Ecology, Climate Change and Related News

Conservation Science for a Healthy Planet

Tag Archive: climate

  1. American pikas tolerate climate change better than expected

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    • Pikas are able to tolerate a wider set of habitat and climate conditions than previously understood.
    • A new study, led by Connie Millar, a senior research ecologist with the U.S. Forest Service’s Pacific Southwest Research Station, documented pikas inhabiting climates and territories never before reported.
    • The study found that pikas occur in conditions wetter and colder, as well as warmer and drier, than described from the prior limited sites. Pikas were found at elevations spanning 7,800 feet in elevation, from 5,350 feet to above 13,000 feet, and traversing 40 mountain ranges across California, Oregon, Nevada and Utah.

    May 1, 2018  Read full ScienceDaily article here

    The American pika, a relative of rabbits, occupies rocky environments in the mountains of western Northern America. It has been widely thought that pikas could not survive extremes of temperature and thus were at risk of running out of space at the tops of mountains as temperatures rise due to climate change. But is there more to the story?

    ….A new study, “Distribution, climatic relationships, and status of American pikas in the Great Basin, USA,” published in Arctic, Antarctic, and Alpine Research, examined the largest set of records for occupied and extirpated (vacant) pika sites across a four-state region encompassing the entire Great Basin, and documented pikas inhabiting climates and territories never before reported….

    …..Connie Millar, a senior research ecologist with the U.S. Forest Service’s Pacific Southwest Research Station and lead author of the study [said] “Pikas are persisting broadly across the region, and these findings give us reason to believe that the species is able to tolerate a wider set of habitat and climate conditions than previously understood.”

    Constance I. Millar, Diane L. Delany, Kimberly A. Hersey, Mackenzie R. Jeffress, Andrew T. Smith, K. Jane Van Gunst & Robert D. Westfall. Distribution, climatic relationships, and status of American pikas (Ochotona princeps) in the Great Basin, USA. Arctic, Antarctic, and Alpine Research, 2018; DOI: 10.1080/15230430.2018.1436296

    American Pika (stock image). Credit: © moosehenderson / Fotolia

  2. Animals, not drought, shaped grasslands environment in Africa

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    University of Utah  June 26 2017  full ScienceDaily article here
    The expansion of grasslands isn’t solely due to drought, but more complex climate factors are at work, both for modern Africans now and ancient Africans in the Pleistocene, suggests new research….

    Researchers from the University of Utah have found a better way. By analyzing isotopes of oxygen preserved in herbivore teeth and tusks, they can quantify the aridity of the region and compare it to indicators of plant type and herbivore diet. The results show that, unexpectedly, no long-term drying trend was associated with the expansion of grasses and grazing herbivores. Instead, variability in climate events, such as rainfall timing, and interactions between plants and animals may have had more influence on our ancestors’ environment. This shows that the expansion of grasslands isn’t solely due to drought, but more complex climate factors are at work, both for modern Africans now and ancient Africans in the Pleistocene.

    Scott A. Blumenthal, Naomi E. Levin, Francis H. Brown, Jean-Philip Brugal, Kendra L. Chritz, John M. Harris, Glynis E. Jehle, Thure E. Cerling. Aridity and hominin environments. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2017; 201700597 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1700597114

  3. Increasing climate and land use change overlap in arid lands– potential to affect 36% of world’s population

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    • Increasing aridity and land-use overlap have potential to cause social and economic conflict in dryland areas
    • scenario framework used to estimate how climate and land uses influence ecosystems and landscapes

    May 23, 2017 Northern Arizona University  see here for ScienceDaily article

    Drylands are of environmental concern because broad-scale changes in these systems have the potential to affect 36 percent of the world’s human population, suggests new research.

    Climate change combined with overlapping high-intensity land uses are likely to create conditions detrimental to the recreation economy, wildlife habitat, water availability and other resources in hyper-arid landscapes, or drylands, in the future, according to a paper published recently in Ecosphere. Drylands are of concern because broad-scale changes in these systems have the potential to affect 36 percent of the world’s human population…..

