Ecology, Climate Change and Related News

Conservation Science for a Healthy Planet

Tag Archive: ecology

  1. NASA Earth Observatory: Pyeongchang and the Olympics

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    • Tree-covered slopes were cleared for ski runs and other infrastructure,

    February 12 2018  see satellite photos and full article here

    Since the Winter Olympics were first held in 1924, they only have been hosted twice in Asia, both times in Japan. This year the games will find a new home in South Korea, in the northeastern cities of Pyeongchang and Gangneung….

    The development of Olympic venues at Mount Gariwang—particularly the Alpensia and Yongpyong ski resorts—came with some cost and controversy. Tree-covered slopes were cleared for ski runs and other infrastructure, though Olympic organizers have promised to re-plant much of the area after the games are completed. Environmental and cultural advocates lamented the loss of ancient and sacred forests, but Olympic organizers pointed to a rule that Alpine ski events must be held on slopes that stand at least 800 meters above sea level, and Mount Gariwang was identified as the only site that could meet that requirement….

  2. Simple rules can help fishery managers cope with ecological complexity

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    Schooling anchovy, a common and valuable forage fish. Credit: Cathy Schwartz/University of Washington
    • Ecosystem factors offered helpful information about avoiding worst-case scenarios, and bolstered the argument for maintaining fisheries in “safe zones– scenarios where there are low risks of major economic losses from something going badly in the ecosystem.
    • The findings provide a framework for managers to identify the safe zones specific to each fishery

    Feb 8 2018  University of Washington read full ScienceDaily article here

    …Lead author Tim Essington, a University of Washington professor of aquatic and fishery sciences, [said], “Rather than enhancing economic benefits, the holistic approaches to natural resource management are better viewed as a way to more equitably distribute risk and reward across different users.”

    …Most U.S. fisheries are managed by looking at the biology of the targeted fish species. Managers consider what the species’ expected abundance is year to year and make decisions about how many can be caught each season. That process, however, doesn’t account for ecosystem factors such as predators, habitat or temperature that also can influence a species’ abundance. This can lead to an incorrect estimate of the number of fish that can be caught sustainably….

    ecosystem factors did not have a large effect on the profitability of fisheries, but they did offer helpful information about avoiding worst-case scenarios, and bolstered the argument for maintaining fisheries in “safe zones” — scenarios where there are low risks of major economic losses from something going badly in the ecosystem. The findings provide a framework for managers to identify the safe zones specific to each fishery.

    “Most importantly, this study shows that one doesn’t need to know all of the ecological intricacies to have good ecological and economic outcomes,” Essington said. “It’s about simplicity, and the idea that we don’t have to have complex management systems to deal with complex ecosystems.”

    Timothy E. Essington, James N. Sanchirico, Marissa L. Baskett. Economic value of ecological information in ecosystem-based natural resource management depends on exploitation history. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2018; 201716858 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1716858115

  3. Potential impact of fracking on streams, downstream recreation, drinking water

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    January 31, 2018  American Chemical Society read full ScienceDaily article here

    Concerns over hydraulic fracturing, an oil and gas extraction method that injects millions of gallons of freshwater and chemicals into shale, have largely focused on potential impacts on water quality. But, as scientists now report, ‘fracking’ operations could have impacts on water quantity because they are withdrawing these large amounts of water from nearby streams, which house aquatic ecosystems and are used by people for drinking and recreation.

    …..On average, more than 5 million gallons of freshwater is used to fracture one gas well in the U.S. That’s more than enough to fill seven Olympic-size swimming pools. Small streams are a major source of water for these operations. Some of these streams also provide drinking water for communities and homes for species with already declining populations. However, little is known about the amount of water that can be sustainably withdrawn from these sources....

    Sally Entrekin, Anne Trainor, James Saiers, Lauren Patterson, Kelly Maloney, Joseph Fargione, Joseph Kiesecker, Sharon Baruch-Mordo, Katherine Konschnik, Hannah Wiseman, Jean-Philippe Nicot, Joseph N. Ryan. Water Stress from High-Volume Hydraulic Fracturing Potentially Threatens Aquatic Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services in Arkansas, United States. Environmental Science & Technology, 2018; DOI: 10.1021/acs.est.7b03304

  4. ‘Zero tolerance’ plan for plastic pollution considered by UN environment ministers

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    • Governments are being asked to move towards a legal treaty banning plastic waste from entering the sea.
    • At the moment ships are prohibited from dumping plastic overboard but there’s no international law against plastics flooding into the sea from the land.

