Ecology, Biodiversity, Climate Change and Related News Updates
April 13, 2012
Highlights of the Week – March is a record-breaker; West coast oysters impacted by acidification
1-ECOLOGY, BIODIVERSITY, RELATED
2-CLIMATE CHANGE AND EXTREME EVENTS
Have a great weekend-
Highlight of the Week…. March is a record-breaker; west coast oysters and acidification
(Credit: NOAA) Over 15,000 Records Broken as March 2012 Becomes Warmest on Record
NOAA: U.S. records warmest March; more than 15,000 warm temperature records broken First quarter of 2012 also warmest on record; early March tornado outbreak is year’s first “billion dollar disaster”
According to NOAA scientists, record and near-record breaking temperatures dominated the eastern two-thirds of the nation and contributed to the warmest March on record for the contiguous United States, a record that dates back to 1895. The average temperature of 51.1 degrees F was 8.6 degrees above the 20th century average for March and 0.5 degrees F warmer than the previous warmest March in 1910. Of the more than 1,400 months (or more than 116 years) that have passed since the U.S. climate record began, only one month, January 2006, has seen a larger departure from its average temperature than March 2012.
- NOAA U.S. Climate Report for March 2012: http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/sotc/
- NOAA Climate Portal: http://www.climate.gov
- NOAA-NESDIS Visualization: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JAjjjtDY8UU
New publication — the first clear correlation on the west coast between upwelling and Pacific coast shellfish, specifically Pacific oysters.
Ocean acidification linked to larval oyster failure (April 11, 2012) — Researchers have definitively linked an increase in ocean acidification to the collapse of oyster seed production at a commercial oyster hatchery in Oregon, where larval growth had declined to a level considered by the owners to be “non-economically viable.” … > full story
The Pacific oyster, Crassostrea gigas, shows negative correlation to naturally elevated carbon dioxide levels: Implications for near-term ocean acidification effects
Alan Barton, Burke Hales, George G. Waldbusser, Chris Langdon and Richard A. Feely
Limnol. Oceanogr., 57(3), 2012, 698-710 | DOI:10.4319/lo.2012.57.3.0698
ABSTRACT: We report results from an oyster hatchery on the Oregon coast, where intake waters experienced variable carbonate chemistry (aragonite saturation state < 0.8 to > 3.2; pH < 7.6 to > 8.2) in the early summer of 2009. Both larval production and midstage growth (∼ 120 to ∼ 150 µm) of the oyster Crassostrea gigas were significantly negatively correlated with the aragonite saturation state of waters in which larval oysters were spawned and reared for the first 48 h of life.The effects of the initial spawning conditions did not have a significant effect on early-stage growth (growth from D-hinge stage to ∼120 µm), suggesting a delayed effect of water chemistry on larval development.
- 1. ECOLOGY
PRBO IN THE NEWS:
Sparrow Migration Tracked for First Time from California to Alaska
ScienceDaily (Apr. 11, 2012) — Using tiny tags to track a bird’s location, biologists from PRBO Conservation Science (PRBO) have unlocked the mystery of where Golden-crowned Sparrows, which overwinter in California, go to breed in the spring. Published this week in the journal PLoS ONE, the study reveals for the first time the exact migration route of this small songbird to its breeding sites in coastal Alaska….
Ironing out the mystery of bird navigation
April 12, 2012 – 9:47AM
While migrating birds are believed to use the earth’s magnetic field to navigate, new research has again baffled scientists as to how they do it. According to an article published in Nature on Wednesday, iron-filled beak cells previously thought to be the centre of the magnetic sense in birds are made up of normal protein-bound iron deposits which are not magnetoreceptive. Scientists who took part in the international study said the finding had taken them back to square one. “The mystery of how animals detect magnetic fields has just got more mysterious,” said David Keays, an Australian who now works at the Institute of Molecular Pathology in Vienna, Austria. ….
Water cutoff contributes to Klamath Basin bird deaths, highlights challenge facing crucial wildlife refuges
Published: Thursday, April 05, 2012, 10:00 PM Updated: Friday, April 06, 2012, 5:58 AM
A cut-off of water supplies to a key Klamath Basin national wildlife refuge contributed to the deaths of 10,000 or more birds this year, the most in a decade, the refuge’s manager says. The Lower Klamath refuge in southern Oregon and northern California is a crucial stop for birds migrating along the Pacific Flyway. The refuge and five other refuges in the basin are also last in line for water, behind farmers and endangered fish, in one of the most water-short — and politically fraught — regions in the West. Ron Cole, project leader for the Klamath Basin National Wildlife Refuge Complex, estimates 10,000 to 15,000 birds have died from avian cholera this year. From December to mid-March, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation cut off water supplies to the 46,900-acre Lower Klamath refuge, citing light snowfall and projections of dismal inflows to Upper Klamath Lake, which stores water for farmers and three fish species listed under the Endangered Species Act. …
Cholera outbreak kills more than 10000 birds in California
New York Daily News – April 9, 2012
The birds are some of the 10000 birds felled by avian cholera this spring on the refuge, a major stop on the Pacific Flyway that attracts some 2 million birds. TULELAKE, Calif. – Dave Mauser walked the edge of a mudflat, peering underneath the dried …
Forest insects and diseases arrive in US via imported plants (April 9, 2012) — The importation of plants from around the world has become a major industry in the United States, valued at more than 0 billion. According to a new study that economic boon has also had devastating effects on the environment. Researchers found that almost 70 percent of the most damaging non-native forest insects and diseases currently afflicting US forests arrived via imported live plants. … > full story
American Chestnut returns to New York City (April 12, 2012) — The once-mighty American chestnut tree, which was virtually wiped out by a pathogenic fungus that arrived in New York City more than 100 years ago, will return April 18 to the area where it was first discovered in the Bronx. … > full story
Loss of predators in Northern Hemisphere affecting ecosystem health (April 9, 2012) — A survey done on the loss in the Northern Hemisphere of large predators, particularly wolves, concludes that current populations of moose, deer, and other large herbivores far exceed their historic levels and are contributing to disrupted ecosystems. They are crippling the growth of young trees and reducing biodiversity. This also contributes to deforestation and results in less carbon sequestration, a potential concern with climate change. … > full story
Study: Top deer predator in Michigan isn’t the wolf
The Grand Rapids Press
What researchers found this past winter, the third year of a western upper peninsula deer mortality study, is that coyotes were the No. 1 predator of deer, followed by bobcats. Wolves came in fourth after….