    …The research team examined the combined effects of climate change and human land use — agriculture, recreation, energy development, mining and population growth — on a range of ecosystem functions and landscape attributes. “Our approach offers a relatively simple method for scenario development that could be applied to a wide range of change agents, ecosystem services and regions,” said lead author Stella Copeland, NAU Merriam-Powell Center post-doctoral scholar. “Tools such as these can be used to inform natural resource planning and management efforts in the United States and elsewhere.”

    The study examined four scenarios to estimate how climate change and overlapping land uses may influence ecosystem functions and landscape attributes. Although outcomes varied by scenario and characteristic, the recreation economy had the highest impacts for all scenarios; followed by vegetation and wildlife habitat and cultural and spiritual values; water availability; soil productivity; and cropland productivity….

    Stella M. Copeland, John B. Bradford, Michael C. Duniway, Rudy M. Schuster. Potential impacts of overlapping land-use and climate in a sensitive dryland: a case study of the Colorado Plateau, USA. Ecosphere, 2017; 8 (5): e01823 DOI: 10.1002/ecs2.1823

    Abstract: The combination of co-occurring climate change and increasing land-use is likely to affect future environmental and socioeconomic conditions in drylands; these hyper-arid to sub-humid landscapes are limited by water resources and prone to land degradation. We characterized the potential for geographic overlap among land-use practices and between land-use and climate change on the Colorado Plateau—a dryland region experiencing rapid changes in land-use and facing aridification. We characterized spatial patterns and temporal trends in aridification, land-use, and recreation at the county and 10-km2 grid scales. Increasing trends and overlapping areas of high intensity for use, including oil and gas development and recreation, and climate drying, suggest areas with high potential to experience detrimental effects to the recreation economy, water availability, vegetation and wildlife habitat, and spiritual and cultural resources. Patterns of overlap in high-intensity land-use and climate drying differ from the past, indicating the potential for novel impacts and suggesting that land managers and planners may require new strategies to adapt to changing conditions. This analytical framework for assessing the potential impacts of overlapping land-use and climate change could be applied with other drivers of change or to other regions to create scenarios at various spatial scales in support of natural resource planning efforts.

  4. Diehard coders just rescued NASA’s Earth science data.

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    February 13 2017  see full article here  WIRED
    On Saturday morning, the white stone buildings on UC Berkeley’s campus radiated with unfiltered sunshine. But instead of enjoying the beautiful day, 200 adults had willingly sardined themselves into a fluorescent-lit room in the bowels of Doe Library to rescue federal climate data. …Groups like DataRefuge and the Environmental Data and Governance Initiative, which organized the Berkeley hackathon to collect data from NASA’s earth sciences programs and the Department of Energy, are doing more than archiving. Diehard coders are building robust systems to monitor ongoing changes to government websites. And they’re keeping track of what’s already been removed—because yes, the pruning has already begun…..
  5. Good Luck Killing the EPA

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    Dismembering the agency requires changing 45 years worth of laws, warns one Republican who ran it.

    The new U.S. president and Congress are taking a hard look at environmental rules—none harder than a freshman U.S. representative whose new bill would “terminate the Environmental Protection Agency.” …. “Everybody hates regulation,” said Republican Christine Todd Whitman, a former EPA administrator and New Jersey governor, “because it makes you either spend money or change behavior for a problem you may not see.” This year, as we all know, is a little different.

    …the concept that the preeminent guardian of clean air, soil, and water in the U.S. would go the way of the 20th century is now, if nothing else, no longer confined to the realm of fantasy.  Rule-of-thumb holds that once countries pollute their way into economic progress, they’ll pause for a second and check to see if they can still breathe the air and swim in the water. If not, they fix it. China is currently the leading example, with India coming up behind. There are fewer examples of nations unwinding national environmental efforts.

    Internationally, the U.S. does pretty well when it comes to protecting its environment and doing its part to combat global climate change. It ranks 26th among 180 nations in the 2016 Environmental Performance Index, a collaboration of the World Economic Forum and Yale and Columbia University researchers. That’s just worse than Canada and a bit better than the Czech Republic.

    The EPA sits at the forefront of that accomplishment (such as it is). The environmental laws passed under President Richard Nixon, who helped create the agency, have cleaned up the excesses of mid-century American industrialization. ….