    A plan for zero tolerance of plastic pollution of the oceans may be agreed by nations at a UN environment summit…..

    Experts say ocean plastics are an obvious subject for a global treaty: plastics present a large-scale threat….Plastic pollution doesn’t recognise international borders. Delegates in Nairobi preparing the way for the UN’s environment ministers meeting next week are said to be in broad agreement on the need for tougher action to combat the plastics crisis.

    Plastic on a beach

    …China – the world’s biggest plastics polluter – is said to be cautious about being bound by global rules. Other big polluters like India and Indonesia are said to be generally supportive about the resolutions….

    India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently applauded the clean-up of plastic from a beach in Mumbai, saying: “It is our duty to protect the environment for our future generations.”

    Eirik Lindebjerg from WWF said the Nairobi meeting could prove a turning point in the plastics crisis. He told BBC News: “The treaties on climate change and biodiversity were initiated in this forum – so it has a track record of making things happen.”….

    …The meeting will also discuss pollution of the air and water. A global ban on lead in paints may be approved.

  5. Climate-Smart Land Trusts: Accelerating Nature-Based Solutions to Secure our Future

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    The California Council of Land Trusts hosted the 2017 California Land Conservation Conference from March 7-9, 2017 at UC Davis.

    Ellie Cohen, Point Blue President and CEO was a keynote speaker.  A pdf of Ellie’s presentation can be found here: Accelerating Nature-Based Solutions- Climate-Smart Land Trusts CCLT Keynote March 7 2017

    You can see a pdf of the full program here.

  6. Long-term studies contribute disproportionately to ecology and policy

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    Full paper pdf here


    As the contribution for long-term ecological and environmental studies (LTEES) to our understanding of how species and ecosystems respond to a changing global climate becomes more urgent, the relative number and investment in LTEES are declining. To assess the value of LTEES to advancing the field of ecology, we evaluated relationships between citation rates and study duration, as well as the representation of LTEES with the impact factors of 15 ecological journals. We found that the proportionate representation of LTEES increases with journal impact factor and that the positive relationship between citation rate and study duration is stronger as journal impact factor increases. We also found that the representation of LTEES in reports written to inform policy was greater than their representation in the ecological literature and that their authors particularly valued LTEES. We conclude that the relative investment in LTEES by ecologists and funders should be seriously reconsidered for advancing ecology and its contribution to informing environmental policy.

    Keywords: climate change, impact factor, citation rate, National Research Council, study duration

    Hughes B.B., R. Beas-Luna, et al. 2017. Long-term studies contribute disproportionately to ecology and policy. In press. BioScience. Featured on the cover.

    Box 1. A recommended attributes of sustainable, productive LTEES largely drawn from the ecological literature (see text for citations).

    Question/hypothesis-based purpose
    Ensure that the purpose and design of a LTEES is motivated by well-defined questions and associated hypotheses.
    Both basic and applied purposes
    Include both basic and applied purposes (questions) to increase the value of an LTEES and breadth of interested participants and funding sources.
    Consistent core sampling design and protocols
    Ensure that core sampling design criteria (spatial and temporal) and protocols are consistent through time to maintain the integrity of a time series. Any new designs and methods should be gradually transitioned to with calibration to evaluate comparability and compatibility of the time series.
    Consistency and quality of data collection
    Establish a rigorous system for maintaining consistency and reliability of data collection and quality control over the long term that is robust to turnover of project personnel. This includes the training and evaluation of data collectors.
    Adaptability of sampling design and protocols
    Ensure capacity to adopt additional designs and protocols to enhance its relevance by addressing emergent and topical questions and hypotheses.
    Maintain rigorous and detailed documentation of sampling designs, data collection methods, instrumentation, calibrations, environmental conditions and other metadata to inform the proper use and interpretation of data.
    Data management and dissemination
    Design and support a well-developed and adaptable data management and data dissemination program throughout the lifetime of the LTEES. This includes a strong online presence.
    Attractive and inclusive participation by the scientific community and others
    Develop means (e.g., workshops, website, outreach) for engaging others in the research community, managers, stakeholders, citizen science and others with emphasis on recruiting new young researchers.
    Management structure
    Implement an adaptable and functional management and governance structure that is responsible for strategic research planning, resource allocation, administrative policies, and staffing throughout the lifetime of the LTEES.
    Rigorous funding structure
    Identify and establish long-term reliable and resilient funding sources in advance of initiating an LTEES. Establish mechanisms for identifying and pursuing additional sources of funding throughout the lifetime of the LTEES (e.g., outreach products and efforts).
    Complementary research programs
    Foster and integrate a diversity of multi- and interdisciplinary research approaches (e.g., short and long-term experiments, modeling, coupled biological and physical observations, coupled socio-ecological investigations).
    Educational component
    Create educational components that expose future generations of scientists and others to the value of LTEES at several levels (visiting researchers and teachers, post-doctoral fellows, graduate students, undergraduates, K-12).