What triggers a mass extinction? Habitat loss and tropical cooling were once to blame (April 10, 2012) — The second-largest mass extinction in Earth’s history coincided with a short but intense ice age. Although it has long been agreed that the so-called Late Ordovician mass extinction was related to climate change, exactly how the change produced the extinction has not been known. Now, scientists have determined that the majority of extinctions were caused by habitat loss due to falling sea levels and cooling of the tropical oceans. … > full story
Fukushima radiation found in California kelp Marla Cone
Sunday, April 8, 2012 (SF Chronicle) Kelp off California was contaminated with short-lived radioisotopes a month after Japan’s Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant accident, a sign that the spilled radiation reached the state’s coastline, according to a new scientific study. Scientists from CSU Long Beach tested giant kelp collected off Orange County, Santa Cruz and other locations after the March 2011 accident and detected radioactive iodine, which was released from the damaged nuclear reactor. The largest concentration was about 250 times higher than levels found in kelp before the accident….The radioactivity had no known effects on the giant kelp, or on fish and other marine life, and it was undetectable a month later. Iodine 131 “has an eight-day half-life, so it’s pretty much all gone,” Manley said. “But this shows what happens half a world away does effect what happens here. I don’t think these levels are harmful, but it’s better if we don’t have it at all.” Spread in large, dense, brown forests across the ocean off California, giant kelp is the largest of all algae and grows faster than virtually any other life on Earth. It accumulates iodine, making it a useful way to check how far radioactive material spreads.
Higher altitude of islands increases their number of exclusive species (April 9, 2012) — In the ecosystems of islands with high mountains, endemic animal and vegetation species are twice as isolated, making them even more exclusive. This finding adds the factor of altitude to wider biodiversity. … > full story
Texas drought destroys half a billion trees
Up to half a billion dead or dying trees have been tagged as victims of last year’s Texas drought, which severely scorched wide-open farmland and took a toll on the state’s cities, particularly Houston. The statistical yardstick is staggering, with Texas agriculture officials estimating now that the drought caused record-breaking crop and livestock losses of $7.62 billion and counting. The Texas Forest Service estimates 100 million to 500 million forest trees may have succumbed.
New York: Experts suggest grazing cows, sheep, ducks in forests
Putting cows, sheep and other livestock into forests to graze could prove to be a valuable tool for New York woodland management, say Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE) agriculture educators and colleagues in the Cornell Forestry Program. They are advocating for the return of silvopasturing — managed grazing in woodlands.
ate grant to remove the levees, smooth out the riverbanks and stabilize vegetation in hopes of preventing damage when the Gila floods.
Birds: Divorce and breeding dispersal may support the better option hypothesis (April 11, 2012) — Divorce and breeding dispersal in the dunlin Calidris alpina bird may provide support for the better option hypothesis. … > full story
Baltimore expanding floating Inner Harbor wetlands; manmade marshes clean water
Volunteers plan to add another 2,000 square feet of the manmade marshes in front of the World Trade Center in the Inner Harbor later this monthTwo years ago, students from Baltimore‘s Living Classrooms Foundation made 200 square feet of floating wetlands with empty plastic bottles recovered from the harbor. The National Aquarium also made its own and both were studied by scientists from the aquarium and the University of Maryland. Now, armed with results of those studies and support from the Department of the Environment and the Abell Foundation, the fleet of floating wetlands is growing.
Organizers say the plants improve water quality and provide habitat for birds, fish and other creatures that live in the Inner Harbor.
NASA views our perpetual ocean (April 9, 2012) — The swirling flows of tens of thousands of ocean currents were captured in a scientific visualization created by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. … > full story
Farmers of 800-years-ago could teach us how to protect the Amazon — with raised farming beds (April 9, 2012) — In the face of mass deforestation of the Amazon, recent findings indicate that we could learn from its earliest inhabitants who managed their farmland sustainably. Research shows for the first time that indigenous people, living in the savannas around the Amazonian forest, farmed without using fire. Instead early inhabitants practiced ‘raised-field’ farming, which involved constructing small agricultural mounds with wooden tools. These raised fields provided better drainage, soil aeration and moisture retention: ideal for an environment that experiences both drought and flooding. … > full story
Why Woodpeckers Don’t Get Concussions
Stephanie Pappas, LiveScience Senior Writer Date: 10 April 2012 Time: 06:37 AM ET For woodpeckers, “thick skull” is no insult. In fact, new research shows that a strong skull saves these birds from serious brain injury. Woodpeckers’ head-pounding pecking against trees and telephone poles subjects them to enormous forces — they can easily slam their beaks against wood with a force 1,000 times that of gravity. (In comparison, Air Force tests in the 1950s pegged the maximum survivable g-force for a human at around 46 times that of gravity….
- 2. CLIMATE CHANGE AND EXTREME EVENTS
Environment—Talk of the Nation, NPR
Link Between Extreme Weather And Climate Change
[16 min 50 sec] April 5, 2012
Transcript with Kevin Trenberth, distinguished senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research…
In latest issue of Global Ecology and Biogeography:
Rise of the generalists: evidence for climate driven homogenization in avian communities (pages 568–578) Catherine M. Davey, Dan E. Chamberlain, Stuart E. Newson, David G. Noble and Alison Johnston
Article first published online: 30 JUN 2011 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1466-8238.2011.00693.x
Evolution at sea: Long-term experiments indicate phytoplankton can adapt to ocean acidification (April 8, 2012) — Fossil fuel derived carbon dioxide has a serious impact on global climate but also a disturbing effect on the oceans, know as the other CO2 problem. When CO2 dissolves in seawater it forms carbonic acid and results in a drop in pH, the oceans acidify. A wealth of short-term experiments has shown that calcifying organisms, such as corals, clams and snails, but also micron size phytoplankton are affected by ocean acidification. The potential for organisms to cope with acidified oceanic conditions via evolutionary adaptations has so far been unresolved. Scientists have now for the first demonstrated the potential of the unicellular algae Emiliania huxleyi to adapt to changing pH conditions and thereby at least partly to mitigate negative effects of ocean acidification. … > full story
Impact of climate change on forest diseases assessed (April 10, 2012) — Climate change is projected to have far-reaching environmental impacts both domestically and abroad. A recently published report examines the impact of climate change on forest diseases and how these pathogens will ultimately affect forest ecosystems in the Western United States and Canada. … > full story
Which plants will survive droughts, climate change? (April 6, 2012) — Biologists aim to predict which plant species will escape extinction from climate change. Droughts are worsening around the world, which poses a great challenge to plants in gardens and forests. Scientists have debated for more than a century how to predict which species are most vulnerable. … The pinpointing of cell saltiness as the main driver of drought tolerance cleared away major controversies, and it opens the way to predictions of which species could escape extinction from climate change, Sack said.”The salt concentrated in cells holds on to water more tightly and directly allows plants to maintain turgor during drought,” said research co-author Christine Scoffoni, a UCLA doctoral student in the department of ecology and evolutionary biology…..> full story
Impact of warming climate doesn’t always translate to streamflow (April 6, 2012) — An analysis of 35 headwater basins in the United States and Canada found that the impact of warmer air temperatures on streamflow rates was less than expected in many locations, suggesting that some ecosystems may be resilient to certain aspects of climate change. … The study was just published in a special issue of the journal BioScience, in which the Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) network of 26 sites around the country funded by the National Science Foundation is featured. Lead author Julia Jones, an Oregon State University geoscientist, said that air temperatures increased significantly at 17 of the 19 sites that had 20- to 60-year climate records, but streamflow changes correlated with temperature changes in only seven of those study sites. In fact, water flow decreased only at sites with winter snow and ice, and there was less impact in warmer, more arid ecosystems. “It appears that ecosystems may have some capacity for resilience and adapt to changing conditions,” said Jones, a professor in OSU’s College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences. “Various ecosystem processes may contribute to that resilience. In Pacific Northwest forests, for example, one hypothesis is that trees control the stomatal openings on their leaves and adjust their water use in response to the amount of water in the soil. “So when presented with warmer and drier conditions, trees in the Pacific Northwest appear to use less water and therefore the impact on streamflow is reduced,” she added. “In other parts of the country, forest regrowth after past logging and hurricanes thus far has a more definitive signal in streamflow reduction than have warming temperatures.”…> full story
Balmy weather brought out the bugs, but was the frost that followed a factor? (April 10, 2012) — While many enjoyed a mild winter and an early spring with record-breaking temperatures, the warm weather also prompted many bugs to show up earlier than usual. The question is, will bug populations be larger this summer? … > full story
How Climate Change Makes Trees Sick
April 12, 2012
Warmer and wetter weather is good for tree diseases, which is bad news for trees
Susan Frankel/USDA-Forest Service
Climate change is likely to wreak havoc on California’s forests. Extreme weather, wildfires and insect outbreaks will all take a toll. Add to those another looming threat: disease. Forest diseases like Sudden Oak Death, which has infected trees in 14 counties in the state, stand to benefit from the effects of climate change, to the detriment, obviously, of the trees.
Trees are big and long-lived. Tree pathogens, mostly fungi and bacteria, are the opposite. They’re mobile, able to blow around on the wind. And they reproduce and evolve rapidly. That’s the crux of the problem, according to Susan Frankel, a plant pathologist with the Forest Service. “When you look at forest health and the balance between forest trees and the pathogens that attack them, it does seem, given climate change, pathogens get the better end of the deal,” she told me. Frankel is working with a group of ecologists, funded by the Forest Service’s Western Wildland Environmental Threat Assessment Center, to better understand how climate change will affect tree diseases. In a recent report, they outlined possible impacts….
Rapid climate change threatens Asia’s rice production
Last Updated: Friday, April 13, 2012, 15:29
Washington: Rapid climate change and its potential to intensify droughts and floods could threaten Asia’s rice production and pose a significant threat to millions of people across the region, leading climate specialists and agricultural scientists have warned. South and Southeast Asia are home to more than one-third of the world’s population and half of the world’s poor and malnourished. Absent new approaches to food production, climate change in this region is expected to reduce agriculture productivity by as much as 50 percent in the next three decades. And with agriculture serving as the backbone of most economies in the region, such plunging yields would shake countries to the core….
Scientists forecast forest carbon loss (April 6, 2012) — For more than 30 years, scientists at the Harvard Forest have scaled towers into the forest canopy and measured the trunks of trees to track how much carbon is stored or lost from the woods each year. … > full story
Climate change boosts then quickly stunts plants, decade-long study shows
Science Codex – April 11, 2012
The findings, published this week in the journal Nature Climate Change, show that plants may thrive in the early stages of a warming environment but then begin to deteriorate quickly.
Ecosystems dependent on snowy winters most threatened, long term research confirms (April 6, 2012) — As global temperatures rise, the most threatened ecosystems are those that depend on a season of snow and ice, scientists say. In semi-arid regions like the southwestern United States, mountain snowpacks are the dominant source of water for human consumption and irrigation. New research shows that as average temperatures increase in these snowy ecosystems, a significant amount of stream water is lost to the atmosphere. … > full story
Long-term studies detect effects of disappearing snow and ice (April 6, 2012) — Regions of the earth where water is frozen for at least a month each year are shrinking as a result of global warming. Some of the effects on ecosystems are now being revealed through research conducted at affected sites over decades. They include dislocations of the relationships between predators and their prey, as well as changes in the movement through ecosystems of carbon and nutrients. The changes interact in complex ways that are not currently well understood, but effects on human populations are becoming apparent. … > full story
Has the Dead Sea used up its nine lives? Dead Sea almost dried up over 100,000 years ago (April 10, 2012) — Scientists say that recent drilling into the sediment of the Dead Sea indicates that it has recovered from several periods of dryness and very little rainfall in the ancient past, but warns that there’s still cause for concern. … > full story
SOME OPINIONS WORTH REVIEWING:
Climate scientists and smear campaigns
By Michael Mann, Special to CNN
updated 8:36 AM EDT, Wed March 28, 2012
Editor’s note: Michael E. Mann is a member of the Pennsylvania State University faculty, holding joint positions in the Departments of Meteorology and Geosciences and the Earth and Environmental Systems Institute (EESI). He shared the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007 with other scientists who participated in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
(CNN) — Imagine you are sitting in your office simply doing your job and a nasty e-mail pops into your inbox accusing you of being a fraud. You go online and find that some bloggers have written virulent posts about you. That night, you’re at home with your family watching the news and a talking head is lambasting you by name. Later, a powerful politician demands all your e-mails from your former employer. It sounds surreal. But it all happened to me. What was my offense? I worked on climate change research that indicated the world is a lot warmer today than it was in the past. Because that research caught the public’s attention when it was released in 1998, I became one of dozens of climate researchers who have been systematically targeted by a well-funded anti-science campaign….
NASA scientist: climate change is a moral issue on a par with slavery
Prof Jim Hansen to use lecture at Edinburgh International Science Festival to call for worldwide tax on all carbon emissions
Severin Carrell guardian.co.uk, Friday 6 April 2012 06.00 EDT
Averting the worst consequences of human-induced climate change is a “great moral issue” on a par with slavery, according to the leading Nasa climate scientist Prof Jim Hansen. He argues that storing up expensive and destructive consequences for society in future is an “injustice of one generation to others”.
Hansen, who will next Tuesday be awarded the prestigious Edinburgh Medal for his contribution to science, will also in his acceptance speech call for a worldwide tax on all carbon emissions.
In his lecture, Hansen will argue that the challenge facing future generations from climate change is so urgent that a flat-rate global tax is needed to force immediate cuts in fossil fuel use. Ahead of receiving the award ….Hansen will argue in his lecture that current generations have an over-riding moral duty to their children and grandchildren to take immediate action. Describing this as an issue of inter-generational justice on a par with ending slavery, Hansen said: “Our parents didn’t know that they were causing a problem for future generations but we can only pretend we don’t know because the science is now crystal clear. “We understand the carbon cycle: the CO2 we put in the air will stay in surface reservoirs and won’t go back into the solid earth for millennia. What the Earth’s history tells us is that there’s a limit on how much we can put in the air without guaranteeing disastrous consequences for future generations. We cannot pretend that we did not know.”
Hansen said his proposal for a global carbon tax was based on the latest analysis of CO2 levels in the atmosphere and their impact on global temperatures and weather patterns. He has co-authored a scientific paper with 17 other experts, including climate scientists, biologists and economists, which calls for an immediate 6% annual cut in CO2 emissions, and a substantial growth in global forest cover, to avoid catastrophic climate change by the end of the century. The paper, which has passed peer review and is in the final stages of publication by the US journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, argues that a global levy on fossil fuels is the strongest tool for forcing energy firms and consumers to switch quickly to zero carbon and green energy sources. In larger countries, that would include nuclear power. Under this proposal, the carbon levy would increase year on year, with the tax income paid directly back to the public as a dividend, shared equally, rather than put into government coffers. Because the tax would greatly increase the cost of fossil fuel energy, consumers relying on green or low carbon sources of power would benefit the most as this dividend would come on top of cheaper fuel bills. It would promote a dramatic increase in the investment and development of low-carbon energy sources and technologies…..
by THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN NY Times Opinion
ISN’T it interesting that the Arab awakening began in Tunisia with a fruit vendor who was harassed by police for not having a permit to sell food — just at the moment when world food prices hit record highs? And that it began in Syria with farmers in the southern village of Dara’a, who were demanding the right to buy and sell land near the border, without having to get permission from corrupt security officials? And that it was spurred on in Yemen — the first country in the world expected to run out of water — by a list of grievances against an incompetent government, among the biggest of which was that top officials were digging water wells in their own backyards at a time when the government was supposed to be preventing such water wildcatting? As Abdelsalam Razzaz, the minister of water in Yemen’s new government, told Reuters last week: “The officials themselves have traditionally been the most aggressive well diggers. Nearly every minister had a well dug in his house.”
All these tensions over land, water and food are telling us something: The Arab awakening was driven not only by political and economic stresses, but, less visibly, by environmental, population and climate stresses as well. If we focus only on the former and not the latter, we will never be able to help stabilize these societies. Take Syria. “Syria’s current social unrest is, in the most direct sense, a reaction to a brutal and out-of-touch regime,” write Francesco Femia and Caitlin Werrell, in a report for their Center for Climate and Security in Washington. “However, that’s not the whole story. The past few years have seen a number of significant social, economic, environmental and climatic changes in Syria that have eroded the social contract between citizen and government. … If the international community and future policy makers in Syria are to address and resolve the drivers of unrest in the country, these changes will have to be better explored.”
From 2006-11, they note, up to 60 percent of Syria’s land experienced one of the worst droughts and most severe set of crop failures in its history. “According to a special case study from last year’s Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction, of the most vulnerable Syrians dependent on agriculture, particularly in the northeast governorate of Hassakeh (but also in the south), ‘nearly 75 percent … suffered total crop failure.’ Herders in the northeast lost around 85 percent of their livestock, affecting 1.3 million people.” The United Nations reported that more than 800,000 Syrians had their livelihoods wiped out by these droughts, and many were forced to move to the cities to find work — adding to the burdens of already incompetent government….. If you ask “what are the real threats to our security today,” said Brown, “at the top of the list would be climate change, population growth, water shortages, rising food prices and the number of failing states in the world. As that list grows, how many failed states before we have a failing global civilization, and everything begins to unravel?” Hopefully, we won’t go there. But, then, we should all remember that quote attributed to Leon Trotsky: “You may not be interested in war, but war is interested in you.” Well, you may not be interested in climate change, but climate change is interested in you. Folks, this is not a hoax. We and the Arabs need to figure out — and fast — more ways to partner to mitigate the environmental threats where we can and to build greater resiliency against those where we can’t. Twenty years from now, this could be all that we’re talking about.
By JIM ROBBINS Helena, Montana NY Times Opinion Published: April 11, 2012
TREES are on the front lines of our changing climate. And when the oldest trees in the world suddenly start dying, it’s time to pay attention. North America’s ancient alpine bristlecone forests are falling victim to a voracious beetle and an Asian fungus. In Texas, a prolonged drought killed more than five million urban shade trees last year and an additional half-billion trees in parks and forests. In the Amazon, two severe droughts have killed billions more.
The common factor has been hotter, drier weather. We have underestimated the importance of trees. They are not merely pleasant sources of shade but a potentially major answer to some of our most pressing environmental problems. We take them for granted, but they are a near miracle. In a bit of natural alchemy called photosynthesis, for example, trees turn one of the seemingly most insubstantial things of all — sunlight — into food for insects, wildlife and people, and use it to create shade, beauty and wood for fuel, furniture and homes. For all of that, the unbroken forest that once covered much of the continent is now shot through with holes. …A big question is, which trees should we be planting? Ten years ago, I met a shade tree farmer named David Milarch, a co-founder of the Champion Tree Project who has been cloning some of the world’s oldest and largest trees to protect their genetics, from California redwoods to the oaks of Ireland. “These are the supertrees, and they have stood the test of time,” he says. Science doesn’t know if these genes will be important on a warmer planet, but an old proverb seems apt. “When is the best time to plant a tree?” The answer: “Twenty years ago. The second-best time? Today.”
- 3. OIL SPILLS AND RELATED
Photos document oil still contaminates ‘cleaned’ Louisiana marshes
Wetland areas in north Barataria Bay and the Pass a Loutre Wildlife Management Area at the mouth of the Mississippi River continue to show signs of oil that state officials say is from the BP oil spill, according to photos posted on Flickr by the state Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority. More
Shell deploys vessel to investigate oil sheen in Gulf of Mexico
By Steven Mufson, Published: April 11
A one-by-10-mile oil sheen has appeared in the Gulf of Mexico, and Shell Oil, one of several companies operating in the area, said it has “activated” a vessel with skimming and boom capabilities.
3,000 dolphins found dead on Peruvian beaches
Fox News Latino
So far in 2011, some 3,000 dead dolphins have washed up on the beaches in the northern Peruvian region of Lambayaque, supposedly having died from the effects of petroleum exploitation in the area. According to the science director for the Scientific Organization for Conservation of Aquatic Animals, the deaths of the oceanic mammals was due to a “marine bubble,” an acoustic pocket that forms as a result of using equipment to explore for petroleum below the seabed. More
Insurance Giant Lloyd’s of London Warns Of ‘Unique And Hard-To-Manage Risk’ Of Arctic Ocean Oil Drilling
Posted: 12 Apr 2012 08:57 AM PDT by Kiley Kroh and Michael Conathan
….. Lloyd’s of London, a large UK-based insurance pool, issued a report today outlining the severe environmental and economic risk of oil and gas drilling in Arctic waters. The stunning report comes as Royal Dutch Shell prepares for exploratory drilling operations in the Arctic – even while leading experts warn that there’s virtually no infrastructure in place to clean up an oil spill in the fragile region….
Gulf Coast Residents Say BP Oil Spill Changed Their Environmental Views
April 12, 2012 — Researchers have found that residents of Louisiana and Florida most acutely and directly affected by the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster — the largest marine oil spill in U.S. history — said they … > full story
- 4. POLICY
Western states prepare for dangerous fire season
REMA RAHMAN, Associated Press, 04/12/12
(04-12) 13:09 PDT DENVER (AP) — The West’s 2012 wildfire season exploded in earnest last month with a wind-whipped blaze that killed three people in rugged alpine canyon country near Denver. It took a 700-strong federal firefighting team a week of labor…
Push launched to keep Silicon Valley above water
Associated Press, 04/12/12
(04-12) 13:51 PDT San Francisco (AP) — Business leaders and Sen. Dianne Feinstein are launching a $1 billion fundraising effort designed to prevent some of Silicon Valley’s leading technology companies from going underwater — literally. The corporate campuses of Facebook, Google and other high-tech ventures sit on land that once was part of San Francisco Bay.
Planners say those sites and thousands of homes are at risk of catastrophic flooding due to a climate change-fueled sea level rise. For protection, Feinstein is joining a coalition of business groups on Thursday to discuss replacing the century-old levees that contain the bay’s tidal waters with a stronger levee system. Steve McCormick, president of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, says the coalition anticipates that half of the money for the project would come from the federal government and another quarter from the state.
Geo-engineering ‘a risk’ in climate change battle
April 10, 2012 ATTEMPTS to slow down climate change by large-scale geo-engineering present ”serious risks” and are unlikely to replace the need to cut greenhouse gas emissions, Australia’s chief scientist has warned. In an overview of schemes proposed by scientists, researchers at the Office of the Chief Scientist say the main methods of planetary-scale engineering would confront big problems with technical feasibility, political co-operation and cost. But research should be pursued in the hope of developing last-ditch methods to slow climate change. ”Given the difficulty in implementing global action to reduce CO2 emissions from human activities and their continued growth, geo-engineering is one possible approach to combat global warming,” it said. ”Geo-engineering would not moderate all the effects of rising emissions, and will introduce its own risks and uncertainties. ”Humans already play a role in dictating the Earth’s climate by adding greenhouse gases to the atmosphere – raising carbon dioxide levels by about 40 per cent since the Industrial Revolution – and by clearing forests to reduce the amount of carbon the land absorbs. But the deliberate management of global climate is still confined to theory, backed by a few small-scale experiments. The report divides geo-engineering solutions to climate change into two basic types – plans to suck carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and plans to block some of the sun’s heat before it gets here. They include fertilising the oceans with iron filings, to stimulate the growth of algae, which absorbs CO2 and then sinks to the ocean floor, and sowing the atmosphere with sulphates, which deflect some of the sun’s rays away from Earth…. The findings of the Australian report are similar to those of recent studies undertaken by Britain’s Royal Society and the US Task Force on Climate Remediation Research.
Arizona: Rural communities criticize cuts to state water grant program
The Gila River usually gurgles peacefully along Larry Barney’s ranch in eastern Arizona. In 2005 floodwaters breached a 10ft levee and gushed over his fields, stripping away topsoil…
India says EU tax a ‘deal breaker’ for climate talks
New York Daily News – April 12 2012
India’s environment minister Jayanthi Natarajan said that the European Union tax scheme, which will charge airlines for carbon emissions, was a deal breaker in climate talks.
Tennessee Enacts ‘Monkey Bill’ To Dumb Down Kids In Biology And Physics, Undermine Their Future
By Joe Romm on Apr 11, 2012 at 12:20 pm
Two years after state hit by warming-enhanced 1000-year deluge, bill to ‘teach the controversy’ on evolution and global warming becomes law. On Tuesday, Tennessee adopted a law “to prevent school administrators from reining in teachers who expound on alternative hypotheses” to the scientific theories of evolution and climate change.
The National Center for Science Education has said of the primary alternative to evolution — creationism — that “students who accept this material as scientifically valid are unlikely to succeed in science courses at the college level.” I suppose this is some form of natural selection, then, as Tennessee encourages the disinforming of its kids in two of the most important areas they will need to thrive in the 21st century — thrive economically in a world of global competitors who don’t teach anti-science disinformation to their kids and, of course, thrive literally in a world where a livable climate is being destroyed by man-made global warming and a man-made disinformation campaign to delay action. Ironically, the bill was enacted two years after one of the epic extreme weather events in U.S. recorded history devastated one of America’s great cities (see “The Tennessee deluge of 2010: Nashville’s ‘Katrina’ and the dawn of the superflood“).The status quo media barely told the story of Nashville’s Katrina (let alone its link to human-caused climate change), so you may not remember this superstorm unless you are a regular Climate Progress reader. But this one was way off the charts.
Pro-Oil Outside Groups Spend More Than $16 Million On Energy Attack Ads Since January Posted: 12 Apr 2012 06:44 AM PDT
A handful of outside groups, fueled by oil and coal dollars, are committing tens of millions to propel Big Oil to the forefront of the 2012 elections — outspending the Obama campaign on political energy ads by an overwhelming amount. In the first three-and-a-half months of 2012, groups including Americans for Prosperity, American Petroleum Institute, Crossroads GPS, and American Energy Alliance have spent $16,750,000 on energy attack ads. The total amounts to more than $56 million, including the American Clean Coal Coalition’s pledge of $40 million on ads promoting coal. According to a Think Progress analysis, there have been at least $16,750,000 worth in dirty energy ad buys since January…
Chu: Climate change evidence mounting
By Ben Geman – 04/11/12 04:04 PM ET Energy Secretary Steven Chu said Wednesday that scientific evidence of climate change is getting more and more powerful, comments that come as global warming legislation remains moribund in Congress and Environmental Protection regulations are facing ongoing GOP assaults.
April 12, 2012, 12:00 pm
On Astronauts, NASA, and Climate ConcernsBy ANDREW C. REVKIN
….Eric Berger of the Houston Chronicle has weighed in with an excellent post on the letter, noting that none of the complainants are climate scientists; that NASA’s position as an agency reflects the brunt of science pointing to a human-heated planet…..
49 former NASA scientists go ballistic over agency’s bias over climate change
Business Insider Apr 11, 2012 – 11:56 AM ET | Last Updated: Apr 11, 2012 12:29 PM ET
Some prominent voices at NASA are fed up with the agency’s activist stance toward climate change. 49 former NASA scientists and astronauts sent the following letter asking the agency to move away from climate models and to limit its stance to what can be empirically proven. The letter criticizes the Goddard Institute For Space Studies especially, where director Jim Hansen and climatologist Gavin Schmidt have been outspoken advocates for action.
The press release with attached letter is below….
Gallup: Public Understanding Of Climate Science Continues Rebounding
Posted: 12 Apr 2012 09:32 AM PDT
- 5. RESOURCES
Washington Connected Landscapes Project: Analysis of the Columbia Plateau Ecoregion” by the Washington Wildlife Habitat Connectivity Working Group (WHCWG) is available at: <http://waconnected.org/columbia-plateau-ecoregion/>.
We have posted an executive summary and the main document which includes introductory materials, methods, results, an overview of important areas for connectivity, and future work. We are also beginning to post appendices. We have 11 focal species appendices: Sharp-tailed Grouse, Greater Sage-Grouse, black-tailed jackrabbit, white-tailed jackrabbit, Townsend’s ground squirrel, Washington ground squirrel, least chipmunk, mule deer, Western rattlesnake, beaver, and tiger salamander. … Modeling results within the appendices include a series of maps: (1) species movement resistance across the Columbia Plateau, (2) habitat, (3) habitat concentration areas and cost-weighted distances from these areas, (4) least-cost path, and cost-weighted distance interpretive maps, and (5) linkage zones. Additional appendices will provide modeling values and interpretive data, GIS data layer background, and focal species selection background. GIS data layers resulting from this project will be posted as well by fall 2012.
The NOAA Ocean Acidification Program Office has been working with the University of Washington and the Integrated Ocean Observing System (IOOS) Regional Association, the Northwest Association of Networked Ocean Observing Systems (NA-NOOS), to convene two invitational workshops in 2012, one on integrating ocean acidification (OA) data management for the nation, and one on defining a global network for OA monitoring. Libby Jewett (NOAA OA), Dick Feely (NOAA PMEL), and Jan Newton (UW & NANOOS) are working with others to plan and conduct these two workshops.
The OA data management workshop was held March 13-15, 2012 in Seattle, WA, and hosted representatives from NOAA National Oceanographic Data Center (NODC), NOAA Fisheries, Observation and Modeling groups, IOOS, the NSF-funded Biological and Chemical Oceanography Data Management Office (BCO-DMO), the NSF-funded Ocean Observatories Initiative (OOI), NASA, the Ocean Biogeographic Information System (OBIS) USA, USGS, the DOE Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center (CDIAC), OceanSITES, and various investigators involved in observations, experiments, modeling, and satellite research. The goal of the workshop was to establish a framework for the handling of ocean acidification data that makes it possible for users to locate, understand and utilize relevant data in support of scientific research and resource management. Outcomes will include a shared vision for integrated OA data management and an initial OA Integrated Data Management Plan with an emphasis on near-term (2-year) goals. The OA monitoring workshop will be held June 26-28, 2012 in Seattle, WA, and will include representatives from around the world. The principal goals of this international workshop are to: (1) design the components and locations of an international ocean acidification observing network that includes repeat hydrographic surveys, underway measurements on volunteer observing ships, moorings, floats, and gliders, leveraging existing networks and programs wherever possible; (2) identify measurement parameters and performance metrics for each major component of the observing system; and (3) develop a strategy for data quality assurance and distribution. The results of both workshops will be summarized in future editions of this newsletter. In the meantime, for more information, please contact Jan Newton.
Jan Newton (University of Washington), OCB NEWS, Winter 2012. Newsletter.
NASA Releases Mesmerizing Animations Of Ocean Currents
By Stephen Lacey on Apr 11, 2012 at 2:56 pm
With some of the best data on natural systems available, NASA has all the right tools to create stunning pieces of educational art — helping us better visualize how earth and the universe function….Animators at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center recently released a couple animations of ocean surface currents that illustrate how heat patterns and carbon flow through the sea…..
- 6. RENEWABLES AND RELATED
Fish thriving around wind farms (April 10, 2012) — The first Danish study into how one of the worlds largest wind farms affects marine life is now completed. It shows that the wind turbines and the fish live quite happily together. Indeed some species of fish have actually increased in number. … > full story
California: Can a Sustainable Town Be Built From Scratch in the Middle of Nowhere? Travertine Point is a proposed new town that aims to house about 37,000 people, their jobs and the commercial activity to sustain their economy on the northwest shores of the deeply troubled Salton Sea in the Colorado Desert of Southern California. Long-simmering restoration plans are now looking toward development – and even controversial projects like Travertine Point – to help generate some of the likely multi-billion dollar cost of bringing this sea back to life.
Renewable-Energy Investment Plunges in Quarter to Three-Year Low
By Alex Morales on April 12, 2012 Global investment in clean energy dropped to its lowest since the depths of the financial crisis three years ago as the U.S. and European nations cut support for wind and solar projects, Bloomberg New Energy Finance said
Farmers Foil Utilities Using Cell Phones to Access Solar
By Ben Sills, Natalie Obiko Pearson and Stefan Nicola – Apr 11, 2012 4:01 PM PT From the poorest parts of Africa and Asia to the most- developed regions in the U.S. and Europe, solar units, small-scale wind and biomass generators promise to extend access to power to more people than ever before. In the developing world, they’re slashing costs in the process…
- 7. OTHER NEWS OF INTEREST
The Greatest Challenge of Our Species
By THOMAS LOVEJOY April 5, 2012 Op-Ed Contributor NY TIMES
In a cavernous London conference center so devoid of life as to seem a film set for “The Matrix,” 3,000 scientists, officials and members of civil society organizations met in the last week of March to consider the state of the planet and what to do about it. The Planet Under Pressure conference is intended to feed directly into the “Rio+20” United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development this coming June, 20 years after the Earth Summit in Rio convened the largest number ever of heads of state and produced, among other things, two international conventions, one for climate change and the other for biological diversity. While it is not as if nothing has been achieved in the interim or that scientific understanding has stood still, it is obvious that new science is not needed to conclude that humanity has failed to act at the scale and with the urgency needed. …
Could ‘advanced’ dinosaurs rule other planets? (April 11, 2012) — New scientific research raises the possibility that advanced versions of T. rex and other dinosaurs — monstrous creatures with the intelligence and cunning of humans — may be the life forms that evolved on other planets in the universe. “We would be better off not meeting them,” concludes the study, which appears in the Journal of the American Chemical Society. … > full story
Matt Damon’s Anti-Fracking Movie, ‘The Promised Land,’ Is Ahead of the Curve
Posted: 11 Apr 2012 10:37 AM PDT
The word’s just come down that Matt Damon’s new movie The Promised Land, which apparently centers around a salesman and a small town, apparently is also about the environmental impact of hydraulic fracturing, and it’s already become a football in the war over the natural gas extraction process. A pro-fracking group is already trying to raise money for a movie of their own off the existence of The Promised Land. And while Damon is well-known as a committed environmentalist, the movie seems likely to be taken as a referendum for how John Krasinski and Dave Eggers, who wrote the script, and Gus Van Sant, who will direct, feel about fracking. All of which is a distraction from the real issue—a lot of our most critical environmental issues and most invasive energy-extraction processes would make for stellar movies and action sequences, and we ought to have more of them….
Endangered Bats Find Sanctuary in Israeli ‘Ghost Bunkers’
A Baby Quantum Internet Was Born Today
Discovery News – April 12, 2012
Years from now it may be said that the quantum Internet was born today. When the baby system matures, it will be able to process unfathomable amounts of data and never be hacked.
Deep sequencing reveals potentially toxic, trade-restricted ingredients in some traditional Chinese medicines (April 12, 2012) — Researchers have used new DNA sequencing technology to reveal the animal and plant composition of traditional Chinese medicines (TCMs). Some of the TCM samples tested contained potentially toxic plant ingredients, allergens, and traces of endangered animals. … > full story
- 8. IMAGES OF THE WEEK