Ecology, Climate Change and Related News Updates July 20, 2012

Ecology, Biodiversity, Climate Change and Related News Updates

July 20, 2012


Highlight of the Week






















Highlight of the Week…. 


  1. 1.     ECOLOGY


PRBO and partners in the news:


Feds to reroute SF Bay ships to protect whales


Scientists studying the carcass of a 47-foot fin whale that washed up on a beach in the Point Reyes National Seashore last month found the creature’s spine and ribs severed, likely from the propeller of one of the huge cargo ships that sail those waters.

There have been many victims of such accidents in recent years as migrating blue, fin and humpback whales have been lured close to California’s shore by plentiful krill, the shrimp-like organisms they eat. All three species are endangered.

Now, after a two-year effort spurred by the uptick in accidents, federal maritime officials have approved a plan to protect whales in and around San Francisco Bay. It includes rerouting shipping traffic and establishing better ways to track whale locations.

The changes crafted by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, shipping industry representatives, whale researchers and the Coast Guard will likely take effect next year, after a final review by the United Nations International Maritime Organization.

“In 2010 it really struck home when a female blue whale carrying a calf was found dead on the beach,” said Maria Brown, NOAA’s superintendent for the Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary. “And blue whales’ numbers are so small — to lose a female and a new whale coming into the population really sent home the message that we needed to look at the whale strike issue.”…

There are believed to be about 2,000 blue whales in the northeast Pacific, and about 10,000 worldwide. The largest animals on Earth, blue whales can grow up to 90 feet long, still a fraction of the size of cargo ships that can stretch 1,200 feet. There also are about 2,000 fin whales in the northeast Pacific, and about 2,500 humpbacks.

While fin and humpback whales have seen gains in population since the 1990s, the number of blues has declined or remained flat.

How many whales die from collisions each year isn’t known because most accidents go undocumented and whales that are hit often sink. Whale researchers use population models that factor a species’ reproductive rate and its natural mortality to come up with an estimate of how many are likely dying.

In 2010 there were just five confirmed fatal collisions recorded in the area outside San Francisco Bay. But the number of actual strikes of all whale species is likely 10 times higher, Calambokidis said.

PRBO Conservation Science, an environmental research group, conducts annual surveys of whales and other marine life in the sanctuaries around San Francisco Bay. Research director Jaime Jahncke said the number of blue and others whales is four to five times greater than in 2004, increasing the likelihood of ship strike These surveys and other data were used to help map the new shipping lanes by showing vessel owners and federal officials where the whale grounds and shipping lanes were overlapping.

There currently are three shipping lanes coming in and out of San Francisco Bay.

The westbound shipping lane currently ends at the relatively shallow continental shelf, where ships disperse. The new westbound lane would extend three miles past the continental shelf, and contain traffic to a defined area over the whale feeding grounds. The new northbound lane would also be extended miles beyond the shelf, keeping vessels sailing in a straight line for a longer time, rather than allowing them to disperse where the whales congregate….




How to make global fisheries worth five times more (July 13, 2012) — Rebuilding global fisheries would make them five times more valuable while improving ecology, according to a new University of British Columbia study, published July 13 in the online journal PLoS ONE. By reducing the size of the global fishing fleet, eliminating harmful government subsidies, and putting in place effective management systems, global fisheries would be worth US$54 billion each year, rather than losing US$13 billion per year. “Global fisheries are not living up to their economic potential in part because governments keep them afloat by subsidizing unprofitable large scale fishing fleets with taxpayer money,” says study lead author Rashid Sumaila, a fisheries economist and director of the UBC Fisheries Centre. “This is like sinking money into a series of small, cosmetic fixes in an old home rather than investing in a complete, well thought-out renovation that boosts the home’s value.”. … > full story


Green plants reduce city street pollution up to eight times more than previously believed (July 18, 2012) — Trees, bushes and other greenery growing in the concrete-and-glass canyons of cities can reduce levels of two of the most worrisome air pollutants by eight times more than previously believed, a new study has found. … > full story


Environmental concerns increasing infectious disease in amphibians, other animals (July 18, 2012) — Climate change, habitat destruction, pollution and invasive species are all involved in the global crisis of amphibian declines and extinctions, researchers suggest in a new analysis, but increasingly these forces are causing actual mortality in the form of infectious disease. … > full story



Poisons on public lands put wildlife at risk (July 13, 2012) — Rat poison used on illegal marijuana farms may be sickening and killing the fisher, a rare forest carnivore that makes its home in some of the most remote areas of California, according to veterinary scientists. … > full story



What we know and don’t know about Earth’s missing biodiversity (July 17, 2012) — Most of the world’s species are still unknown to science although many researchers grappled to address the question of how many species there are on Earth over the recent decades. Estimates of non-microbial diversity on Earth provided by researchers range from 2 million to over 50 million species, with great uncertainties in numbers of insects, fungi, nematodes, and deep-sea organisms. … > full story

Gas from pollutants, forest fires at potentially toxic levels (July 16, 2012) — Forest fires and emission of air pollutants, which include fumes from vehicles running on diesel and slow burning of coal and charcoal, release isocyanic acid in the troposphere. In 2011, scientists first detected isocyanic acid in the ambient atmosphere at levels that are toxic to human populations; at concentrations exceeding 1 parts-per-billion by volume (ppbv), human beings could experience tissue decay when exposed to the toxin. … > full story


The Ecology of Disease

By JIM ROBBINS NY Times Published: July 14, 2012 114 Comments

THERE’S a term biologists and economists use these days — ecosystem services — which refers to the many ways nature supports the human endeavor. Forests filter the water we drink, for example, and birds and bees pollinate crops, both of which have substantial economic as well as biological value.

Hot Spots for Emerging Diseases

If we fail to understand and take care of the natural world, it can cause a breakdown of these systems and come back to haunt us in ways we know little about. A critical example is a developing model of infectious disease that shows that most epidemics — AIDS, Ebola, West Nile, SARS, Lyme disease and hundreds more that have occurred over the last several decades — don’t just happen. They are a result of things people do to nature. Disease, it turns out, is largely an environmental issue. Sixty percent of emerging infectious diseases that affect humans are zoonotic — they originate in animals. And more than two-thirds of those originate in wildlife.

Teams of veterinarians and conservation biologists are in the midst of a global effort with medical doctors and epidemiologists to understand the “ecology of disease.” It is part of a project called Predict, which is financed by the United States Agency for International Development. Experts are trying to figure out, based on how people alter the landscape — with a new farm or road, for example — where the next diseases are likely to spill over into humans and how to spot them when they do emerge, before they can spread. They are gathering blood, saliva and other samples from high-risk wildlife species to create a library of viruses so that if one does infect humans, it can be more quickly identified. And they are studying ways of managing forests, wildlife and livestock to prevent diseases from leaving the woods and becoming the next pandemic.

It isn’t only a public health issue, but an economic one. The World Bank has estimated that a severe influenza pandemic, for example, could cost the world economy $3 trillion.

The problem is exacerbated by how livestock are kept in poor countries, which can magnify diseases borne by wild animals. A study released earlier this month by the International Livestock Research Institute found that more than two million people a year are killed by diseases that spread to humans from wild and domestic animals.



Mill Fire expected to be contained next week Ukiah Daily Journal, 7/13/12
The Mill Fire in the Mendocino National Forest grew to more than 18,000 acres Thursday, and firefighters battled to stop its spread, especially on its eastern edge.” Firefighters from the “U.S. Forest Service, the National Park Service and the Bureau of Land Management are working alongside crews from the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection and local agencies to fight the Mill Fire, which started nearly a week ago on July 7.


Largest ancient dam built by Maya in Central America (July 16, 2012) — Archeologists have identified the largest ancient dam built by the Maya in Central America. They reveal new details about sustainable water and land management among the ancient Maya. … > full story

Rodent robbers good for tropical trees (July 16, 2012) — A groundbreaking yearlong study in Panama suggests that squirrel-like agoutis have taken on the seed-spreading role of extinct mastodons and other elephant-like creatures, helping the black palm tree survive in the rainforest. … > full story


First ever videos of snow leopard mother and cubs in dens recorded in Mongolia (July 12, 2012) — For the first time, the den sites of two female snow leopards and their cubs have been located in Mongolia’s Tost Mountains, with the first known videos taken of a mother and cubs, located and recorded. … > full story


Solomon Islands ‘launders’ exotic birds

BBC News – ‎ July 17, 2012‎

The Solomon Islands is exporting thousands of wild birds each year claiming they are captive-bred, concludes an investigation by wildlife trade experts.



A World Without Coral Reefs

By ROGER BRADBURY Published: July 13, 2012 NY Times opinion

Canberra, Australia  ….”IT’S past time to tell the truth about the state of the world’s coral reefs, the nurseries of tropical coastal fish stocks. They have become zombie ecosystems, neither dead nor truly alive in any functional sense, and on a trajectory to collapse within a human generation. There will be remnants here and there, but the global coral reef ecosystem — with its storehouse of biodiversity and fisheries supporting millions of the world’s poor — will cease to be….



50000 wild birds smuggled through Solomons: group

Phys.Org – ‎ July 18, 2012

More than 54000 wild birds, including critically endangered species, were laundered through the Solomon islands into the global wildlife trade between 2000 and 2010, a wildlife group said Tuesday.


Promiscuous squid fatigued after mating (July 18, 2012) — In order to pass on their genes, southern dumpling squid engage in up to three hours of mating with each partner, but researchers have found that this results in a reduced ability to swim for up to 30 minutes afterwards. … > full story








Record Amount of Arctic Sea Ice Melted in June, Plus Amazing Video Of Greenland Ice Melt

Posted: 15 Jul 2012 09:20 AM PDT

Andrew Freedman, via Climate Central

The Arctic melt season is well underway, and sea ice extent — a key indicator of global warming — declined rapidly during June, setting a record for the largest June sea ice loss in the satellite era. Sea ice extent is currently running just below the level seen at the same time in 2007, the year that set the record for the lowest sea ice minimum in the satellite era.

stated….During June, the Arctic lost a record total of about 1.1 million square miles of ice — an area about as large as the combined land area of Alaska, California, Florida, and Texas. At the end of the month, Arctic sea ice extent was 456,000 square miles below the 1979-to-2000 average. The past three years have seen the lowest June ice extents on record, and this year, sea ice loss is running about three weeks ahead of schedule. The ice extent recorded for June 30 would normally be expected on July 21, based on the 1979-2000 average, the NSIDC said….



Widespread Drought Is Likely to Worsen

By JOHN ELIGON Published: July 19, 2012

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The drought that has settled over more than half of the continental United States this summer is the most widespread in more than half a century. And it is likely to grow worse.



Joe Romm Testimony For House Hearing On Bark Beetles, Drought And Wildfires

By Joe Romm on Jul 20, 2012 at 9:43 amYou can watch the testimony live on CSPAN 2 here.

Oral Testimony of Joseph J. Romm

Mr. Chairman, members of the Committee. Thank you for inviting me to testify.

Four score and seven years ago our grandfathers and grandmothers were enjoying life in the roaring 20s.  Now imagine you are in Congress back then and imagine that the nation’s leading scientists are warning that human activity – years of bad land management practices – has left our topsoil vulnerable to the forces of the wind. And that the next time a major drought hits, much of our farmland will turn to dust. Dust in the wind. YOU WOULD TAKE ACTION…..


Scientists connect seawater chemistry with ancient climate change and evolution (July 19, 2012) — Humans get most of the blame for climate change with little attention paid to the contribution of other natural forces. Now, scientists are shedding light on one potential cause of the cooling trend of the past 45 million years that has everything to do with the chemistry of the world’s oceans. … > full story


Global warming harms lakes (July 16, 2012) — Global warming affects lakes. Based on the example of Lake Zurich, researchers have demonstrated that there is insufficient water turnover in the lake during the winter and harmful Burgundy blood algae are increasingly thriving. The warmer temperatures are thus compromising the successful lake clean-ups of recent decades.   … > full story


Forest Feedback: Rising CO2 In Atmosphere Also Speeds Carbon Loss From Forest Soils, Research Finds  Posted: 15 Jul 2012 07:37 AM PDT

Underappreciated player in carbon storage should be included in global change models, researcher says

Indiana University news release. Study here   Elevated levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide accelerate carbon cycling and soil carbon loss in forests, new research led by an Indiana University biologist has found.  The new evidence supports an emerging view that although forests remove a substantial amount of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, much of the carbon is being stored in living woody biomass rather than as dead organic matter in soils.

Richard P. Phillips, lead author on the paper and an assistant professor of biology in the IU College of Arts and Sciences, said …“It’s been suggested that as trees take up more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, a greater amount of carbon will go to roots and fungi to acquire nutrients, but our results show that little of this carbon accumulates in soil because the decomposition of root and fungal detritus is also increased,” he said.Carbon stored in soils, as opposed to in the wood of trees, is desirable from a management perspective in that soils are more stable over time, so carbon can be locked away for hundreds to thousands of years and not contribute to atmospheric carbon dioxide increases…..The authors also report that nitrogen cycled faster in this forest as the demand for nutrients by trees and microbes became greater under elevated CO2….



Rain ‘almost apocalyptic’ for wildlife, says National Trust

15 July 2012 Last updated at 20:02 ET


Puffins have drowned in their burrows after relentless wet weather


The UK’s recent rainy weather has been “almost apocalyptic” for some wildlife in 2012, the National Trust has said. Cold, wet conditions have left many bees, bats, birds, butterflies and wildflowers struggling – with next year looking bleak too, it said. But the National Trust pointed to some of wildlife’s winners, including slugs and snails, which have managed to thrive in the inclement weather.

The news comes after the wettest April-June on record, and heavy rain in July.

The rain has been good for the UK’s greenery, with gardeners tackling fast-growing lawns and the countryside booming with nettles, bracken and brambles, the National Trust said.

Mosses and plants such as early gentian and bee orchids, and twayblade, pyramidal and common spotted orchids have been thriving along the trackways of Whipsnade Downs in Bedfordshire.