  7. Are drones disturbing marine mammals?

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    Posted: 13 Feb 2017 10:13 AM PST  see full article here

    Marine researchers have made sure that their research drones aren’t disturbing their research subjects, shows a new report. And they’re hoping that others will follow their example to help protect wildlife in the future.

    Fredrik Christiansen, Laia Rojano-Doñate, Peter T. Madsen, Lars Bejder. Noise Levels of Multi-Rotor Unmanned Aerial Vehicles with Implications for Potential Underwater Impacts on Marine Mammals. Frontiers in Marine Science, 2016; 3 DOI: 10.3389/fmars.2016.00277

  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. Climate Change and Nutrition—Polar Bears, Fish

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    Land-based food not nutritionally sufficient for wild polar bears, according to new study

    Posted: 13 Sep 2016 12:05 PM PDT

    On average, a polar bear loses up to 30 percent of its total body mass while fasting during the open-water season. Although some scientists previously believed land-based foods could supplement the bears’ nutritional needs until the sea ice returns, a new study has revealed that access to terrestrial food is not sufficient to reduce the rate of body mass loss for fasting polar bears.

    Study links altered brain chemistry, behavioral impairments in fish exposed to elevated carbon dioxide

    Posted: 13 Sep 2016 09:52 AM PDT

    Increased carbon dioxide concentrations alters brain chemistry that may lead to neurological impairment in some fish, a first-of-its-kind study demonstrates.

  10. Plants retain more water with more CO2 in environment—implications for current drought and hydrology studies

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    August 29, 2016

    As a multiyear drought grinds on in the Southwestern United States, many wonder about the impact of global climate change on more frequent and longer dry spells. As humans emit more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, how will water supply for people, farms, and forests be affected? A new study from the University of California, Irvine and the University of Washington shows that water conserved by plants under high CO2 conditions compensates for much of the effect of warmer temperatures, retaining more water on land than predicted in commonly used drought assessments.

    According to the study published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the implications of plants needing less water with more CO2 in the environment changes assumptions of climate change impacts on agriculture, water resources, wildfire risk, and plant growth.

    The study compares current drought indices with ones that take into account changes in plant water use. Reduced precipitation will increase droughts across southern North America, southern Europe and northeastern South America. But the results show that in Central Africa and temperate Asia—including China, the Middle East, East Asia and most of Russia—water conservation by plants will largely counteract the parching due to climate change. “This study confirms that drought will intensify in many regions in the future,” said coauthor James Randerson, UCI professor of Earth system science. “It also shows that plant water needs will have an important influence on water availability, and this part of the equation has been neglected in many drought and hydrology studies.”…

    Global climate models already account for these changes in plant growth. But many estimates of future drought use today’s standard indices, like the Palmer Drought Severity Index, which only consider atmospheric variables such as future temperature, humidity and precipitation. “New satellite observations and improvements in our understanding hydrological cycle have led to significant advances in our ability to model changes in soil moisture,” said Randerson. “Unfortunately, using proxy estimates of drought stress can give us misleading results because they ignore well-established principles from plant physiology.

    Is this good news for climate change? Although the drying may be less extreme than in some current estimates, droughts will certainly increase, researchers said, and other aspects of climate change could have severe effects on vegetation. “There’s a lot we don’t know, especially about hot droughts,” Swann said. The same drought at a higher temperature might have more severe impacts, she noted, or might make plants more stressed and susceptible to pests. “Even if droughts are not extremely more prevalent or frequent, they may be more deadly when they do happen,” she said.

    Abigail L. S. Swanna,b,1, Forrest M. Hoffmanc,d, Charles D. Kovene, and James T. Randersonf
    lant responses to increasing CO2 reduce estimates of climate impacts on drought severity, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences,