habitat and shorebird spring migration. This has important implications for how government agencies and NGO partners manage water on refuges and in agricultural fields.

    Coming soon, thanks to further funding from NASA, we’ll be analyzing more satellite data with our newly hired Quantitative Ecologist, Dr. Erin Conlisk. Our goal is to figure out when and where to put water to achieve the greatest benefit for wetland-dependent wildlife while also recharging groundwater and providing recreational opportunities. Stay tuned for results!

    Meadows & Climate Change
    Our science is helping to determine if restored Sierra meadows can store enough carbon to help slow climate change while also benefitting birds and other wildlife. The outcome could help direct more funds from California’s cap-and-trade program toward meadow restoration, and it looks promising! Read this wonderful Audubon article highlighting Point Blue’s collaborative work.

    Climate Science Education: New Tools!
    Today’s young people need climate science knowledge to help build a better future for themselves and the next generations. That’s why we’ve created and disseminated a climate-smart riparian restoration curriculum, which you can find here. We’ve also added a number of our science resources to the Bay Area Climate Literacy and Impact Collaborative database for Bay Area educators here. We invite you to use these resources and share them with others. Together we are educating and inspiring the next wave of climate-smart conservation leaders!

    Thanks for your continued, generous support of Point Blue’s science.

  8. Mangrove trees, particularly their leaf litter, filter copper out of soil and water

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    Mangroves vital for environmental decontamination

    August 3 2017 ScienceDaily

    A new study from Indonesia has found that their leaf litter accumulates the most copper, followed by leaves and then roots…..

    They found that copper concentrations in the plant material were up to ten times more than the water samples. Leaf litter carried the highest concentration, followed by live leaves and then roots, according to the study published in the Pertanika Journal of Tropical Agricultural Science.

    The results confirm findings from several other studies and demonstrate the mangrove’s ability to defend “itself against contaminated environments by excreting copper through its leaves, which will then be discarded through defoliation.” Mangroves are able to do this better than many other plant species, due in part to their adaptation to living in coastal zones, where they absorb and eliminate salt in a similar way.

    As the leaf litter breaks down, copper can then be reintroduced back to the soil and water. However, the researchers suspect the impact is minimal: the estimated amount released is less than 3.5 percent of the total absorbed, and is spread over a large area.

    Martuti, N. K. T., Widianarko, B., and Yulianto, B. Translocation and Elimination of Cu in Avicennia marina. Pertanika Journal of Tropical Agricultural Science, 2017

  9. Restore soil in addition to vegetation; Study results suggest aboveground restoration does not restore soil microbial communities.

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    July 26 2017

    Michael S. Strickland, Mac A. Callaham Jr., Emile S. Gardiner, John A. Stanturf, Jonathan W. Leff, Noah Fierer, Mark A. Bradford. Response of soil microbial community composition and function to a bottomland forest restoration intensity gradientJuly 2017. Applied Soil Ecology 199: 317-326

    Comments from Dr. Chelsea Carey, Sr. Soil Ecologist at Point Blue:

    The findings differ from some other papers we have seen recently (where microorganisms rapidly respond to restoration efforts, and are influenced by changes in plant community composition); instead, the results of this study support another view, one which acknowledges the need to directly restore the soil in addition to vegetation.

    Some conclusions from discussion:In fact, from a microbial perspective the act of agricultural cessation likely had the most marked influence on these soil communities, while efforts aimed at rapidly establishing trees had relatively little effect to date. Our results therefore help to validate the emerging use of practices which focus directly on restoring soil biotic communities and their functions, through restoration treatments such as transplanting a thin layer of topsoil – albeit labor intensive – from sites similar to the restoration end-point (Kardol et al., 2009; Pywell et al., 2011; Vecrin and Muller, 2003; Wubs et al., 2016). That is, building a better aboveground community does not ensure that an equivalent belowground community will take the field, and so the focus should be on directly establishing both the aboveground and belowground players in future restoration efforts rather than relying on restoration myths (sensu Hilderbrand et al., 2005).”


    •We examined the effect of intensifying aboveground restoration on soil microbes.
    •Restoration had little influence on soil microbial community composition.
    •Restoration had little influence on soil microbial community function.
    Results suggest aboveground restoration does not restore soil microbial communities.

