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Tag Archive: biodiversity

  1. New spectral imaging approach boosts effort to scale up biodiversity monitoring

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    • Using an imaging tool to evaluate biodiversity is more effective than traditional methods premised on painstaking field work.

    • Measuring the plant diversity using spectral data promises to improve efforts to predict how well ecosystems function.

    June 1, 2018 University of Minnesota Read full Science Daily article here

    The value of ecological biodiversity for maintaining ecosystem stability and function is well established, but a recent study points to a novel way to fine-tune our ability to measure it at larger scales. ..

    [Researchers] used spectra of light reflected from plants to evaluate biodiversity and predict ecosystem function.

    “We have known for decades that the chemical composition of plants can be estimated from reflectance spectra,” said Schweiger. “What we found is that the spectral dissimilarity, or the overall differences in spectral reflectance, among plant species increases with their functional dissimilarity and evolutionary divergence time.”

    Anna K. Schweiger, Jeannine Cavender-Bares, Philip A. Townsend, Sarah E. Hobbie, Michael D. Madritch, Ran Wang, David Tilman, John A. Gamon. Plant spectral diversity integrates functional and phylogenetic components of biodiversity and predicts ecosystem function. Nature Ecology & Evolution, 2018; 2 (6): 976 DOI: 10.1038/s41559-018-0551-1

  2. Limiting warming to 1.5 degree C would save majority of global species from climate change

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    • Limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees C would save the majority of the world’s plant and animal species from climate change. Species across the globe would benefit — particularly those in Southern Africa, the Amazon, Europe and Australia.
    • Reducing the risk to insects is important because they are vital for ‘ecosystem services’ such as pollinating crops and being part of the food chain.

    Posted: 17 May 2018 11:36 AM PDT Read full Tyndall Research Center article here

    Limiting global warming to 1.5oC would save the vast majority of the world’s plant and animal species from climate change — according to new research led by the University of East Anglia.

    A new report published today in Science reveals that limiting warming to the ultimate goal of the Paris Agreement would avoid half the risks associated with warming of 2oC for plants and animals, and two thirds of the risks for insects.

    Species across the globe would benefit — but particularly those in Southern Africa, the Amazon, Europe and Australia.

    Reducing the risk to insects is particularly important, the team say, because they are so vital for ‘ecosystem services’ such as pollinating crops and flowers, and being part of the food chain for other birds and animals.

    Previous research focused on quantifying the benefits of limiting warming to 2oC above pre-industrial times — the upper limit for temperature as set out in the Paris Agreement — and did not look at insects.

    This is the first study to explore how limiting warming to 1.5oC would benefit species globally….

    R. Warren, J. Price, E. Graham, N. Forstenhaeusler, J. VanDerWal. The projected effect on insects, vertebrates, and plants of limiting global warming to 1.5°C rather than 2°C. Science, 2018; 360 (6390): 791 DOI: 10.1126/science.aar3646

  3. 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….
  4. Climate change threatens half of plant and animal species in world’s biodiversity hotspots

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    • Half of plant and animal species at risk from climate change in world’s most important natural places
    • The Amazon, Miombo Woodlands in Southern Africa, and south-west Australia will be among the most affected places in the world, according to comprehensive new paper and report commissioned by WWF

    March 13 2018 University of East Anglia Read more from ScienceDaily here

    Up to half of plant and animal species in the world’s most naturally rich areas, such as the Amazon and the Galapagos, could face local extinction by the turn of the century due to climate change if carbon emissions continue to rise unchecked. Even if the Paris Climate Agreement 2°C target is met, these places could lose 25% of their species according to a landmark new study by the University of East Anglia, the James Cook University, and WWF.

    Published today in the journal Climatic Change and just ahead of Earth Hour, the world’s largest environmental event, researchers examined the impact of climate change on nearly 80,000 plant and animal species in 35 of the world’s most diverse and naturally wildlife-rich areas….

    ….If there was a 4.5°C global mean temperature rise, the climates in these areas are projected to become unsuitable for many the plants and animals that currently live there meaning:

    • Up to 90% of amphibians, 86% of birds and 80% of mammals could potentially become locally extinct in the Miombo Woodlands, Southern Africa
    • The Amazon could lose 69% of its plant species
    • In south-west Australia 89% of amphibians could become locally extinct
    • 60% of all species are at risk of localised extinction in Madagascar
    • The Fynbos in the Western Cape Region of South Africa, which is experiencing a drought that has led to water shortages in Cape Town, could face localised extinctions of a third of its species, many of which are unique to that region…..