    In July 1970, the Republican president cobbled together the new agency from about a dozen offices distributed throughout the federal government. An additional dozen functions were reorganized into the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the biggest entity within the Department of Commerce. By creating the EPA, “I am making an exception to one of my own principles,” Nixon wrote. “That, as a matter of effective and orderly administration, additional new independent agencies normally should not be created.” But in this case, he said, there was just no better option.

  6. Cartoons

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     : California cartoons : Meyer Cartoons


     : California cartoons : Meyer Cartoons


     : California cartoons : Meyer Cartoons


  7. Measuring methane emissions from cows is elusive, but we’re getting closer

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    Photo credit: aleks.k

    Photo credit: aleks.k

    Americans’ fondness for milk, yogurt, cheese and juicy burgers requires a huge livestock industry, with nearly 90 million head of cattle in the U.S. in any one year. All those cows mean significant methane emissions.

    With estimates from the United Nations that methane accounts for 44 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions from livestock production, and new determination – including legislation in California – to reduce methane emissions from farms, we need to figure out how to quantify and then reduce those emissions….

  8. 190+ Governments Take Tough Decisions to Stop Biodiversity Decline Worldwide – UN Biodiversity Conference, Cancun

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    • Governments need to ramp-up efforts to stop biodiversity decline in light of pessimistic reports.
    • Time running out on global efforts to meet biodiversity targets with 2/3 still off-track.
    • Countries to focus on the value of biodiversity to engage other economic sectors as means of halting degradation.
    • Ability to achieve the SDGs (sustainable development goals) and the Paris Climate Agreement is at stake.

    Cancún, 1 December 2016 – At a critical meeting opening today, the United Nations will call on decision makers from more than 190 countries to step-up efforts to halt the loss of biodiversity and protect the ecosystems that support food and water security and health for billions of people.

    At the UN Biodiversity Conference in Cancún, Mexico, parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) begin two weeks of discussions in the shadow of data and reports showing that around two-thirds of the global Aichi Biodiversity Targets are currently not on track to be met by the 2020 deadline, with serious consequences for human well-being, unless enhanced efforts are made in the last four years of the decade.

    The Aichi Targets specify actions to protect and sustainably use the entire variety of life on our planet. The targets address issues ranging from the loss of natural habitats, sustainable agriculture and declining fish stocks, to access and sharing of the benefits from the use of genetic resources, indigenous knowledge and awareness of the values of biodiversity.

    Achievement of the Aichi Targets will be critical for achieving the three other historic global agendas agreed last year, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the Sendai Framework on Disaster Risk Reduction and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.

    Ahead of the 13th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the CBD more than 120 ministers of environment, agriculture, forestry, fisheries and tourism will discuss the mainstreaming of biodiversity into their activities by ensuring the alignment of wider Government policies, programmes and plans consistent with the need to conserve and sustainably use biodiversity.

    “If we are going to save biodiversity, we need to work with these sectors that depend on biodiversity and whose activities have a considerable impact on the variety of life on our planet.” Dr. Braulio Ferreira de Souza Dias, CBD Executive Secretary said….

  9. January 20, 2018: the day US could leave the Paris agreement

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    January 20, 2018: the day US could leave the Paris agreement

    …So that apparently leaves Trump free to make the call as soon as he assumes power on January 20 next year and formally leave the agreement one year later.

    Although such a move may be delayed by a court action, says Michael Burger executive director of the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia University.

    “Trump’s ability to simply withdraw from the UNFCCC altogether without Senate approval (which may or may not be forthcoming, depending on the politics and Ds appetite for filibustering) is an open constitutional question, and would likely be the subject of litigation. Technically a party may withdraw from the UNFCCC with one year’s notice,” he said.

    On Wednesday evening the Moroccan head of the 2016 climate summit Salaheddine Mezouar said he hoped to work with the Trump administration on climate change, saying in a statement it “transcends politics”.

    “We are convinced that all Parties will respect their commitments and stay the course in this collective effort,” he said.

    Last year Trump’s pick to either lead or play a key role in dismantling the Environmental Protection Agency, Myron Ebell, told Climate Home he hoped the next president would “not rip up” the Paris Agreement.

    “I hope he or she will submit it to the US senate for its advice and consent,” he said….