    Abstract: “Terrestrial ecosystems are globally under threat of loss or degradation. To compensate for the impacts incurred by loss and/or degradation, efforts to restore ecosystems are being undertaken. These efforts often focus on restoring the aboveground plant community with the expectation that the belowground microbial community will follow suit. This ‘Field of Dreams’ expectation – if you build it, they will come – makes untested assumptions about how microbial communities and their functions will respond to aboveground-focused restoration. To determine if restoration of aboveground plant communities equates to restoration of belowground microbial communities, we assessed the effects of four forest restoration treatments – varying in intensity from unmanaged to interplanting tree species – on microbial (i.e. prokaryotic and fungal) community composition and function (i.e. catabolic profiles and extracellular enzyme activities). Additionally, effects of the restoration treatments were compared to both degraded (i.e. active arable cultivation) and target endpoint communities (i.e. remnant bottomland forest) to determine the trajectory of intensifying aboveground restoration efforts on microbial communities. Approximately 16 years after the initiation of the restoration treatments, prokaryotic and fungal community composition, and microbial function in the four restoration treatments were intermediate to the endpoint communities. Surprisingly, intensification of aboveground restoration efforts led to few differences among the four restoration treatments and increasing intensification did not consistently lead to microbial communities with greater similarity in composition and function to the target remnant forest communities. Together these results suggest that belowground microbial community composition and function will respond little to, or will lag markedly behind, intensifying aboveground restoration efforts. Reliance on a ‘Field of Dreams’ approach, even if you build it better, may still lead to belowground microbial communities that remain uncoupled from aboveground communities. Importantly, our findings suggest that restoring aboveground vegetation may not lead to the intended restoration of belowground microbial communities and the ecosystem processes they mediate.”


  10. Can Restored Meadows Fight Climate Change? California Seeks to Find Out [Sierra Meadows Partnership research]

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    • Franson’s work [with Point Blue] is one of eight studies on carbon storage in Sierra Nevada meadows, all of which are part of California’s pioneering cap-and-trade legislation to reduce carbon emissions.
    • California’s cap-and-trade extension, passed by lawmakers this week, ensures continued study of whether Sierra Nevada meadow restoration can capture carbon pollution and help birds at once.

    …The Sierra Meadows Partnership should help these species, even though its primary goal relates to climate change. Scientists know soils store three times more carbon than vegetation and the atmosphere combined. It’s stored in plants’ deep root systems, and in the accumulation of their dead tissue over time. But changes to the landscape have limited or reversed centuries of carbon storage. Degraded meadows store less carbon, and warmer temperatures from climate change may release carbon back into the atmosphere.

    The Sierra Meadows Partnership is focused on identifying how much carbon meadows are storing, how much they are losing, and whether restoration makes a difference. The group has identified 16 meadows ranging in elevation from 3,045 to nearly 8,700 feet; half are being restored, while the others will serve as control sites that allow scientists to measure the effects of restoration….

    A 2014 study, published by Point Blue Conservation Science, found that restored meadows in the northern Sierra Nevada have the potential to support up to 10 times more breeding bird species and individuals than degraded sites. And preliminary results from a study of meadows restored between 2001 and 2016 found 20 percent more soil carbon, on average, in restored meadows compared to degraded ones….

    Key organizations in the Sierra Meadows Partnership:

    • California Tahoe Conservancy
    • Trust for Public Lands
    • Sierra Foothills Conservancy
    • USGS
    • National Fish & Wildlife Foundation
    • Occidental Arts and Ecology Center
    • Feather River Land Trust
    • Point Blue Conservation Science
    • Sierra Fund
    • South Yuba River Citizens League
    • CA Dept. of Fish & Wildlife
    • US Forest Service
    • Stillwater Sciences
    • Institute for Bird Populations
    • University of Nevada, Reno
    • UC Davis Center for Watershed Sciences
    • UC Merced
    • American Rivers
    • Plumas Corps
    • Truckee River Watershed Council
    • Trout Unlimited
    • The Nature Conservancy
    • Todd Sloat Biological Consulting
    • Sabra Purdy Consulting
    • National Forest Foundation