    ….Dr Jeff Price, coordinator of the Wallace Initiative and also from UEA, said: “This research provides a view on the differing spatial impacts of climate change on biodiversity. It shows the benefits of combining citizen science with the research and resources of highly-ranked Universities to assist an NGO with their conservation activities.”

    R. Warren, J. Price, J. VanDerWal, S. Cornelius, H. Sohl. The implications of the United Nations Paris Agreement on climate change for globally significant biodiversity areas. Climatic Change, 2018; DOI: 10.1007/s10584-018-2158-6

    Also see related World Wildlife Fund publication: Wildlife in a Warming World: The Effects of Climate Change on Biodiversity


  5. Towards natural capital accounting in the Netherlands

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    • Companies, government officials and other stakeholders in the Netherlands are piloting approaches to more accurately measure their dependence and impact on natural capital.
    • in 2016 they began developing a system of National Natural Capital Accounts…
    5 Jan 2018 Read the full UN Environment Program article here

    By Joop van Bodegraven, policy adviser on nature conservation for the Netherlands Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality

    ….Only 14 per cent of the land in the Netherlands is covered in natural or semi-natural vegetation or forests; little is left of the region’s original biodiversity. The practices of Dutch companies and the consumption patterns of Dutch consumers are also putting a heavy burden on land resources in other countries around the world.

    To reverse this development, the Dutch government and partners are making considerable efforts to conserve high-value biodiversity and natural landscapes, which provide society with many services. Policies are promoting nature-inclusive land use and nature-based solutions to meet people’s needs and halt biodiversity loss…

    ….a transition is needed towards a future where companies, government officials and other stakeholders more accurately measure their dependence and impact on natural capital. This will help create a more sustainable society.

    …Since 2014 the government has been investing in:

    • International cooperation and standardization, working alongside the Natural Capital Coalition, the World Bank, IUCN, and the European Union’s Mapping and Assessment of Ecosystems as well as their Services working group
    • Setting up coalitions of companies to speed up the deployment of natural capital accounting in certain economic sectors. Part of the approach is creating community platforms on natural capital, where challenges and experiences are shared and matched.
    • Further development of data and tools for businesses (especially small and medium-sized enterprises)
    • Tools, knowledge and guidance to integrate natural capital accounting in policy-related issues, like National Natural Capital Accounts, NCA guidance in societal cost-benefit analysis, and criteria for sustainable procurement.                             

    Building on two local pilots and a pilot for the province South-Limburg, Statistics Netherlands (CBS) and Wageningen University started a project in 2016 to develop a system of National Natural Capital Accounts, following the guidelines of the UN System of Environmental Economic Accounts – Experimental Ecosystem Accounting…

    The project is looking primarily at the ecosystems part of natural capital: woodland, heathland, but also ecosystems in agricultural and built-up areas. High resolution Land Cover Ecosystem Unit (LCEU) maps have been developed, as have tables for the physical supply and use of 15 or more ecosystem services.

    One output was the recent publication of a full carbon account. Further work in 2018 aims to finish accounts for the supply and use of ecosystem services, and for the state of ecosystems and biodiversity….

  6. Urban habitat restoration provides a human health benefit through microbiome rewilding: the Microbiome Rewilding Hypothesis

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    • We propose the Microbiome Rewilding Hypothesis, which specifically outlines that restoring biodiverse habitats in urban green spaces can rewild the environmental microbiome to a state that enhances primary prevention of human disease…

    October 2017 Restoration Ecology


    Restoration aims to return ecosystem services, including the human health benefits of exposure to green space. The loss of such exposure with urbanization and industrialization has arguably contributed to an increase in human immune dysregulation. The Biodiversity and Old Friends hypotheses have described the possible mechanisms of this relationship, and suggest that reduced exposure to diverse, beneficial microorganisms can result in negative health consequences. However, it is unclear whether restoration of biodiverse habitat can reverse this effect, and what role the environmental microbiome might have in such recovery. Here, we propose the Microbiome Rewilding Hypothesis, which specifically outlines that restoring biodiverse habitats in urban green spaces can rewild the environmental microbiome to a state that enhances primary prevention of human disease. We support our hypothesis with examples from allied fields, including a case study of active restoration that reversed the degradation of the soil bacterial microbiome of a former pasture. This case study used high-throughput amplicon sequencing of environmental DNA to assess the quality of a restoration intervention in restoring the soil bacterial microbiome. The method is rapid, scalable, and standardizable, and has great potential as a monitoring tool to assess functional outcomes of green-space restoration. Evidence for the Microbiome Rewilding Hypothesis will help motivate health professionals, urban planners, and restoration practitioners to collaborate and achieve co-benefits. Co-benefits include improved human health outcomes and investment opportunities for biodiversity conservation and restoration.