But Matthew Oates, the trust’s conservation adviser warned that the list of wet weather losers was far longer, and could lead to local extinctions of rare or isolated species, including butterflies.

Puffins drowned

The breeding season has been particularly catastrophic, with sea birds being blown off cliffs by gales and garden birds unable to find food for their young.

Adult terns nesting in Strangford Lough, in Northern Ireland, have struggled to keep eggs and chicks dry and warm – potentially wiping out common, Arctic and Sandwich tern fledglings from the site this year.

Relentless wet weather has also devastated puffin colonies on the Farne Islands – which are managed by the National Trust – with 90% of burrows lost on Brownsman Island, and puffins drowned in about half of burrows left flooded on other islands.

Meanwhile, bats have been hit by the cold conditions, particularly lesser and greater horseshoe bats – leading to a slow-down of pregnancies.

Bat pups could be in danger of being born underweight, failing to grow enough to go into hibernation as mothers struggle to provide enough nutrition, Mr Oates warned.

Heavy rain has also left butterflies, bees, bumblebees, hoverflies and moths scarce this summer.

After a dry start to the year helped amphibians to breed, the April downpours filled dry ponds with water which was too cold for frogs, newts and toads.

And it is not just birds and animals that have suffered in the adverse weather.

Delicate summer flowers have died in the deluge, although fields where agricultural spraying has failed in the rain have seen large displays of poppies.

Mr Oates said: “This is turning out to be an almost apocalyptic summer for most of our much-loved wildlife – birds, butterflies, bees.

“So much so that the prospects for many of these in 2013 are bleak. Our wildlife desperately needs some sustained sunshine, particularly beneficial insects.”

Insects have also been in decline after two years of poor weather, and a better summer next year is important to rebuild populations, he added.

“We desperately need the sun on our backs.”


Soil moisture and hot days examined globally (July 17, 2012) — For the first time, scientists in Switzerland have examined globally the connection between soil moisture and extreme heat with measured data. Their study shows that precipitation deficits increase the probability of hot days in many regions of the world. The results will help to better assess heat risks. … > full story


Drought in U.S. reaching levels not seen in 50 years, pushing up crop prices

View Photo Gallery — The drought of 2012: Effects of the drought are growing. Here is a look at the drought and at effects that may cost the U.S. economy $50 billion.

By Peter Whoriskey and Michael A. Fletcher, Published: July 16

A drought gripping the Corn Belt and more than half the United States has reached proportions not seen in more than 50 years, the government reported Monday, jacking up crop prices and threatening to drive up the cost of food. Though agriculture is a small part of the U.S. economy, the shortfall comes as the nation struggles to regain its economic footing. Last week, the Agriculture Department declared more  About 55 percent of the continental United States is now designated as in moderate drought or worse, the largest percentage since December 1956, according to the National Climatic Data Center, and the outlook is grim.

Glacier break creates ice island twice size of Manhattan (July 17, 2012) — An ice island twice the size of Manhattan has broken off from Greenland’s Petermann Glacier, according to researchers. This marks the second massive break in two years. … > full story

Glacial Change Ain’t What It Used To Be: Petermann Calves Another Huge Chunk of Greenland IcePosted: 16 Jul 2012 03:14 PM PDT

Petermann Glacier has calved another gigantic ice island, larger than twice the size of Manhattan, not quite as large as the calving of two years ago. A study this month found that the melting of the Greenland Ice Sheet is nearing a critical tipping point.”

by Neven, via the Arctic Sea Ice Blog

This second big calving (spotted this time by Arcticicelost80) is another spectacular event on Greenland, after retreats of the Jakobshavn Glacier and lowest reflectivity of the Greenland ice sheet on record (see blog post), leading to unprecedented flooding in the southwest of Greenland….

No evidence of polar warming during penultimate interglacial (July 16, 2012) — The Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC), driven by temperature and salinity gradients, is an important component of the climate system; it transfers an enormous amount of heat via ocean currents and atmospheric circulation to high northern latitudes and hence has bearing on climate in the region. … > full story


NOAA: June global temperatures fourth highest on record

Arctic lost record amount of ice during June

According to NOAA scientists, the globally-averaged temperature for June 2012 marked the fourth warmest June since record keeping began in 1880. It also marks the 36th consecutive June and 328th consecutive month with a global temperature above the 20th century average.

NOAA: June 2012 was 4th warmest on record for the globe. High resolution. (Credit: NOAA Visualization Lab)

Most areas of the world experienced much higher-than-average monthly temperatures, including most of North America and Eurasia, and northern Africa. Only Australia, northern and western Europe, and the northwestern United States were notably cooler than average. In the Arctic, record June sea ice loss occurred, resulting in the second lowest June sea ice extent on record. ENSO (El Niño-Southern Oscillation)-neutral conditions continued in the equatorial Pacific Ocean in June. However, according to NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center, there is an increasing likelihood for the El Niño warm ocean phase to appear by September. In addition to influencing seasonal climate outcomes in the United States, El Niño is often, but not always, associated with higher-than-normal global temperatures. This monthly analysis (summary, full report) from NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center is part of the suite of climate services NOAA provides government, business and community leaders so they can make informed decisions…


Nuclear weapons’ surprising contribution to climate science (July 13, 2012) — Nuclear weapons testing may at first glance appear to have little connection with climate change research. But key Cold War research laboratories and the science used to track radioactivity and model nuclear bomb blasts have today been repurposed by climate scientists. … > full story


Sinking carbon: Researchers publish results of an iron fertilization experiment (July 18, 2012) — Scientists have shown that a substantial proportion of carbon from an induced algal bloom sank to the deep sea floor with iron fertilization, contrary to earlier findings. These results, which were thoroughly analyzed before being published, provide a valuable contribution to our better understanding of the global carbon cycle. … > full story



Record Heat Wave Pushes US Belief in Climate Change to 70%

Businessweek  July 18 2012

In the four months since March there has been a jump in U.S. citizens’ belief that climate change is taking place, especially among independent voters and those in southern states such as Texas, which is now in its second year of record drought



Leaders say climate is changing Native way of life

CBS News – ‎ July 20, 2012‎

WASHINGTON – Native American and Alaska Native leaders told of their villages being under water because of coastal erosion, droughts and more on Thursday during a Senate hearing intended to draw attention to how climate change is affecting tribal








High dolphin deaths in Gulf of Mexico due to oil spill and other environmental factors, study finds (July 19, 2012) — The largest oil spill on open water to date and other environmental factors led to the historically high number of dolphin deaths in the Gulf of Mexico, concludes a two-year scientific study. … > full story


Can fracking pollute water? Study tries to answer Associated Press in San Diego Union-Tribune, 7/11/12  A new study being done by the Department of Energy may provide some of the first solid answers to a controversial question: Can gas drilling fluids migrate and pose a threat to drinking water? A drilling company in southwestern Pennsylvania is giving researchers access to a commercial drilling site,” letting them “conduct baseline tests,” add tracing elements to hydraulic fracturing fluids and monitor the results. “That should let scientists see whether the drilling fluids move upwards or sideways from the Marcellus Shale, which is 8,100 feet deep at that spot.


Fracking’s footprint on Pennsylvania forests (July 16, 2012) — As the natural gas extraction process known as fracking surges across Pennsylvania, scientists are trying to understand what the short- and long-term consequences could be for the state’s forests and watersheds. … > full story



  1. 4.     POLICY



Call for comments on draft Ocean Acidification Strategic Research Plan (Public Comment Period closes Sept 10)


Farm Bill Update: Senate Passes Bill, House Introduces Their Version
In late June, the U.S. Senate passed its version of the 2012 Farm Bill by a vote of 64 to 35, according to the Wildlife Management Institute. It is projected that this legislation would save about $23 billion over the next 10 years when compared to the 2008 Farm Bill.  About $6 billion of that savings will come largely by consolidating 23 conservation programs into 13. While conservation programs sustained significant reductions, many in the conservation community are generally pleased that these programs did not suffer more cuts in the name of federal deficit reduction. Read More >>


Yosemite would expand greatly under bill

San Francisco Chronicle July 18 2012

Yosemite National Park would grow by 1,575 acres under a bill written by a California legislator and backed by local Republicans. The legislation could have a leg up on some of the myriad other national park bills being shopped around Congress. But in an environment where public lands ownership also can push political buttons, advocates have their work cut out for them.

“This is a challenging Congress to move things through,” Laurie Wayburn, president and co-chief executive officer of San Francisco’s Pacific Forest Trust, said Tuesday. She added, though, that “this is one of those rare, common-ground movements. Yosemite has a very special place in Californians’ hearts.” The legislation introduced last month by Rep. Jim Costa, D-Hanford (Kings County), authorizes the National Park Service to expand Yosemite’s western boundary through the addition of several adjacent Mariposa County parcels. The park service could buy the designated land, located near an existing resort development called Yosemite West; in theory, the agency also could accept donated property or acquire it through a land swap. The Pacific Forest Trust currently owns about half of the 1,575 acres covered by the bill, and a consortium of medical professionals owns the other half.

Yosemite currently spans 761,266 acres, ranking it 17th among all parks nationwide…. M



Many Americans entering middle age shrug off climate change — poll

Evan Lehmann, E&E reporter Published: Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Just more than 20 percent of Generation X members are very concerned about climate change, a number that caught one researcher, who expected it to be higher, by surprise.

The age group, which ranges from about 32 to 52 years old, is believed to be one of the best-equipped generations to grasp the complexities of climate change and, perhaps, to do something about it. Its members are more educated in science than any group of Americans to precede them, providing a valuable complement for a generation that came of age as research on rising temperatures was expanding. However, a group of roughly 5,000 Gen-Xers who entered a long-term survey project in 1985, when many of them were in seventh grade, express confusion today about the impacts of greenhouse gases and whether using fossil fuels is causing a problem.  In short, their views are similar to most Americans’. “I guess I was a little bit more optimistic,” Jon Miller, a social science professor at the University of Michigan, said of the results being published today in the Generation X Report….



Boxer introduces Northern California conservation bill Santa Rosa Press Democrat, 7/12/12  The Berryessa Snow Mountain National Conservation Area Act would mandate creation of a single management plan for the land, currently under the split management of three federal agencies, according to an analysis of the bill, introduced Wednesday. The Bureau of Land Management would be the primary administrator of the multi-agency plan but all would remain involved. The management plan would be created with public input, according to the analysis.”



New Report: Interior activities contributed $385 billion to economy, supported over 2 million jobs in FY 2011 Department of the Interior, 7/9/12
From facilitating energy development to managing America’s public lands for tourism and outdoor recreation to assisting Indian tribes with education and economic growth, the activities of the Department of the Interior contributed $385 billion to the U.S. economy and supported more than 2 million jobs in 2011, according to a new report. The Department of the Interior’s Economic Contributions highlights the impacts of the Department’s broad mission.


Will The Epic Drought ‘Darken Obama Reelection Prospects’?

Posted: 14 Jul 2012 12:44 PM PDT

… inspired by a Christian Science Monitor story, and this  stunning map  of US drought conditions:


The story, “Drought threatens to darken Obama reelection prospects,” opines in its sub-hed:

With nearly two-thirds of the US enduring drought conditions, food prices are expected to jump ahead of the November election. That could add to voter anxieties about the economy.

Certainly one of the biggest impacts of warming-driven drought and extreme weather is food insecurity (see “Climate Story of the Year: Warming-Driven Drought and Extreme Weather Emerge as Key Threat to Global Food Security” and links below). And this drought is (almost) as brutal as it gets:


The PDSI [Palmer Drought Severity Index] in the Great Plains during the Dust Bowl apparently spiked very briefly to -6, but otherwise rarely exceeded -3 for the decade (see here). Nearly half the country is now -3 or worse.

If you want to see how these drought indices stack up against the historical record since 1895, click here. For the nation as a whole, the PDSI is in the lowest 1%. Over much of the Midwest is just about the worst drought ever. The Monitor story explains the impact of the current drought on crops:

“Record-setting heat waves that have fueled fires in the Mountain West have also had a dramatic effect on the corn crop at a particularly vulnerable time. Currently, 30 percent of the corn crop in the 18 chief corn-growing states is now in poor condition, up 8 percentage points from a week earlier.”

“In the hottest areas last week, which were generally dry, crop conditions deteriorated quickly,” wrote Rich Tinker, author of the Drought Monitor.

In places like Egypt where, food consumes 40% or more of family income, so a jump in food prices can obviously be devastating — and that certainly can have political impact (see The Economist: “The high cost of food is one reason that protesters took to the streets in Tunisia and Egypt”). Drought would also appear to be having an impact in Syria (see Syria: Climate Change, Drought and Social Unrest).

Americans, however, are more impervious to food price fluctuation from extreme weather because we are the breadbasket of the world and the wholesale price of food is generally a small fraction of the price consumers pay in the market….


Low Water Levels On The Mississippi River A Major Threat To Commerce: ‘This Is Absolutely Not Normal’ Posted: 16 Jul 2012 11:13 AM PDT

Companies operating along the Mississippi River are seeing a drastic cut in business as severe drought lowers water levels and makes shipping increasingly difficult.

The drought, which now covers more than 1,000 counties across the US, has dropped water levels 50 feet below last year’s levels in some places. Last winter’s lack of snow, the absence of any major tropical storms from the Gulf of Mexico, sweltering temperatures, and the lack of rain this spring and summer are to blame for the shallow water. The Mississippi is a major trade conduit through the central U.S. Barges, which are often cheaper to operate than trains or trucks, carry goods such as grain, corn, soybeans, steel, rubber, coffee, fertilizer, coal, and petroleum products in and out of the interior of the country. As the water levels fall, barges have run aground near Vicksburg, Mississippi, where the water is already less than 5 feet deep, and shipping companies have been forced to curtail their business. The Wall Street Journal reports:



Pfizer Refuses To Pull Funding From Anti-Science Front Group, Says $45,000 Grant To Heartland Is ‘Best For Shareholders’Posted: 13 Jul 2012 10:49 AM PDT

After Pfizer Contribution, Heartland Continues Attacks On Climate Science And Tobacco Risks  By Brad Johnson, campaign manager of Forecast the Facts

Despite rising pressure from scientists and doctors, top Pfizer executives defended their affiliation with the Heartland Institute, brushing aside concerns that the group mocks the risks of tobacco smoking and vilifies climate scientists…


Logger reaches record $122.5 million settlement for California wildfire

Reuters‎ – 18-Jul-12  Mary Slosson

Logging company Sierra Pacific Industries agreed to pay the United States $122.5 million in damages to settle a lawsuit over a 2007 wildfire that was among the most devastating in California history, the Department of Justice said on Tuesday.