    Mills, J. G., Weinstein, P., Gellie, N. J. C., Weyrich, L. S., Lowe, A. J. and Breed, M. F. (2017), Urban habitat restoration provides a human health benefit through microbiome rewilding: the Microbiome Rewilding Hypothesis. Restor Ecol, 25: 866–872. doi:10.1111/rec.12610

  7. Include Biodiversity in Habitat Restoration Policy to Facilitate Ecosystem Recovery

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    • Need to bridge the ‘practice – science gap’ between practitioners and biodiversity research to optimize restoration projects

    November 27, 2017  Northeastern University College of Science Read full ScienceDaily article here

    As restoration projects throughout the country focus on restoring natural ecosystems, researchers are looking for ways to better bridge the ‘practice science gap’ between practitioners and biodiversity research in an effort optimize these types of projects.

    … there are more than two decades of research that show if you increase biodiversity — the living organisms that occupy an ecosystem — important ecosystem functions begin to see positive improvements….

    Dr. Susan Williams, of the Bodega Marine Laboratory at University of California, Davis. “Even if we know the community is more diverse, we instinctively reach for an efficient restoration solution by focusing on a single species or the one that has been impacted most. Our instincts are often at odds with our growing understanding of the benefits of biodiversity.”…

    ….”There is reason to believe that biodiversity may be able to enhance the success of restoration, but we need more data, and the only way we’ll get that data is if more partnerships are formed between biodiversity scientists and restoration practitioners. It might be a relatively simple way to enhance the success of restoration projects,” she said.

    A. Randall Hughes, Jonathan H. Grabowski, Heather M. Leslie, Steven Scyphers, Susan L. Williams. Inclusion of Biodiversity in Habitat Restoration Policy to Facilitate Ecosystem Recovery. Conservation Letters, 2017; DOI: 10.1111/conl.12419

  8. Higher plant diversity may not be enough to protect ecosystems from the worst impacts of climate extremes

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    • Available evidence from herbaceous systems indicates mixed effects of species richness on biomass stability to extremely wet and dry events.

    November 28, 2017 British Ecological Society (BES) read full ScienceDaily article here

    Studies on mild fluctuations in weather have provided support for the idea that higher biodiversity results in more stable functioning of ecosystems, but critical appraisal of the evidence from extreme event studies is lacking.

    Higher plant species richness is not always sufficient to reduce ecosystem vulnerability to climate extremes, as shown in a comprehensive literature analysis published in the Journal of Ecology.

    While biodiversity is under threat around the globe, the number of extreme weather events is on the rise as a direct consequence of climate change…Available evidence from herbaceous systems indicates mixed effects of species richness on biomass stability to extremely wet and dry events.

    …Biodiversity may still be important [in reducing dire impacts of climate change], as it has been shown to speed up recovery of plant productivity after an extreme event…the cause of biodiversity decline may confound biodiversity-stability effects….species richness may not be the most relevant indicator of ‘biodiversity’ when studying biodiversity-stability relationships….

    De Boeck HJ, Bloor JMG, Kreyling J, et al. Patterns and drivers of biodiversity-stability relationships under climate extremes. J Ecol., 2017;00:1%u201313 DOI: 10.1111/1365-2745.12897

  9. Mapping biodiversity of forests with remote sensing; the more diverse, the more resilient

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    Posted: 13 Nov 2017 06:55 AM PST  read full ScienceDaily article here

    Productivity and stability of forest ecosystems strongly depend on the functional diversity of plant communities. Researchers have developed a new method to measure and map functional diversity of forests at different scales — from individual trees to whole communities — using remote sensing by aircraft [paving] the way for future airborne and satellite missions to monitor global plant functional diversity.

    Ecological studies have demonstrated positive relationships between plant diversity and ecosystem functioning. Forests with higher functional diversity are generally more productive and stable over long timescales than less diverse forests. Diverse plant communities ….can better cope with changing environmental conditions — an insurance effect of biodiversity. They are also less vulnerable to diseases, insect attacks, fire and storms.

    Researchers from the UZH and the California Institute of Technology / NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory have now developed a new remote-sensing method to map functional diversity of forests from small to large scales, independent of any predefined vegetation units or species information and without the need for ground-based calibration….

    With airborne laser scanning, the scientists measured morphological characteristics of the forest canopy such as canopy height, foliage and branch densities. These measurements indicate how the sunlight is taken up by the canopy to assimilate carbon dioxide from the air and use the carbon to grow. In a canopy with a more diverse structure, light can better spread between different vertical canopy layers and among individual tree crowns, allowing for a more efficient capture of light. The researchers also characterized the forest with regards to its biochemical properties using airborne imaging spectroscopy. By measuring how leaves reflect the light in many spectral bands, they were able to derive physiological traits such as the content of leaf pigments (chlorophylls, carotenoids) and leaf water content

    We can see, for example, if a tree is suffering water stress, and what resource allocation strategy a tree is following or how it adapts to the environment,”

    Fabian D. Schneider et al. Mapping functional diversity from remotely sensed morphological and physiological forest traits. Nature Communications, 2017; 8 (1) DOI: 10.1038/s41467-017-01530-3

  10. Climate change and biodiversity – recent reports and books

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    • Information on 11 reports released by NGOs, international agencies, and research centers.

    Yale Climate Connections Oct. 19 2017 read full article here

    This post highlights reports on climate change and biodiversity released by environmental organizations, international agencies, and research centers. We present these reports in chronological order; as always, the descriptions are drawn from copy provided by the publishers.

    The October 12 companion post highlighted 12 books that provide overviews of likely impacts of climate change on biodiversity, historical and species-specific case studies, surveys of habitats and ecosystems, and reflections on places, policies, and practices.

    • Species and Climate Change: More Than Just the Polar Bear, edited by Sarah Horsely (IUCN 2009, 46 pages, free download)is likely to have on land and in our oceans and rivers.
    • Arctic Biodiversity Assessment: Scientific Synthesis (Arctic Council 2013, 132 pages, free download)
    • Vital But Vulnerable: Climate Change Vulnerability and Human Use of Wildlife in Africa’s Albertine Rift, by Jamie Carr, Wendy B. Foden, Gemma Goodman, Thomasina Oldfield, Thomasina, and Willow Outhwaite (IUCN 2013, 240 pages, free download).
    • Integrating Biodiversity and Climate Change Adaptation in Activity Design, edited by Jonathan Cook and Diane Adams (US AID 2015, 60 pages, free download)
    • IUCN SSC Guidelines for Assessing Species Vulnerability to Climate Change, edited by Wendy B. Foden and Bruce E. Young (IUCN 2016, 127 pages, free download)
    • Changing Tides: How Sea-Level Rise Harms Wildlife and Recreation Economies Along the U.S. Eastern Seaboard, by Lauren Anderson, Patty Glick, Shannon Heyck-Williams, and Jim Murphy (National Wildlife Federation 2016, 40 pages, free download)
    • Adapting to Climate Change: Guidance for Protected Area Planners and Managers, edited by John E. Gross, Steven Woodley, Leigh Welling, and James E.M. Watson (IUCN 2016, 129 pages, free download)
    • Options for Ecosystem-Based Adaptation in Coastal Environments: A Guide for Environmental Managers and Planners, edited by Rebecca Mant, Will Simonson, Matea Osti, Xavier de Lamo and Nanna Vansteelant. (UNEP 2016, 110 pages, free download)
    • Protected Planet Report 2016: How Protected Areas Contribute to the Goals of Biodiversity, edited by Nina Bhola, Diego Juffe-Bignolia, Neil Burgess, Trevor Sandwith, and Naomi Kingston (Protected Planet 2016, 84 pages, free download
    • State of the Arctic Marine Biodiversity Report, by the Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna group (Arctic Council 2017, 200 pages, free download)
    • SOS II: Fish in Hot Water: Status, Threats, and Solutions for California Salmon, Steelhead, and Trout, based on a report by Dr. Peter B. Moyle, Dr. Rob Lusardi and Patrick Samuel (California Trout 2017, 40 pages, free download).