The settlement is the largest ever received by the United States for damages caused by a wildfire, the so-called Moonlight Fire that charred 65,000 acres in September 2007.

The blaze was sparked by employees of the logging company and a contractor who struck a rock with a bulldozer, prosecutors said, sending sparks into the dry ground on a day the National Weather Service had issued a red flag warning, indicating a high fire danger.

The smoldering fire went unnoticed because the employees skipped a company-required fire patrol, prosecutors said.






  1. 5.   RESOURCES


Climate funding opportunities – attached


Indianapolis Prize Seeks Next Animal Conservation Hero

Nominations for the 2014 Indianapolis Prize Now Open, Close Next February  July 18, 2012

INDIANAPOLIS – Nominations for the 2014 Indianapolis Prize, the world’s leading award for animal conservation, will be accepted from now through February 28, 2013. The $100,000 biennial award is given to an individual animal conservationist who has made significant achievements in advancing sustainability of an animal species or group of species. It represents the largest individual monetary award for animal conservation in the world and is given as an unrestricted gift to the chosen recipient.

Anyone can nominate a candidate for the Indianapolis Prize. To be accepted as a nominee, individuals must have accomplished a personal achievement or series of achievements that have resulted in a demonstrable positive impact on a species or group of species that is likely to improve the species’ likelihood of long-term survival.  For complete guidelines and to learn more about the nominating process, send an email to or call (317) 630-2710. Once your request has been received, a nomination form with instructions will be sent by return email, if applicable.

….The Indianapolis Prize was first awarded in 2006 to Dr. George Archibald, the co-founder of the International Crane Foundation. The 2008 winner was George Schaller, Ph.D., senior conservationist for the Wildlife Conservation Society and Vice President of the Panthera Foundation. In 2010, the Indianapolis Prize was awarded to Iain Douglas-Hamilton, Ph.D., founder of Save the Elephants, who pioneered research in elephant social behavior and established the African elephant bill, the most successful funding program for the species to date.  Past nominees and finalists for the Indianapolis Prize are representative of the most significant conservationists throughout the world. Among the more than 100 outstanding scientists who have been nominated are 2012 nominees Russell Mittermeier, one of the first academic primatologists to become concerned with the sustainability and conservation of primates; Carl Jones, personally credited with the leading role in saving a dozen species from extinction including the Mauritius kestrels, pink pigeons and echo parakeets; and Rodney Jackson, the world’s foremost expert on the mysterious and endangered snow leopard.

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The Indianapolis Prize was initiated by the Indianapolis Zoo as a significant component of its mission to empower people and communities, both locally and globally, to advance animal conservation. This biennial award brings the world’s attention to the cause of animal conservation and the brave, talented and dedicated men and women who spend their lives saving the Earth’s endangered animal species. The recipient also receives the Lilly Medal, an original work of art that signifies the winner’s contributions to conserving some of the world’s most threatened animals. The Indianapolis Prize has received support from the Eli Lilly and Company Foundation since its inception in 2006.


Adapting to Rising Tides (ART) white paper
Addressing Social Vulnerability and Equity in Climate Change Adaptation Planning.” This white paper is the culmination of many months of work and feedback from the ART working group, project staff and equity partners across the San Francisco Bay Area.  It summarizes the available literature and case studies, and describes the approach taken in the ART Project to address equity. Finally, it provides recommendations for integrating equity into planning for sea-level rise. Check out our new webpage on equity and sea level rise!


Global Warming’s Six Americas, March 2012 and November 2011

The final report from our March 2012 survey – which also includes previously unreleased data from our November 2011 survey – is an update on our Global Warming’s Six Americas series (which was last updated in May 2011). The size of the audience segments has remained relatively stable since May 2011, with two exceptions: Disengaged Americans are now only 6% of the adult population (down from 10% last May); and Cautious Americans have increased in size to 29% of the population (up from 24% last May). Another noteworthy change is that, once again (for the first time since Fall 2008), the proportion of Alarmed Americans (13%) has become larger than the proportion of Dismissive Americans (10%).The report can be downloaded here:


Corps of Engineers Releases New National Wetland Plant List
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) recently released a revised National Wetland Plant List (NWPL) for use in determining if the hydrophytic vegetation parameter is met when conducting wetland determinations for compliance with Section 404 of the Clean Water Act. The 2012 NWPL supersedes the National List of Vascular Plant Species that Occur in Wetlands: 1988 National Summary and the 1996 draft revision of the 1988 list. It provides the hydric indicator status (i.e., likelihood of occurrence in a wetland or upland) for over 8,000 plant species.  Click on California and Nevada to find those state’s lists.  The NWPL for each state in the U. S. is available at the USACE’s NWPL website.


New SJV website unveiled!

The Sonoran Joint Venture is excited to announce the unveiling of our new website! Please come take a look around and let us know what you think!
Inauguración del nuevo sitio web del SJV

¡El Sonoran Joint Venture se alegra en anunciar la inauguración de nuestro nuevo sitio web! Le invitamos a echar un vistazo y decirnos qué le parece.


On climate adaptation work in Chula Vista, CA and NYC —

Making Climate Adaptation Work: Planning Around Local Capacities and Constraints.

You can find more information and register for the event at the link below:



·         July 24, 2012: Climate Change and Potential Ecosystem Change in Alaska, The Yukon, and The Northwest Territories

·         July 25, 2012: Modeling Effects of Climate Change on Fisheries: Future Survival of Larval Cod

o   July 26, 2012: RipCur: Smartphone App for Rip Current Reporting

o   July 26, 2012: Communication Tools for Principal Investigators


Restore America’s Estuaries is pleased to announce the availability of scholarships for the 6th National Conference on Coastal and Estuarine Habitat Restoration: Restoring Ecosystems, Strengthening Communities in Tampa, Florida, October 20-24, 2012 –

Scholarships will be awarded based on demonstrated need and geographical location of the recipient. Staff and volunteers of non-profit organizations and students are especially encouraged to apply. Scholarship award amounts may be up to or less than a complimentary registration.  No travel funds will be awarded in 2012.  Conference info at

Program details at


*** Beating the Heat: Effective Approaches to Heat Island Reduction

Date: Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Time: 2:00 PM – 4:00 PM EDT

Reserve your webcast seat now.

The heat island effect can increase summertime energy use, air conditioning costs, air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, heat-related illness and mortality, and reduce water quality. In this webcast:

Learn about the benefits of taking local action to reduce heat islands,

Hear from local governments and organizations about heat island reduction strategies, monitoring and evaluation, and Listen in as cities share lessons learned on how to design and implement effective programs and policies, including cool pavements, shade trees, and cool roofs.


Government Run Amok Cutting Down Millions of Levee Trees – VIDEO-You Tube


The Story of Change just released–from Annie Leonard


Then be sure to share it with everyone you know!

We made The Story of Change to inspire our viewers, Community members and others to step out of the consumer mindset and into our full power as citizens to build a better future.

That’s because too often, when faced with daunting environmental and social problems (say, disruption of the global climate) many of us instinctively flex our power in the only way we know how: as consumers. Plastic garbage choking the oceans? Carry our own shopping bag. Formaldehyde in baby shampoo? Buy the brand with the green seal. Warming planet? Change our lightbulbs.

Without a doubt, those are all good things to do. But the fact is, better shopping isn’t going to change the world. If we really want to build a better future, we have to move beyond voting with our dollars and come together to demand rules that work….







Harmful effects of CFL bulbs to skin; Energy-efficient bulbs safest when placed behind additional glass cover (July 18, 2012) — In a new study, researchers looked into the potential impact of healthy human skin tissue (in vitro) being exposed to ultraviolet rays emitted from compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs. Results revealed significant levels of UVC and UVA, which appeared to originate from cracks in the phosphor coatings, present in all CFL bulbs studied. … > full story


Wind Turbines Waste Much Less Energy Than Fossil Fuels Posted: 15 Jul 2012 05:34 AM PDT by Zoë Casey, via Renewable Energy World

Wind energy opponents who say that producing electricity using the power of the wind is not efficient would do well to take a look at a new graphic published on the Guardian’s data blog using UK Government data. ‘Up in smoke: how energy efficient is electricity produced in the UK?’ shows that thermal sources of electricity – gas, coal, nuclear, waste/biomass, oil and other – lose massive amounts of energy as waste heat, compared to almost 0% for renewables. Gas accounts for 48% of the UK’s electricity supply and, of the 372 Terra-Watt hours of electricity it produces per year, 54% of this is lost as heat. Coal, meanwhile, accounts for 28% producing 297 TWh, loses an even higher proportion – 66%. Nuclear – accounting for 16% of the energy supply with 162 TWh, loses 65% and oil – 3% of the supply with 51 TWh – loses 77%. Contrast these figures with renewable energy – which all together account for 4% of the UK’s electricity supply producing 14 TWh – they lose less than one percent. So, under this measure, renewable energy is 100% efficient.



Wind farm called threat to condors Courthouse News Service, 7/6/12
California illegally approved a giant wind farm in the Tehachapi Mountains that will kill California condors and golden eagles, environmentalists claim in Kern County Court …. The wind farm at issue includes the North Sky River and Jawbone Wind energy projects, which stretch across a combined 13,353 acres of windy desert roughly 200 miles north of Los Angeles …. Some of the project land is public, owned by the Bureau of Land Management. The privately held land belongs to North Sky River Landholdings, a subsidiary of NextEra Energy, which owns around 100 wind farms throughout the state.





100 miles of trails: Redding paves way to outdoor recreation Redding Record Searchlight, 7/7/12 More than 100 miles of trails have been developed in and just beyond Redding in the past 30 years, many emerging since 2000 …. Trails are being linked to each other and to neighborhoods. Connections also are being made between Redding’s trails and the city’s identity and economic viability …. It’s been a collaborative effort. Redding, Shasta County, Bureau of Land Management, McConnell Foundation, Redding Foundation, Whiskeytown, Bureau of Reclamation and others have been involved.


Global health impacts of the Fukushima nuclear disaster (July 17, 2012) — In the first detailed analysis of the global health effects of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant disaster, researchers estimate the number of deaths and cases of cancer worldwide resulting from the release of radiation. … > full story



Now your smartphone can help you find the ol’ swimming hole Stockton Record, 7/9/12
In the past year, “tens of thousands of people a month” have used the Sierra Nevada Geotourism Mapguide — which lists 1,400 locations,” including the Electra white-water run on the Mokelumne River and sites “known mostly to locals.”Jim Eicher, associate field manager for the BLM’s Mother Lode field office, said “that in the past decade, many outdoor enthusiasts have become sophisticated users of online data such as specialized websites showing river flows important to kayakers.” The guide now offers a new app, for iPhone and Android.


Meet the Author Jack Gibson  Thursday, July 26, 7:00 pm 
Book Passage 51 Tamal Vista Blvd., Corte Madera, CA    

 Author and MMWD Director Jack Gibson will share some of his favorite stories from MMWD’s 100 years of history at this special event and sign books purchased at the event. Proceeds from book sales benefit the Mt. Tamalpais Watershed. Refreshments served.      On April 25, 1912, MMWD received its charter as the first municipal water district in California. Today, MMWD serves 185,000 people in a 147-square-mile area of Marin County. MMWD’s mission is to manage its natural resources in a sustainable manner and to provide customers with reliable, high quality water at a reasonable price.

Lack of Exercise as Deadly as Smoking, Study Finds

By Alice Park | @aliceparkny | July 18, 2012 | + TIME – ‎When it comes to being couch potatoes, Americans aren’t alone. Physical inactivity has become a global pandemic, say researchers in a series of related papers published in the journal Lancet…..


Melanoma treatment shows promise at UCSF– Stephanie M. Lee San Francisco Chronicle July 18 2012 The mole, a quarter-inch in diameter, had always marked David Amoroso‘s forehead. But under the sun’s glare, it grew dark and jagged. By last spring, it had ballooned into a late-stage melanoma tumor. Plagued with the deadliest form of skin cancer, the olive-skinned retired construction worker could have gone with the conventional route of drugs. But he feared they would have made him sick. Instead, the 72-year-old Woodside resident chose a treatment being tested in a small clinical trial by UCSF researchers. The procedure, called electroimmunotherapy, sends electric forces deep into the skin to eradicate melanoma tumors. In his stage of melanoma, Amoroso has a 24 percent chance of living to see the next decade. Had he reached the next stage, metastatic melanoma, his chance of survival would have been reduced to 10 to 15 percent.

Since he started in the study in March, electroimmunotherapy has seemingly zapped all but two of the six cancerous lumps that are evident.  “The fact that four tumors are gone,” he said, “to me, seems successful.” Preliminary results from the approach, also known as electroporation, suggest patients have a reason for hope, say scientists on the project. Other scientists agree, but note the treatment is designed to attack only known tumors and may be most effective with other melanoma drugs that have either recently been approved or are being tested…
Melanoma patient: Protect skin from sun

Stephanie M. Lee

Updated 07:39 a.m., Wednesday, July 18, 2012






How exercise improves heart function in diabetics (July 17, 2012) — A detailed study of heart muscle function in mice has uncovered evidence to explain why exercise is for heart function in type 2 diabetes. The research team found that greater amounts of fatty acids used by the heart during stressful conditions like exercise can counteract the detrimental effects of excess glucose and improve the diabetic heart’s pumping ability in several ways. The findings also shed light on the complex chain of events that lead to diabetic cardiomyopathy, a form of heart failure that is a life-threatening complication of type 2 diabetes. … > full story


Five-second rule has plenty of bugs, says expert (July 18, 2012) — Dropped grill items, ice cream cones that topple, pacifiers that fit the floor — most of us have employed the five-second rule at some point to salvage a lost item. An infection disease expert takes five on the five-second rule. … > full story




  1. 8.     IMAGES OF THE WEEK


Illustrating The Explosion Of Daily High Temperature Records

Posted: 17 Jul 2012 08:48 AM PDT


The shifting odds in favor of more daily record high temperatures being set compared to daily record low temperatures. Click on the image for a larger version. Credit: Climate Central.

by Andrew Freedman, via Climate Central




Northern Hemisphere June snow cover anomalies, showing the record low in 2012. Credit: NSIDC.











Ellie Cohen, President and CEO

PRBO Conservation Science

3820 Cypress Drive, Suite 11

Petaluma, CA 94954


707-781-2555, ext. 318  |  Please follow PRBO on Facebook!

PRBO conserves birds, other wildlife and ecosystems through innovative scientific research and outreach.


Ecology, Climate Change and Related News August 17, 2012


Ecology, Biodiversity, Climate Change and Related News Updates

August 17, 2012


News of the Week–   Hundred Year Forecast: Drought

























Highlight of the Week…. 





Chronic 2000-04 drought, worst in 800 years, may be the ‘new normal’

ScienceDaily (July 29, 2012) — The chronic drought that hit western North America warming, a group of 10 researchers reported July 29 in Nature Geoscience. The lead author was Christopher Schwalm at Northern Arizona University.


Hundred-Year Forecast: Drought


[about their NATURE publication:]


BY many measurements, this summer’s drought is one for the record books. But so was last year’s drought in the South Central states. And it has been only a decade since an extreme five-year drought hit the American West. Widespread annual droughts, once a rare calamity, have become more frequent and are set to become the “new normal.”


Until recently, many scientists spoke of climate change mainly as a “threat,” sometime in the future. But it is increasingly clear that we already live in the era of human-induced climate change, with a growing frequency of weather and climate extremes like heat waves, droughts, floods and fires.


Future precipitation trends, based on climate model projections for the coming fifth assessment from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, indicate that droughts of this length and severity will be commonplace through the end of the century unless human-induced carbon emissions are significantly reduced. Indeed, assuming business as usual, each of the next 80 years in the American West is expected to see less rainfall than the average of the five years of the drought that hit the region from 2000 to 2004.


That extreme drought (which we have analyzed in a new study in the journal Nature-Geoscience) had profound consequences for carbon sequestration, agricultural productivity and water resources: plants, for example, took in only half the carbon dioxide they do normally, thanks to a drought-induced drop in photosynthesis.


In the drought’s worst year, Western crop yields were down by 13 percent, with many local cases of complete crop failure. Major river basins showed 5 percent to 50 percent reductions in flow. These reductions persisted up to three years after the drought ended, because the lakes and reservoirs that feed them needed several years of average rainfall to return to predrought levels.


In terms of severity and geographic extent, the 2000-4 drought in the West exceeded such legendary events as the Dust Bowl of the 1930s. While that drought saw intervening years of normal rainfall, the years of the turn-of-the-century drought were consecutive. More seriously still, long-term climate records from tree-ring chronologies show that this drought was the most severe event of its kind in the western United States in the past 800 years. Though there have been many extreme droughts over the last 1,200 years, only three other events have been of similar magnitude, all during periods of “megadroughts.”


Most frightening is that this extreme event could become the new normal: climate models point to a warmer planet, largely because of greenhouse gas emissions. Planetary warming, in turn, is expected to create drier conditions across western North America, because of the way global-wind and atmospheric-pressure patterns shift in response.


Indeed, scientists see signs of the relationship between warming and drought in western North America by analyzing trends over the last 100 years; evidence suggests that the more frequent drought and low precipitation events observed for the West during the 20th century are associated with increasing temperatures across the Northern Hemisphere……


NY Times Multimedia

Drought and Deluge in the Lower 48

Map  The Current Disaster  Graphic





  1. 1.     ECOLOGY



PRBO in the news:

Birds: Time to accept conservation triage (NATURE – subs. required-contact jwiens@prbo.orgJohn A. Wiens, Dale D. Goble & J. Michael Scott  Nature 488, 281 (16 August 2012) doi:10.1038/488281c Published online 15 August 2012

Like the troubled California condors Gymnogyps californianus (Nature 486, 451; 2012), more than 80% of endangered US species are imperilled by threats that cannot be eliminated, only managed. These species are “conservation reliant” (J.M. Scott et al. Conserv. Lett. 3, 91–97; 2010). For example, the endangered Kirtland’s warbler (Setophaga kirtlandii) has exceeded…



New breed of ranchers shapes a sustainable West –

These green cowboys try to marry good stewardship of the land with making money. 

By Todd Wilkinson, Correspondent / July 29, 2012  ….”Being a smart rancher – one who’s still going to be here in another 50 years – isn’t based on how you dress,” says Jones. “It comes down to how you treat the land and build resilience over time that matters. In particular, it’s about how well you manage grass and water.”  Normally, listening to a cattleman talk with reverence about managing grass and water, using terms like “holistic” and “sustainable,” would be akin to hearing an environmentalist marvel about the horsepower in an all-terrain vehicle. It seldom happens.  But a new breed of cowboy, like Jones, is changing how ranching is being done in the American West and might – just might – alter the dynamic in the “range wars” that have engulfed the region for more than a half century. Make no mistake: These are not new arrivals carrying out green techniques for the feel-good sake of being green. They are ranchers managing the land in benevolent and environmentally sensitive ways because they think it will help them survive – and make money….

…. intensive management of a ranch’s grasslands. Traditionally, cows are turned out to graze largely unattended on vast open expanses, where they eat the vegetation until it is virtually denuded. This, in turn, can lead to greater dependence on costly hay, as well as antibiotics and pesticides. The Joneses herd cows into more confined areas cordoned off by portable electric fences. Once the grass is chewed down to a certain height, they shift the cattle to another area. The consumed acreage is allowed to rest and replenish, sometimes for a year or more. On a sun-kissed day, Jones pulls out a flowchart showing exactly where Twodot cattle will be grazing over the next seven months….

….Today, after employing Savory’s and other land-management techniques, the Twodot has tripled the abundance of its grasses. The healthier brome has helped the ranch better cope with a chronic lack of rainfall. Plant diversity has flourished, wetlands have improved, and wildlife is thriving. As if on cue, an eagle settles into a nest on a nearby marsh, and two fawns bound through underbrush by a river once trammeled by cattle. “In essence, it’s like having three ranches available to us of comparable size to what we had raising our cows the old way,” says Jones….

Not everyone is so enamored with sustainable ranching. Many old-guard cattlemen believe that worrying about things like wildlife preservation and reviving grasslands detracts from the main objective – to raise cattle in a way that turns a profit. They see the movement as too touchy-feely in philosophy and too dogmatic in practice. They’ll take their risks with controlling predators, raising hay, and using antibiotics and feedlots. Many of them also remain dubious that in the end holistic management can work – that consistent money can be made raising cattle while playing groundskeeper to rangeland. Much of the skepticism may be cultural – a deep-seated resistance to throwing off the way things have been done, and often successfully done, for generations.

Some environmentalists balk at sustainable ranching, too, even though, in theory, it would seem to dovetail with their interests. Part of it is an almost visceral rejection of anything practiced by cattle ranchers. They have spent decades trying to remove cows from public lands because of the harm they believe that private livestock do to the environment. They don’t see a few holistic management techniques reversing years of deleterious practices…..


Organisms cope with environmental uncertainty by guessing the future (August 16, 2012) — In uncertain environments, organisms not only react to signals, but also use molecular processes to make guesses about the future, according to a new study. The authors report that if environmental signals are unreliable, organisms are expected to evolve the ability to take random decisions about adapting to cope with adverse situations. … > full story

Triage for plants: Scientists develop and test rapid species conservation assessment technique (August 16, 2012) — Faced with a host of environmental threats, many of the world’s plant species are believed to be at risk of extinction. But which species? To answer that question, scientists have developed a streamlined method for assessing the conservation status of large numbers of species. Evaluating the flora of Puerto Rico, they found that 459 species — 23 percent of the flora — should be classified as “At Risk.” The process could help focus conservation efforts where they are most needed. … > full story


Detection dogs spot northern spotted owls, even those alarmed by barred owls (August 15, 2012) — A series of forest searches by dogs specially trained to sniff out northern spotted owl pellets — the undigested bones, fur and other bits regurgitated by owls — improved the probability of finding the owls by nearly 30 percent over a series of traditional vocalization surveys. … > full story

Global water sustainability flows through natural and human challenges (August 9, 2012) — Water’s fate in China mirrors problems across the world: fouled, pushed far from its natural origins, squandered and exploited. Scientists look back at lessons learned in China and management strategies that hold solutions for China — and across the world. … > full story

Study demonstrates that one extinction leads to another (August 14, 2012) — When a carnivore becomes extinct, other predatory species could soon follow, according to new research. Scientists have previously put forward this theory, but now biologists have carried out the first experiment to show it. The study shows how the demise of one carnivore species can indirectly cause another to become extinct. The research team believes any extinction can create a ripple effect across a food web, with far-reaching consequences for many other animals. … > full story


Widespread local ‘extinctions’ in tropical forest ‘remnants’ (August 14, 2012) — The small fragments of tropical forests left behind after deforestation are suffering extensive species extinction, according to new research. … > full story


Telling people to save the environment for selfish reasons can backfire

By Brandon Keim WIRED 14 August 12

Earnest, well-meaning environmental messages are supposed to be ineffective relics of a bygone age, when bumper stickers still worked and treehuggers hadn’t realised that self-interest speaks louder than Mother Earth ever could. But don’t put that Save the Whales t-shirt on eBay just yet. In experiments published 12 August in Nature Climate Change, psychologists found that telling people about carpooling’s money-saving benefits seemingly makes them less likely to recycle. In short, appeals to self-interest backfired, accidentally encouraging people to behave selfishly in other areas. …This tension isn’t unique to environmentalism, write Evans and Hahn, but may reflect human nature: Studies show that when people are encouraged to be self-interested, they become less helpful, even if there’s no reason why they can’t be both….


Populations survive despite many deleterious mutations: Evolutionary model of Muller’s ratchet explored (August 10, 2012) — From protozoans to mammals, evolution has created more and more complex structures and better-adapted organisms. This is all the more astonishing as most genetic mutations are deleterious. Especially in small asexual populations that do not recombine their genes, unfavourable mutations can accumulate. This process is known as Muller’s ratchet in evolutionary biology. The ratchet, proposed by the American geneticist Hermann Joseph Muller, predicts that the genome deteriorates irreversibly, leaving populations on a one-way street to extinction. … > full story


‘Crazy’: Dozens of dead birds fall from the sky in New Jersey

By Dan Stamm,

Residents in a Cumberland County, N.J., community were left wondering what caused dozens of birds to drop dead from the sky earlier this week.

Residents along Peach Drive in Millville found at least 80 dead birds — mostly red-winged blackbirds — on the ground, having fallen from trees and the sky.

“Crazy — something out of a movie,” said resident Michelle Cavalieri, who saw the birds fall.

The birds caused a bloody mess on roadways in the residential neighborhood.

“They’d get up and try and fly and they were out of control so they’d crash and fall again,” said resident Jim Sinclair. “It was just strange.”

Animal control, public health officials and other emergency crews were on the scene Tuesday morning collecting dead birds to try and figure out exactly what caused so many of them to die….


Drivers of marine biodiversity: Tiny, freeloading clams find the key to evolutionary success (August 9, 2012) — What mechanisms control the generation and maintenance of biological diversity on the planet? It’s a central question in evolutionary biology. For land-dwelling organisms such as insects and the flowers they pollinate, it’s clear that interactions between species are one of the main drivers of the evolutionary change that leads to biological diversity. … > full story

Ocean health index provides first global assessment combining natural and human dimensions of sustainability (August 15, 2012) — Using a new comprehensive index designed to assess the benefits to people of healthy oceans, scientists have evaluated the ecological, social, economic, and political conditions for every coastal country in the world. Their findings show that the global ocean scores 60 out of 100 overall on the Ocean Health Index. Individual country scores range widely, from 36 to 86. … > full story


Underwater noise decreases whale communications in Stellwagen Bank sanctuary (August 15, 2012) — High levels of background noise, mainly due to ships, have reduced the ability of critically endangered North Atlantic right whales to communicate with each other by about two-thirds. … > full story


Virus confirmed, two BC salmon farms to cull fish
The Vancouver Sun
Two B.C. fish farms will cull their fish after receiving confirmation of a virus that can be deadly to Atlantic salmon. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency has confirmed that infectious haematopoetic necrosis, or IHN, has been found. Both farms have been in quarantine since preliminary positive tests showed up during routine monitoring. More

For young birds, getting stressed out can be a good thing (August 13, 2012) — Many studies have found that high levels of hormones that are associated with stress are a sign of poor fitness and reduced chance of survival — but recent research on young songbirds found that some elevated hormones can be a good thing, often the difference between life and death. … > full story

Researchers combine remote sensing technologies for highly detailed look at coastal change (August 9, 2012) — Shifting sands and tides make it difficult to measure accurately the amount of beach that’s available for recreation, development and conservation, but researchers have now combined several remote sensing technologies with historical data to create coastal maps with an unsurpassed level of accuracy. … > full story

An index to assess the health and benefits of the global ocean ▶ NATURE
Benjamin S. Halpern, Catherine Longo, Darren Hardy, Karen L. McLeod, Jameal F. Samhouri et al.
This study develops a wide-ranging index to assess the many factors that contribute to the health and benefits of the oceans, and the scores for all costal nations are assessed.
Protecting SharksKQED Thu, Aug 16, 2012 — 9:30 AM Download audio (MP3)

Great white sharks are disappearing from California waters and should be protected under the U.S. Endangered Species Act, according to a petition filed by environmental groups this week. We discuss the proposal and find out what is threatening the sharks.

Host: Michael Krasny Guests:  David McGuire, marine biologist and founder of the nonprofit Sea Stewards, one of the environmental groups which filed the petition; John McCosker, senior scientist and chair of the department of aquatic biology at the California Academy of Sciences


Marine research in the Brazilian rain forest: Slash and burn practice for centuries as source of stable carbon compounds in the oceans (August 13, 2012) — Until recent decades the Atlantic Rainforest covered a large area of today’s Brazil from Amazonas to present-day Argentina. In the 1970s, after years of deforestation, this rain forest was almost completely destroyed, mainly replaced by cattle pastures. This study reveals an unexpected aspect of deforestation. … > full story

Pine trees one of biggest contributors to air pollution: Pine gases chemically transformed by free radicals (August 9, 2012) — Pine trees are one of the biggest contributors to air pollution. They give off gases that react with airborne chemicals creating tiny, invisible particles that muddy the air. Scientists have shown that particles formed by pine trees are much more dynamic than previously thought. The findings can help make climate and air quality prediction models more accurate, and inform regulatory agencies as they consider strategies for improving air quality. … > full story

Democracy works for Endangered Species Act, study finds; Citizen involvement key in protecting and saving threatened species (August 16, 2012) — In protecting endangered species, the power of the people is key, an analysis of listings under the US Endangered Species Act finds. The analysis compares listings of “endangered” and “threatened” species initiated by the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the agency that administers the Endangered Species Act, to those initiated by citizen petition. Researchers found that citizens, on average, do a better job of picking species that are threatened than does the FWS. … > full story

2 Lake County fires threaten 500 homes

Will Kane Updated 9:13 p.m., Monday, August 13, 2012

A small Lake County community was evacuated Monday while firefighters battled two large wildfires threatening almost 500 homes, authorities said Monday.

More than 400 firefighters were fighting the 6,000-acre Wye and Walker fires, which were crackling through dry brush near Spring Valley. The two fires began within 10 miles of one another Sunday afternoon near the intersection of Highways 20 and 53 just east of Clearlake Oaks and on Highway 20 just east of Walker Ridge Road…


KittyCam” Reveals High Levels of Wildlife Being Killed by Outdoor Cats Washington, D.C., August 6, 2012 A new study of house cats allowed to roam outdoors finds that nearly one-third succeeded in capturing and killing animals. The cats, which wore special video cameras around their necks that recorded their outdoor activities, killed an average of 2.1 animals every week they were outside, but brought less than one of every four of their kills home. Of particular interest, bird kills constituted about 13 percent of the total wildlife kills. Based on these results, American Bird Conservancy and The Wildlife Society estimate that house cats kill far more than the previous estimate of a billion birds and other animals each year…. “If we extrapolate the results of this study across the country and include feral cats, we find that cats are likely killing more than 4 billion animals per year, including at least 500 million birds. Cat predation is one of the reasons why one in three American bird species are in decline,” said Dr. George Fenwick, President of American Bird Conservancy, the only organization exclusively conserving birds throughout the Americas….


Potent human toxins prevalent in Canada’s freshwaters (August 14, 2012) — Nutrient pollution, one of the greatest threats to our freshwater resources, is responsible for the algal blooms that blanket our lakes and waterways in summer months. Large blooms of cyanobacteria (‘blue green algae’) can cause fish kills, increase the cost of drinking water treatment, devalue shoreline properties, and pose health risks to people, pets, and wildlife. Microcystin, a toxin produced by cyanobacteria, is present in Canadian lakes in every province, according to new research. … > full story








Adaptation to impacts from climate change on biodiversity, ecosystems, and ecosystem services– 6 mb pdf full report

Michelle D. Staudinger, Nancy B. Grimm, Amanda Staudt, Shawn L. Carter, F. Stuart Chapin

III, Peter Kareiva, Mary Ruckelshaus, Bruce A. Stein. 2012. Impacts of Climate Change on

Biodiversity, Ecosystems, and Ecosystem Services: Technical Input to the 2013 National Climate

Assessment. Cooperative Report to the 2013 National Climate Assessment. 296 p.

Available at:



  1. Biodiversity and ecosystems are already more stressed than at any comparable period of human history. Climate change almost always exacerbates the problems caused by other environmental stressors including: land use change and the consequent habitat fragmentation and degradation; extraction of timber, fish, water, and other resources; biological disturbance such as the introduction of non-native invasive species, disease, and pests; and chemical, heavy metal, and nutrient pollution. As a corollary, one mechanism for reducing the negative impacts of climate change is a reduction in other stressors.
  2. Climate change is causing many species to shift their geographical ranges, distributions, and phenologies at faster rates than previously thought. Changes in terrestrial plant and animal species ranges are shifting the location and extent of biomes, and altering ecosystem structure and functioning. These rates vary considerably among species. Terrestrial species are moving up in elevation at rates 2 to 3 times greater than initial estimates. Despite faster rates of warming in terrestrial systems compared to ocean environments, the velocity of range shifts for marine taxa exceeds those reported for terrestrial species. Species and populations that are unable to shift their geographic distributions or have narrow environmental tolerances are at an increased risk of extinction.
  3. There is increasing evidence of population declines and localized extinctions that can be directly attributed to climate change. Ecological specialists and species that live at high altitudes and latitudes are particularly vulnerable to climate change. Overall, the impacts of climate change are projected to result in a net loss of global biodiversity and major shifts in the provision of ecosystem services. For example, the range and abundance of economically important marine fish are already changing due to climate change and are projected to continue changing such that some local fisheries are very likely to cease to be viable, whereas others may become more valuable if the fishing community can adapt.
  4. Range shifts will result in new community assemblages, new associations among species, and promote interactions among species that have not existed in the past. Changes in the spatial distribution and seasonal timing of flora and fauna within marine, aquatic, and terrestrial environments can result in trophic mismatches and asynchronies. Novel species assemblages can also substantially alter ecosystem structure and function and the distribution of ecosystem services.
  5. Changes in precipitation regimes and extreme events can cause ecosystem transitions, increase transport of nutrients and pollutants to downstream ecosystems, and overwhelm the ability of natural systems to mitigate harm to people from these events. Changes in extreme events affect systems differentially, because different thresholds are crossed. For example, more intense storms and increased drought coupled with warming can shift grasslands into shrublands, or facilitate domination by other grass types (for example, mixed grass to C-4 tallgrass). More heavy rainfall also increases movement of nutrients and pollutants to downstream ecosystems, restructuring processes, biota, and habitats. As a consequence, regulation of drinking water quality is very likely to be strained as high rainfall and river discharge lead to higher levels of nitrogen in rivers and greater risk of waterborne disease outbreaks.
  6. Changes in winter have big and surprising effects on ecosystems and their services. Changes in soil freezing, snow cover, and air temperature have affected carbon sequestration, decomposition, and carbon export, which influence agricultural and forest production. Seasonally snow-covered regions are especially susceptible to climate change as small changes in temperature or precipitation may result in large changes in ecosystem structure and function. Longer growing seasons and warmer winters are enhancing pest outbreaks, leading to tree mortality and more intense and extensive fires. For winter sports and recreation, future economic losses are projected to be high because of decreased or unreliable snowfall.
  7. The ecosystem services provided by coastal habitats are especially vulnerable to sea-level rise and more severe storms. The Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico coasts are most vulnerable to the loss of coastal protection services provided by wetlands and coral reefs. Along the Pacific coast long-term erosion of dunes due to increasing wave heights is projected to be an increasing problem for coastal communities. Beach recreation is also projected to suffer due to coastal erosion. Other forms of recreation are very likely to improve due to better weather, and the net effect is likely a redistribution of the industry and its economic impact, with visitors and tourism dollars shifting away from some communities in favor of others.
  8. Climate adaptation has experienced a dramatic increase in attention since the last National Climate Assessment and become a major emphasis in biodiversity conservation and natural resource policy and management. Federal and State agencies are planning for and integrating climate change research into resource management and actions to address impacts of climate change based on historical impacts, future vulnerabilities, and observations on the ground. Land managers have realized that static protected areas will not be sufficient to conserve biodiversity in a changing climate, requiring an emphasis on landscape-scale conservation, connectivity among protected habitats, and sustaining ecological functioning of working lands and water. Agile and adaptive management approaches are increasingly under development, including monitoring, experimentation, and a capacity to evaluate and modify management actions. Risk-based framing and stakeholder-driven scenario planning will be essential in enhancing our ability to respond to the impacts of climate change.
  9. Climate change responses employed by other sectors (for example, energy, agriculture, transportation) are creating new ecosystem stresses, but also can incorporate ecosystem-based approaches to improve their efficacy. Ecosystem-based adaptation has emerged as a framework for understanding the role of ecosystem services in moderating climate impacts on people, although this concept is currently being used more on an international scale than within the United States.
  10. Ecological monitoring efforts need to be improved and better coordinated among Federal and State agencies to ensure that the impacts of climate change are adequately observed as well as to support ecological research, management, assessment, and policy. As species and ecosystem boundaries shift to keep pace with climate change, improved and better-integrated research, monitoring, and assessment efforts will be needed at national and global scales. Existing monitoring networks in the United States are not well suited for detecting and attributing the impacts of climate change to the wide range of affected species at the appropriate spatio-temporal scales.



Hummingbirds, facing drought and food shortage, get some human help

CBS News – ‎Aug 15, 2012‎

  (Thanks to PRBO’s Chris McCreedy for helping with this CBS news story!)

“There is a chance in the future that there will be significant problems with certain species — where the birds find less of the sources of food than they found in years before .


Protected areas allow wildlife to spread in response to climate change, citizen scientists reveal (August 13, 2012) — A new study has shown how birds, butterflies, other insects and spiders have colonized nature reserves and areas protected for wildlife, as they move north in response to climate change and other environmental changes. he study of over 250 species, led by researchers in the Department of Biology at York, is published online by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). The conclusions were based on the analysis of millions of records of wildlife species sent in predominantly by members of the public. The work represents a major new discovery involving collaborators in universities, research institutes, conservation charities, and regional and national government but — crucially –fuelled by ‘citizen science’. Many species need to spread towards the poles where conditions remain cool enough for them to survive climate warming. But doing this is complicated because many landscapes across the world are dominated by human agriculture and development, which form barriers to the movement of species. The mainstay of traditional conservation has been to establish protected areas and nature reserves to provide refuges against the loss of habitats and other threats in the surrounding countryside…. > full story


Thomasa, et al. Protected areas facilitate species’ range expansions. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2012


Climate change will have profound effects on northeast U.S. forests, report says (August 15, 2012) — A new report by US and Canadian scientists analyzes decades of research and concludes that the climate of the Northeast has changed and is likely to change more. The report outlines the effects of climate change on multiple aspects of forests in the northeastern corner of the United States and eastern Canada and concludes with recommendations on adaptive and mitigating strategies for dealing with future effects. … > full story


July Was Hottest Month Ever Recorded in U.S.

By JOANNA M. FOSTER (NYT)  August 9, 2012

The average temperature in the lower 48 states last month was 77.6 degrees, breaking a record set in July 1936.


Greenland melting breaks record four weeks before season’s end (August 15, 2012) — Melting over the Greenland ice sheet shattered the seasonal record on Aug. 8 — a full four weeks before the close of the melting season, researchers report. … > full story


2012 Has Already Set More Daily Heat Records Than All Of 2011, And More Are On The Way

Posted: 08 Aug 2012 10:35 AM PDT The U.S. has already seen more daily heat records broken or tied than 2011 — and its only August. In 2011, 26,674 daily heat records were broken or tied. As of August 5th, there have already been 27,042 heat records set or matched. Many of those records were set during heat waves in March and July. In March, almost 8,000 heat records were either set or tied, and another 4,420 were either set or tied last month….


NOAA: July global temperatures fourth highest on record

Arctic sea ice is second lowest July extent on record

 According to NOAA scientists, the globally-averaged temperature for July 2012 marked the fourth warmest July since record keeping began in 1880.

July 2012 temperatures compared to the 1981-2010 average. Large image. (Credit: NOAA

Most areas of the world experienced higher-than-average monthly temperatures, including most of the United States and Canada. Meanwhile, Australia, northern and western Europe, eastern Russia, Alaska, and southern South America were notably cooler than average. In the Arctic, sea ice extent averaged 3.1 million square miles, resulting in the second lowest July sea ice extent on record.

The equatorial Pacific Ocean continued to reflect neutral El Niño-Southern Ocean (ENSO) conditions in July. However, according to NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center, the El Niño warm ocean phase will likely develop between now and September. In addition to influencing seasonal climate outcomes in the United States, El Niño is often, but not always, associated with global temperatures that are higher than normal. This monthly analysis (summary, full report) from NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center is part of the suite of climate services NOAA provides government, business and community leaders so they can make informed decisions.



Long stretch of above-normal ocean temps off NJ

SARAH WATSON, The Press of Atlantic City Associated Press August 12, 2012

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) — Ocean temperatures along and near the New Jersey coast have averaged between five and 10 degrees above normal since late last year, a phenomenon that has intrigued some scientists and has excited area residents and… more »



Nine Straight Days of 110 or More: That’s Hot, Even for Phoenix

By FERNANDA SANTOS NYTimes Published: August 14, 2012

PHOENIX — Hot is a relative term for people used to the scorching summer weather in this city built on land better suited for cactus than lawns. But nine straight days of excessive heat seem to have stretched even the most elastic tolerance levels to their limits.



USDA: Ongoing drought causes significant crop yield declines (August 10, 2012) — Corn production will drop 13 percent to a six-year low, the U.S. Agriculture Department said Aug. 10, confirming what many farmers already knew — they are having a very bad year. … > full story

Urban Sun Corridor 4 degrees warmer? (August 12, 2012) — In the first study to attempt to quantify the impact of rapidly expanding megapolitan areas on regional climate, a team of researchers has established that local maximum summertime warming resulting from projected expansion of the urban Sun Corridor could approach 4 degrees Celsius. … > full story

Study Finds More of Earth Is Hotter and Says Global Warming Is at Work

By JUSTIN GILLIS  NYTimes Published: August 6, 2012

The percentage of the earth’s land surface covered by extreme heat in the summer has soared in recent decades, from less than 1 percent in the years before 1980 to as much as 13 percent in recent years, according to a new scientific paper.  The change is so drastic, the paper says, that scientists can claim with near certainty that events like the Texas heat wave last year, the Russian heat wave of 2010 and the European heat wave of 2003 would not have happened without the planetary warming caused by the human release of greenhouse gases.  Those claims, which go beyond the established scientific consensus about the role of climate change in causing weather extremes, were advanced by James E. Hansen, a prominent NASA climate scientist, and two co-authors in a scientific paper published online on Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.  “The main thing is just to look at the statistics and see that the change is too large to be natural,” Dr. Hansen said in an interview. The findings provoked an immediate split among his scientific colleagues, however.  Some experts said he had come up with a smart new way of understanding the magnitude of the heat extremes that people around the world are noticing. Others suggested that he had presented a weak statistical case for his boldest claims and that the rest of the paper contained little that had not been observed in the scientific literature for years. The divide is characteristic of the strong reactions that Dr. Hansen has elicited playing dual roles in the debate over climate change and how to combat it…


NASA visualizations and press release:


Climate change is driving British wildlife northwards, scientists claim – ‎August 13, 2012‎

Birds, butterflies, other insects and spiders have colonised nature reserves and areas protected for wildlife, as they move north in response to climate change and other environmental change. The study of more than 250 species was led by researchers in

New atmospheric compound tied to climate change, human health (August 8, 2012) — Scientists have discovered a surprising new chemical compound in Earth’s atmosphere that reacts with sulfur dioxide to form sulfuric acid, which is known to have significant impacts on climate and health. The new compound, a type of carbonyl oxide, is formed from the reaction of ozone with alkenes, which are a family of hydrocarbons with both natural and human-made sources. … > full story

Hibernation altered by climate change takes a toll on Rocky Mountain animal species (August 8, 2012) — Climate change is causing a late wake-up call from hibernation for a species of Rocky Mountain ground squirrel and the effect is deadly. Biologists have examined data on a population of Columbian ground squirrels and found a trend of late spring snow falls has delayed the animals’ emergence from hibernation by 10 days over the last 20 years. … > full story


More extreme swings of the South Pacific convergence zone due to greenhouse warming 
NATURE  Wenju Cai, Matthieu Lengaigne, Simon Borlace, Matthew Collins, Tim Cowan et al.
The South Pacific convergence zone is a region of high precipitation spanning a vast swath of the Pacific Ocean that can shift northwards and become longitudinally oriented; such extreme zonal events have severe weather and climatic impacts and are predicted to become more frequent under greenhouse warming conditions.


Incentive to Slow Climate Change Drives Output of Harmful Gases


Manufacturers have ramped up production of a common air-conditioning coolant, counting on a windfall for destroying a byproduct under a United Nations program.

Researchers improve soil carbon cycling models (August 16, 2012) — A new carbon cycling model better accounts for the carbon dioxide-releasing activity of microbes in the ground, improving scientists’ understanding of the role soil will play in future climate change. … > full story

Summer storm spins over Arctic (August 10, 2012) — An unusually strong storm formed off the coast of Alaska on August 5 and tracked into the center of the Arctic Ocean, where it slowly dissipated over the next several days. Arctic storms such as this one can have a large impact on the sea ice, causing it to melt rapidly through many mechanisms, such as tearing off large swaths of ice and pushing them to warmer sites, churning the ice and making it slushier, or lifting warmer waters from the depths of the Arctic Ocean. … > full story

How much nitrogen is fixed in the ocean? (August 10, 2012) — In order to predict how the Earth’s climate develops scientists have to know which gases and trace elements are naturally bound and released by the ocean and in which quantities. For nitrogen, an essential element for the production of biomass, there are many unanswered questions. Scientists have now published a research study showing that widely applied methods are part of the problem. … > full story

Fish are warmer, faster, stronger: Unexpected benefits of living in a changing climate, biologists find (August 14, 2012) — Biologists suggest that growing up at warmer temperatures helps some aquatic animals cope with climate change, raising questions about the limits of adaptation. They found that when embryos raised in warm water experienced temperature variation as adults, they could swim faster and their muscle was better suited for aerobic exercise. … > full story

Tanzania: Deforestation Fuels Temperature Hikes Around Mt. Kilimanjaro

A logging boom has hit Tanzania’s tourist-drawing Kilimanjaro region, reducing the region’s native forests, hitting rainfall and leading to unusually high temperatures. Forests play an in important role in maintaining natural water cycles around Mt. Kilimanjaro, but the region’s forests are disappearing. Kilimanjaro Regional Commissioner Leonidas Gama said the government was embarking on a reforestation drive which aims to plant one million trees in two years in collaboration with governmental and private institutions.


How do they do it? Predictions are in for Arctic sea ice low point (August 14, 2012) — Each year scientists predict the low point of Arctic Sea ice. The final predictions were released Aug. 13. But how do they do it? Researchers used some new techniques this year in hopes of improving the accuracy of their prediction. … > full story

Climate change forces South Pacific rain band movement – ‎August 16, 2012‎

CSIRO oceanographer Dr. Wenju Cai led an international group of researchers in the first definition of the impact of greenhouse gases and resultant climate change on weather patterns produced by the South Pacific rain band. The research was reported in the journal Nature and reviewed at the Eureka Alert web site on August 16, 2012. Cai and colleagues predict more extreme floods and droughts in South Pacific countries as climate change produces more frequent and more severe fluctuations in the South Pacific rain band. The South Pacific rain band is largest and most persistent rain pattern marker in the region, stretching from the equator to Polynesia. The Pacific rain band has been documented to move northward toward the equator as much as 1,000 kilometers (600 miles) producing extreme weather events. The scientists based their predictions on an extensive analysis of the archives of data from the general circulation models submitted for the fourth and fifth IPCC Assessments.

El Nino events have been documented to shift the South Pacific rain band northward producing drought and forest fires in areas of Polynesia and the South Pacific that have never experienced such events before….



Climate and Culture: Abrupt Change and Rapid Response
Continuous, modern day observations of change suggest the Earth System may already be edging towards abrupt climate change, demanding thorough revisions to climate science, models, and action. The global nature of climate change requires that adaptive measures be pursued and shared throughout all world cultures. Although the task of managing the Earth System’s carbon balance appears unapproachable through conventional politics, a wide range of scientific collaborations and community-level ecological restoration efforts are already well underway. In many instances localized environmental renewal initiatives may provide immediate benefits to impoverished regions as well as provide long-term frameworks for climate change adaptation and mitigation.


Report card shows Australia’s oceans are changing (August 16, 2012) — The 2012 Marine Climate Change in Australia Report Card shows climate change is having significant impacts on Australia’s marine ecosystems. … > full story



Restoring Mangroves May Prove Cheap Way to Cool Climate
Found along the edges of much of the world’s tropical coastlines, mangroves are absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere at an impressive rate. Protecting them, a recent study says, could yield climate benefits, biodiversity conservation and protection for local economies for a nominal cost — between $4 and $10 per ton of CO2. These environments, along with other forms of coastal ecosystems such as tidal marshes and sea grasses, have been given the name “blue carbon” to differentiate them from the “green” carbon of other forests, where carbon is absorbed above ground in trees.







Environmentalists warn of risks of Arctic drilling

NATALIYA VASILYEVA, Associated Press Associated Press August 14, 2012

MOSCOW (AP) — Environmental activists warned Tuesday that drilling for oil in the Russian Arctic could have disastrous consequences because of a lack of technology and infrastructure to deal with a possible spill in a remote region with massive… more »




  1. 4.     POLICY



4 Natural Disasters Affecting The American Economy

Tim Parker San Francisco Chronicle August 15, 2012 In October 2011, President Obama declared that more than 89 disasters had already occurred in 2011 – a record-breaking amount, according to ABC News. Ski resorts, who hire many seasonal employees and often pay only minimum wage, were forced to… more »


Endangered status considered for Bicknell’s thrush

MARY ESCH, Associated Press Associated Press August 14, 2012

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — The Bicknell’s thrush, a rare songbird that breeds atop mountains in the Adirondacks and northern New England and winters in the Caribbean, is being considered for endangered species status, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife… more »


Caution Vs. Recklessness In The Arctic: What We Can Learn From The Fishing Industry

Posted: 13 Aug 2012 11:25 AM PDT by Michael Conathan

Arctic sea ice coverage has been declining for decades, and 2011 set a record for the lowest amount of coverage ever recorded—a record we’re currently threatening to break. Less ice and more open water means the region will soon be available for additional human activity. Shipping companies and cruise lines are already utilizing new routes, taking advantage of the long-sought northwest passage from Europe and North America to Asia. And as soon as next week, Shell Oil could receive the green light to begin drilling up to five new exploratory oil-and-gas wells off the north slope of Alaska. As Big Oil prepares to exploit the emerging resources and access, the fishing industry has chosen to take a very different approach—one the oil companies should heed.

In August 2009 the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration formally approved a proposal by the North Pacific Fishery Management Council to ban all fishing activity in the U.S. Arctic except subsistence fishing by Alaska Natives. Members of the council—the majority of which is comprised of fishing industry representatives—voted unanimously to recommend the prohibition. In a remarkably forward-looking move, the body also opted to close the nearly 150,000-square-mile Arctic Management Area (see Figure 1) until adequate scientific fish stock assessments and other data could be collected that would ensure this virgin resource could be managed sustainably.

This move gained the support of environmental organizations such as Oceana, The Ocean Conservancy, and the Pew Environment Group, as well as Alaska’s biggest coalition of fishing industry interests—the Marine Conservation Alliance, which represents more than two-thirds of the state’s groundfishermen and crabbers.

The fishing industry’s approach to management stands in direct contrast to that taken by the oil-and-gas industry and its federal regulators. Shell has led Big Oil’s charge into the Arctic Ocean and is on the cusp of receiving final permits that could allow them to begin drilling operations there as soon as next week. Logic would dictate this means we know more about the science of oil in the Arctic than we do about the science of fish. Not so.

The same lack of knowledge about baseline environmental conditions in the region that has caused fishermen and their regulators to hit the pause button have not slowed the oil industry. While Shell and other oil companies have committed resources to research projects such as the Chukchi Sea Environmental Studies Program, they are not waiting to see data from these efforts before plowing forward with drilling operations…..


Shale Gas to the Climate Rescue

Op-Ed Contributor By ALAN RILEY Published: August 13, 2012  NY Times

The battle against runaway climate change is being lost. The green movement and the energy industry — while engaged in a furious debate on issues from nuclear power to oil sands — are missing the bigger picture.  There is little recognition by either side that current policies to reduce carbon dioxide emissions are inadequate for dealing with the threat that they pose. It is the coal-fueled growth of countries like China and India that generates much of these emissions. Unless a cheap, rapidly deployable substitute fuel is found for coal, then it will be next to impossible to safely rein in rising carbon dioxide levels around the world.

Although the green movement might at first see shale gas as an enemy in this fight, it may in fact turn out to be a friend. Broad development of shale gas resources — with proper ecological safeguards — could be the best way to achieve the quick cuts in carbon dioxide emissions that we need to maintain a habitable environment on Earth.  The International Energy Agency has made it clear that, under current energy policies, the door is closing on our attempts to contain the carbon-driven rise in global temperatures to within 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) by the middle of the century. In fact, worldwide carbon dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuels reached a record high of 31.6 gigatons in 2011. With emissions rising by one gigaton per year, it appears the temperature-increase target will most likely be missed.  The shale gas revolution could be the means of blunting the rise of carbon dioxide emissions and give new hope for staying within the 2 degrees Celsius scenario….



Jerry Brown launches website to rebut climate change skeptics

Sacramento Bee (blog) – ‎August 13, 2012‎

Jerry Brown said today that “humanity is getting dangerously close to the point of no return” on climate change, and he launched a website criticizing conservatives who dispute its significance. The website “Climate Change: Just the Facts,” is hosted by Brown’s Office of Planning and Research. It devotes one page to “the denialists” and another to rebutting “common denialist arguments….


Just Two Percent Of Canadians Deny Climate Change

ThinkProgress – ‎Aug 16, 2012‎

Almost one-third – 32 per cent – said they believe climate change is happening because of human activity, while 54 per cent said they believe it’s because of human activity and partially due to natural climate variation.
Minnesota wildlife lands won’t be opened to grazing
Minneapolis Star-Tribune    Share
With much of Minnesota withering under drought, some farm groups have suggested opening state wildlife management areas to grazing. That has raised eyebrows among hunters, who covet the 1.3 million acres of public lands, most of which is planted with prairie grasses for wildlife and is open to hunting. More

California fish hatcheries assailed
The Associated Press via San Jose Mercury News    Share
California needs to dramatically reform its fish hatcheries in order to maintain healthy salmon and steelhead populations, according to a major new study. The $2 million study, released by state and federal wildlife agencies, concludes nearly two years of work by a panel of fishery experts. It found, among other things, that the state lacks standard protocols to manage the 40 million salmon it produces each year at eight hatcheries. It also does not do enough field monitoring to fully understand the fate of all those fish. More



Leatherback sea turtle in line for honor

Peter Fimrite San Francisco Chronicle August 14, 2012

The endangered Pacific leatherback sea turtle, large numbers of which are currently feeding on jellyfish along the Pacific coast, is in line to be honored just like the now-extinct California grizzly bear – but hopefully, environmentalists say, with different results.The state Senate voted Monday to designate the giant turtle as the official marine reptile of California. Gov. Jerry Brown now has 12 days to sign into law the enabling legislation, AB1776 sponsored by Assemblyman Paul Fong, D-Cupertino, and most believe that is a virtual certainty. The legislation would declare Oct. 15 Leatherback Conservation Day in California and, it is hoped, publicize the plight of the turtles, which swim 6,000 miles every year to eat jellyfish outside the Golden Gate.  “Naming the leatherback sea turtle as our official state marine reptile will demonstrate California’s commitment to protecting leatherback sea turtles, our ocean’s ecosystem, and recognize the education and awareness this official designation… more »








  1. 5.   RESOURCES



CA LCC webinar series

The California Climate Commons

Wed. Aug 29, Noon PT
Deanne DiPietro
, the lead for the CA Climate Commons will provide a tour of this new online resource Wednesday August 29th at noon (PST).  The Climate Commons provides:

  • climate change and related environmental data,
  • helpful information about the data and how it was produced
  • web resources, services, and tools, and
  • the opportunity to communicate with others about applying climate adaptation to conservation practice in California.


Date: Wednesday, August 29, 2012
Time: 12:00pm, Pacific Daylight Time
Meeting Number: 746 058 929
Meeting Password: calcc
To join the online meeting (Now from mobile devices!)
1. Go to
2. If requested, enter your name and email address.
3. If a password is required, enter the meeting password: calcc
4. Click “Join”.
To join the teleconference only
Call-in toll-free number (Verizon): 1-866-737-4154  (US)
Attendee access code: 287 267 0
(916) 278-9415



Climate Academy- New Online Course- Announcement, Syllabus, and Registration

This 10-month pilot course will be offered this fall starting early October. This online course is designed to cover the fundamentals of climate science, provide tools and resources for climate adaptation, and increase climate literacy and communication through online lectures, webinars, and discussions. Participants will also have the option to develop a final product (such as a report or presentation) addressing climate change in their management of natural resources. The course is developed in partnership with staff from the USFWS’s NCTC, The Wildlife Society (TWS), the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (AFWA), AFWA’s Management Assistance Team (MAT), the National Park Service (NPS), and the California Department of Fish and Game (CDFG). CEUs are available through TWS. As a pilot offering, there is no tuition or registration fee associated with the course. We will be looking for input from course participants throughout the course on different aspects of the online course process.  For more information, contact Danielle LaRock, NCTC Course Leader at <> Please note: Registration for course participants will officially open on Friday August 17 in DOI Learn. Registration for Drop-In Participants is currently open. There will be a limited number of drop in spaces, so please sign up early.



Climate Smart Communities



Prevention BMPs for Land Managers

Land management activities often involves travel between worksites. Equipment, vehicles, pack animals, clothing, boots, and materials can become vectors for the inadvertent spread of invasive plants.

These Best Management Practices (BMPs) are an important step for land managers to ensure that they are not spreading invasive plants from one work site to another. This manual presents an accessible overview of key prevention measures as well as ready-to-use checklists.

Preventing the Spread of Invasive Plants:
Best Management Practices for Land Managers Second edition  Download manual (4.8 MB pdf)



Grants Available for Central Valley Special Status Species and Their Habitat
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and U.S. Bureau of Reclamation today announced the availability of over $2.2 million in grants to improve conditions for federally- imperiled species and their habitats impacted by the Central Valley Project (CVP).  This year, four categories of projects will be funded:  land acquisition (fee title and conservation easement); habitat restoration; research; and captive breeding. State or local government agencies, private non-profit or profit organizations, individuals, and educational institutions are eligible to apply for grants.  Deadline for proposals is October 5, 2012. For more information visit and look for Funding Opportunity Application (FOA) number R13FA20001.  Additional information about the CVPCP and HRP can be found at



PaCOOS (Pacific Coast Ocean Observing System)

Climate and Ecological Conditions in the California Current Large Marine Ecosystem

Quarter 2, 2012 at



MMWD’s Draft 2012 Vegetation Management Plan is Now Available

The Marin Municipal Water District has been in the process of developing a new Draft Vegetation Management Plan (Draft 2012 VMP) for Watershed Lands. The Draft 2012 VMP identifies the district’s goals for managing its 22,000 acres of watershed land and describes actions to achieve those goals. The main goals are:

  • To protect Marin’s communities, water supply and natural resources from catastrophic wildfire;
  • To preserve habitats, plants and animals into the future;
  • To prepare for and adapt to future changes.

… the draft plan is ready for public review and is now available on MMWD’s website under Watershed > Resource Management. Because of the large size of the full report (8 MB), we’ve also attached a link to the executive summary portion of the report.




EARLY REGISTRATION (REDUCED RATE) DEADLINE HAS BEEN EXTENDED TO AUGUST 19, 2012(Register)The culmination of nearly 5-years of applied research, the Levee Vegetation Research Symposium 2012 will bring together the largest assemblage of international, national and regional experts in the history of the levee vegetation dialogue under one roof.


California: Central Valley Project Improvement Act Habitat Restoration Grants- Oct 5, 2012
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and U.S. Bureau of Reclamation today announced the availability of over $2.2 million in grants to improve conditions for federally- imperiled species and their habitats impacted by the Central Valley Project (CVP). The 2012 grants continue 18 years of funding projects. This year, four categories of projects will be funded: land acquisition (fee title and conservation easement); habitat restoration; research; and captive breeding.

US: Conservation Reserve Program Initiative to Restore Grasslands, Wetlands and Wildlife
USDA’s CRP has a 25-year legacy of successfully protecting the nation’s natural resources through voluntary participation, while providing significant economic and environmental benefits to rural communities across the United States. Rather than wait for a general sign-up (the process under which most CRP acres are enrolled), producers whose land meet eligibility criteria can enroll directly in this “continuous” category at any time.


EPA***National Smart Growth Conversation: Call for Blog Posts
The Smart Growth Network’s National Conversation blog, devoted to ongoing conversations about the future of America’s communities, invites photos, videos, presentations, and written content for the blog. Submissions may focus on topics such as envisioning future communities; innovative current activities; and new directions for development, transportation, or public health.Please submit blog post(s) to the National Conversations blog by August 29, 2012, to help launch the conversation nationwide. The Smart Growth Network will review and get back to you about your submission. Written blog posts are limited to 500 words, and attachments are limited to 30 MB. If you would like to send a bigger file, please submit it by email. For more information about the National Conversation, please visit the blog.


Language Intelligence: Lessons on Persuasion from Jesus, Shakespeare, Lincoln and Lady Gaga in paperback (click here) or Kindle (click here) by Joe Romm. For the past quarter century — since my first published article on Shakespeare in 1988 — I have studied the secrets of the greatest communicators in history. In this book, I show how you can apply these tools to your writing, speaking, blogging — even your Tweeting. I also discuss the latest social science research on how to be more persuasive and memorable.



Replacing Lost Environments – A Devil’s Pact?
In a major scientific article, a team including Australian researchers from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions (CEED) has advised governments worldwide to think twice before assuming an environment lost to development can easily be replaced elsewhere. “There’s been a lot of talk among policy makers about ‘offsets’, meaning that if you damage or lose the environment in one place you compensate by restoring or protecting an equivalent area somewhere else,” explains Professor Richard Hobbs of CEED and The University of Western Australia.






Debunking False Claims About Compact Fluorescents (CFLs)

Posted: 13 Aug 2012 01:04 PM PDT by Matt Kasper

Energy efficient light bulbs continue to be a target of conservatives in Congress. This summer, multiple amendments were approved by House lawmakers trying to prohibit the government from enforcing federal light bulb standards. Republicans falsely claim those standards “ban” incandescent bulbs.

Now, conservative media outlets are seizing on another opportunity to rail on energy efficient bulbs, saying that compact fluorescents are capable of “frying your skin with UVA radiation.” National Public Radio also featured a story last week perpetuating the myth. Where is this claim coming from? A recent study conducted by researchers at Stony Brook University concluded that the response from healthy skin cells to UV emitted from compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) is consistent with damage from ultraviolet radiation. However, the report’s findings are not new – and there is no cause for alarm….




The diversion-toilet — a modern squatting toilet that works neither with water nor sewer connections, in an informal settlement in Kampala as well as in a weekend home in the country. In the foot underneath the toilet bowl the containers for urine and feces and the seal against odors. Behind the water-wall with opportunities for hand-washing, anal-cleansing and cleaning the bowl. On top the transparency indicator for the level of the cleansed water. (Credit: Image courtesy of EAWAG: Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology)

New toilet developed: Needs no connection to water supply (August 15, 2012) — There are 2.6 billion people in the world who have no access to a decent toilet. A new toilet model will provide a sanitary solution that ensures human dignity and hygiene, while also being environment-friendly and economically feasible. An interdisciplinary team of Swiss aquatic researchers and designers from Austria won with their invention as part of the ‘Re-invent the Toilet’ competition, sponsored by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation a special recognition award. The new toilet model will provide a sanitary solution that ensures human dignity and hygiene, while also being environment-friendly and economically feasible. All for less than five cents per day and person.. … The new separation toilet needs no connection to a water supply. Every time a user operates a foot pedal, water flows into the small water reservoir and already used water is pumped upwards behind the toilet. Cleansed by means of a membrane filter, the used water is also guaranteed free of germs, thanks to electrolysis by a solar powered electrode…. > full story


Solar power day and night: New storage systems control fluctuation of renewable energies (August 9, 2012) — Energy storage systems are one of the key technologies for the energy turnaround. With their help, the fluctuating supply of electricity based on photovoltaics and wind power can be stored until the time of consumption. A number of pilot plants of solar cells, small wind power plants, lithium-ion batteries, and power electronics are now under construction to demonstrate how load peaks in the grid can be balanced and what regenerative power supply by an isolated network may look like in the future. … > full story

How Wireless Charging Could Speed Up The Electric Car Market

Posted: 12 Aug 2012 05:26 AM PDT

San Diego-based Qualcomm Inc. recently announced that it has partnered with the automaker Renault for a field trial of its new wireless electric vehicle charging system later this year in London.

According to Forbes: “The California-based company signed a memorandum of understanding with Renault to work on the field trial and to figure out how to integrate the wireless charging technology into Renault’s cars. … The goal of the trial is to test both the commercial and technical viability of wireless electric vehicle charging. Qualcomm would also like to gain an understanding of the potential challenges of deploying and integrating wireless charging on a large scale….


A new energy source: Major advance made in generating electricity from wastewater (August 13, 2012) — Engineers have made a breakthrough in the performance of microbial fuel cells that can produce electricity directly from wastewater, opening the door to a future in which waste treatment plants not only will power themselves while cleaning sewage, but will sell excess electricity. … > full story









Is Climate Change Making Temperatures Too Hot for High School Football?

Scientific American – ‎August 13, 2012‎

“The climate’s getting warmer so players are exposed to higher temperatures,” said Andrew Grundstein, a climatologist at the University of Georgia and a co-author of a 2012 study of heat related deaths in high schools nationwide.



Hyenas that think outside the box solve problems faster (August 8, 2012) — Innovative problem solving requires trying many different solutions. That’s true for humans, and now Michigan State University researchers show that it’s true for hyenas, too. … > full story


Beverage companies pay millions to conserve water  USA Today  Aug 12 2012

“At the heart of it … is their bottom line,” says Thomas Lyon, a professor at the University of Michigan who researches connections between industry and the environment. “Water is a finite resource, and they desperately realize that it could become a


Consuming flavanol-rich cocoa may enhance brain function (August 13, 2012) — Eating cocoa flavanols daily may improve mild cognitive impairment, according to new research. … >


Dark chocolate, cocoa compounds, may reduce blood pressure (August 14, 2012) — Compounds in cocoa may help to reduce blood pressure, according to a new systematic review. The researchers reviewed evidence from short-term trials in which participants were given dark chocolate or cocoa powder daily and found that their blood pressure dropped slightly compared to a control group. … > full story



Bloomberg Posts $5 Million Ideas Prize
Mayors of U.S. municipalities have a chance to win as much as $5 million for their cities from the Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Mayors Challenge, an initiative begun by New York City’s mayor Michael Bloomberg. Read more…








Egg yolk consumption almost as bad as smoking when it comes to atherosclerosis, study suggests (August 13, 2012) — Newly published research shows that eating egg yolks accelerates atherosclerosis in a manner similar to smoking cigarettes. Surveying more than 1,200 patients, Dr. Spence found regular consumption of egg yolks is about two-thirds as bad as smoking when it comes to increased build-up of carotid plaque, a risk factor for stroke and heart attack. … > full story




Mediterranean diet enriched with olive oil may protect bone (August 15, 2012) — Consumption of a Mediterranean diet enriched with olive oil for two years is associated with increased serum osteocalcin concentrations, suggesting a protective effect on bone. … > full story


Pan-fried meat increases risk of prostate cancer, new study finds (August 16, 2012) — New research indicates that how red meat and chicken are cooked may influence risk of prostate cancer. Men who ate more than 1.5 servings of pan-fried red meat per week increased their risk of advanced prostate cancer by 30 percent. Men who ate more than 2.5 servings of red meat cooked at high temperatures were 40 percent more likely to have advanced prostate cancer. … > full story




Chemical widely used in antibacterial hand soaps may impair muscle function (August 13, 2012) — Triclosan, an antibacterial chemical widely used in hand soaps and other personal-care products, hinders muscle contractions at a cellular level, slows swimming in fish and reduces muscular strength in mice, according to new research. Researchers call for regulatory agencies to reconsider its use. … > full story





  1. 8.     IMAGES OF THE WEEK
















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Ecology, Climate Change and Related News Updated August 24, 2012

Ecology, Biodiversity, Climate Change and Related News Updates

August 24, 2012


News of the Week–   Marine Species at Risk
























Highlight of the Week….    Marine Species at Risk




Marine species at risk unless drastic protection policies put in place (August 21, 2012) ScienceDaily

— Many marine species will be harmed or won’t survive if the levels of carbon dioxide continue to increase. Current protection policies and management practices are unlikely to be enough to save them. Unconventional, non-passive methods to conserve marine ecosystems need to be considered if various marine species are to survive.

This is the conclusion of a group of scientists led by University of California, Santa Cruz researcher and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory visiting scientist Greg Rau, and includes Elizabeth McLeod of The Nature Conservancy in Hawaii and Ove Hoegh-Guldberg of the University of Queensland in Australia. The increasing concentration of atmospheric CO2 is thermally and chemically impacting the ocean and its ecosystems, namely warming and acidifying the oceans. By the middle of this century, the globe will likely warm by at least 2 degrees Celsius and the oceans will experience a more than 60 percent increase in acidity relative to pre-industrial levels.

“Our concern is that the specific actions to counter such impacts as identified in current policy statements will prove inadequate or ineffective,” say the authors. “A much broader evaluation of marine management and mitigation options must now be seriously considered.”…

Greg H. Rau, Elizabeth L. McLeod, Ove Hoegh-Guldberg. The need for new ocean conservation strategies in a high-carbon dioxide world. Nature Climate Change, 2012; DOI: 10.1038/nclimate1555

World’s sea life is ‘facing major shock’, marine scientists warn (August 21, 2012) — Life in the world’s oceans faces far greater change and risk of large-scale extinctions than at any previous time in human history, a team of the world’s leading marine scientists has warned. The researchers have compared events which drove massive extinctions of sea life in the past with what is observed to be taking place in the seas and oceans globally today. … > full story

Paul G. Harnik, Heike K. Lotze, Sean C. Anderson, Zoe V. Finkel, Seth Finnegan, David R. Lindberg, Lee Hsiang Liow, Rowan Lockwood, Craig R. McClain, Jenny L. McGuire, Aaron O’Dea, John M. Pandolfi, Carl Simpson, Derek P. Tittensor. Extinctions in ancient and modern seas. Trends in Ecology & Evolution, 2012; DOI: 10.1016/j.tree.2012.07.010





  1. 1.     ECOLOGY



Information overload in the era of ‘big data’ (August 20, 2012) — The ability of botanists and other scientists to generate data quickly and cheaply is surpassing their ability to access and analyze it. Scientists facing too much information rely on computers to search large data sets for patterns that are beyond the capability of humans to recognize. New tools called ontologies provide the rules computers need to transform information into knowledge, by attaching meaning to data, thereby making those data more retrievable and understandable. … > full story


Sea otter numbers up, but so are deaths

Peter Fimrite San Francisco Chronicle  August 22, 2012

The California sea otter, whose luscious coat was so coveted by fur traders that the species was nearly wiped out, is holding steady in its west coast sanctum despite a record number of deaths, including an alarming uptick in shark attacks. The… more »



Wild pollinators support farm productivity and stabilize yield (August 17, 2012) — Most people are not aware of the fact that 84% of the European crops are partially or entirely dependent on insect pollination. While managed honeybees pollinate certain crops, wild bees, flies and wasps cover a very broad spectrum of plants, and thus are considered the most important pollinators in Europe. … > full story


Organisms cope with environmental uncertainty by guessing the future (August 16, 2012) — In uncertain environments, organisms not only react to signals, but also use molecular processes to make guesses about the future, according to a new study. The authors report that if environmental signals are unreliable, organisms are expected to evolve the ability to take random decisions about adapting to cope with adverse situations. … > full story


Natural Regeneration Building Urban Forests, Altering Species Composition

August 22, 2012 — Scientists have shown that on average, one in three trees in sampled cities were planted while two-thirds resulted from natural … > full story



Native Landscaping in Urban Areas Can Help Native Birds

ScienceDaily (Aug. 22, 2012) — A recent study of residential landscape types and native bird communities in Phoenix, Ariz., led by a University of Massachusetts Amherst urban ecologist suggests that yards mimicking native vegetation and wildlands offer birds “mini refuges,” helping to offset the loss of biodiversity in cities and supporting birds better than traditional grass lawns and non-native plantings. The study, led by Susannah Lerman with her advisor Paige Warren at UMass Amherst, and Hilary Gan and Eyal Shochat at Arizona State University, is one of the first to use quantitative measures and a systematic approach, with 24-hour video monitoring, to assess and compare foraging behavior of common backyard birds in yards in Phoenix, at the northern edge of the Sonoran Desert. It appears in the current issue of PLOS ONE….


Susannah B. Lerman, Paige S. Warren, Hilary Gan, Eyal Shochat. Linking Foraging Decisions to Residential Yard Bird Composition. PLoS ONE, 2012; 7 (8): e43497 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0043497


Trees Breathing New Life into French Agriculture
The tips of young walnut trees are just visible above the ready-to-harvest wheat. Further away, oaks, ashes and cherry trees are growing in fields of sunflowers and broad beans, all signs of the return to agroforestry in La Bergerie de Villarceaux, an organic experimental farm in the Vexin region of north-west France. Olivier Ranke and his team are pioneers. Ten years ago they started replanting hedges in a part of France where intensive farming is the norm and there is scarcely a shrub on the horizon. In 2011 they took the next step by launching the most ambitious agroforestry project in northern France and planted more than 600 trees in 23 hectares of farmland.


Scientists examine effects of manufactured nanoparticles on soybean crops (August 20, 2012) — Sunscreens, lotions, and cosmetics contain tiny metal nanoparticles that wash down the drain at the end of the day, or are discharged after manufacturing. Those nanoparticles eventually end up in agricultural soil, which is a cause for concern, according to a group of environmental scientists that recently carried out the first major study of soybeans grown in soil contaminated by two manufactured nanomaterials. … > full story

Two new owl species discovered in the Philippines (August 17, 2012) — Two new species of owls have been discovered in the Philippines. The first owl, the Camiguin Hawk-owl, is found only on the small island of Camiguin Sur, close to northern Mindanao. The second new discovery was the Cebu Hawk-owl. This bird was thought to be extinct, as the forests of Cebu have almost all been lost due to deforestation. … > full story


Rock sparrows react to infidelity by singing louder (August 23, 2012) — Rock sparrows indicate their age and their reproductive success with their songs and react to infidelity with a higher song volume. … > full story


Triage for plants: Scientists develop and test rapid species conservation assessment technique (August 16, 2012) — Faced with a host of environmental threats, many of the world’s plant species are believed to be at risk of extinction. But which species? To answer that question, scientists have developed a streamlined method for assessing the conservation status of large numbers of species. Evaluating the flora of Puerto Rico, they found that 459 species — 23 percent of the flora — should be classified as “At Risk.” The process could help focus conservation efforts where they are most needed. … > full story


Good News from the Bad Drought: Gulf ‘Dead Zone’ Smallest in Years

August 24, 2012 — The worst drought to hit the United States in at least 50 years does have one benefit: It has created the smallest “dead zone” in the Gulf of Mexico in years, say … > full story



Improving water quality can help save coral reefs (August 19, 2012) — Researcher have found that an imbalance of nutrients in reef waters can increase the bleaching susceptibility of reef corals. Corals are made up of many polyps that jointly form a layer of living tissue covering the calcareous skeletons. They depend on single-celled algae called zooxanthellae, which live within the coral polyps. The coral animal and the associated zooxanthellae depend on each other for survival in a symbiotic relationship, where the coral supplies the algae with nutrients and a place to live. In turn, the algae offer the coral some products of their photosynthesis, providing them with an important energy source. High water temperatures can block photosynthetic reactions in the algal cells causing a build-up of toxic oxygen compounds, which threaten the coral and can result in a loss of the zooxanthellae. … > full story


How Food Production Impacts Water Quality

by Mindy Selman on August 23, 2012   World Resources Institute


This post is part of a series on World Water Week, an annual event designed to draw attention to and discuss global water issues. Read more posts in this series.

Our water systems are currently being threatened by the crops we grow and food we produce. In many countries, agriculture is the leading source of nutrient pollution in waterways—a situation that’s expected to worsen as the global population increases and the demand for food grows. So it’s timely that next week’s World Water Week, an annual conference organized by the Stockholm International Water Institute, is focusing on water and food security….. Nutrient pollution in water, or eutrophication, is a problem that’s grown exponentially in the past 50 years. While nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus are needed to grow food and maintain healthy ecosystems, too many of these substances can cause havoc in freshwater and coastal ecosystems. Fertilizers and manure from agricultural fields, as well as sewage and runoff from our urban centers are increasingly making their way into waterways, polluting these bodies of water with excessive amounts of nutrients. Too many nutrients in the water can fuel large algae blooms, including toxic algae. This algae can smother the coral reefs and sea grasses that provide valuable habitat for aquatic species, result in fish kills, and shift the structure of aquatic ecosystems. Plus, when algae blooms die, they suck oxygen out of the water. Under the right conditions, these die-offs create hypoxic areas or dead zones, areas where fish and other aquatic creatures cannot survive. Globally, eutrophication of coastal systems has risen from fewer than 75 systems in 1960 to more than 800 systems today. Of these, more than 500 have experienced hypoxia…..


West Nile outbreak largest ever in US

CNN – ‎August 22, 2012‎

(CNN) — The recent West Nile virus outbreak is the largest ever seen in the United States, according to new numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


What fish is really on your plate?

August 24, 2012  SF Chronicle

In a posh restaurant, food sleuths sneak samples of fish to see how honest the labeling is. Very often, it isn’t….


The heartbreaking and highly profitable world of wildlife trafficking via Yahoo News
Tourism is big business in Africa. In Tanzania alone, the “tourism sector earned $1.471 billion in the year to June, making it the second biggest source of foreign currency after gold,” says Reuters. “Tanzania’s sweeping savanna plains in the shadow of Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest peak, teem with wildlife, drawing tourists who pay hundreds of dollars a night to stay in luxury tented camps.” More


Air crews make dent in massive Calif. wildfire

JEFF BARNARD, Associated Press, TERRY COLLINS, Associated Press Associated Press August 24, 2012

(AP) — Air tankers and helicopters flew repeatedly into a deep rim rock canyon to douse the spearhead of a massive wildfire in Northern California and stop it from driving into a nearby mountain community and Lassen Volcanic National Park. A… more »


How science teachers may be spreading invasive species
Potential invasive species may get a helping hand from an unlikely source: science teachers, a new study indicates. The study involved a survey of nearly 2,000 teachers in Florida, New York, Indiana, Illinois, Oregon, Washington, California, Connecticut, British Columbia and Ontario, as well as interviews with curriculum specialists, focus groups involving 84 teachers and information from biological supply houses.











Studies shed light on why species stay or go in response to climate change (August 17, 2012) — Two new studies provide a clearer picture of why some species move — and where they go — in response to climate change. One found a dramatic decline in populations of a mountain ground squirrel, except where humans lived. Another paper finds that precipitation is an underappreciated driving force for species’ response to climate change. … “Temperature did not explain the majority of these shifts,” said Tingley, who is now a postdoctoral researcher at Princeton University’s Program in Science, Technology and Environmental Policy. “Only when we included precipitation as an explanatory variable did our models adequately explain the movement patterns we observed.” The researchers found that while rising temperatures tended to push birds to cooler regions upslope, increased precipitation, which is more common at higher elevations, pulled them downslope. “We believe many species may feel this divergent pressure from temperature and precipitation, and in the end, only one wins,” said Tingley. Notably, more than half of the bird species in each of the three study regions did not shift their range despite pressures from climate change. “Moving is a sign of adaptation, which is good from a conservation standpoint,” said Tingley. “More worrisome are the species that have not shifted. How are they adapting? Are they moving, but we just can’t detect it? Or are they slowly declining as environmental conditions gradually become less ideal where they live?”

full story



Climate Extremes Reexamined: Can We Quantify The Straw That Breaks The Camel’s Back?  Posted: 20 Aug 2012 09:22 AM PDT by Gavin Schmidt via RealClimate**

Note from Joe Romm: James Hansen’s recent work on attributing climate extremes to global warming is very important. That’s because off-the-charts extreme weather — along with its impact on food production — is how most Americans and indeed most homo sapiens are likely to experience the negative impacts of climate change for the foreseeable future. So it’s no surprise that it has come under attack. NASA’s Gavin Schmidt has an excellent explanation of why Hansen’s analysis is so relevant and why some of his critics are so wrong. The bottom line: The critics apparently think climate impacts are linear — a small change always has a small incremental impact — whereas reality makes clear that the impacts are non-linear and have potentially dangerous thresholds. There is a straw that breaks the climate’s back, and we would appear to be fast approaching it.


There has been a lot of discussion related to the Hansen et al (2012, PNAS) paper and the accompanying op-ed in the Washington Post last week. But in this post, I’ll try and make the case that most of the discussion has not related to the actual analysis described in the paper, but rather to proxy arguments for what people think is ‘important’.


What Hansen et al have done is actually very simple. If you define a climatology (say 1951-1980, or 1931-1980), calculate the seasonal mean and standard deviation at each grid point for this period, and then normalise the departures from the mean, you will get something that looks very much like a Gaussian ‘bell-shaped’ distribution. If you then plot a histogram of the values from successive decades, you will get a sense for how much the climate of each decade departed from that of the initial baseline period….



Mann: We Must Heed James Hansen On Global Warming And Extreme Weather Since He’s Been Right For So Long

By Joe Romm and Climate Guest Blogger on Aug 9, 2012 at 12:25 pm

NASA’s James Hansen has been accurately warning about the dangers of global warming for more than three decades. In fact, 31 years ago this month, Hansen and six other NASA atmospheric physicists, published a seminal article in Science, “Climate Impact of Increasing Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide.”



**Extreme metrics — gavin @ 18 August 2012 There has been a lot of discussion related to the Hansen et al (2012, PNAS) paper and the accompanying op-ed in the Washington Post last week. But in this post, I’ll try and make the case that most of the discussion has not related to the actual analysis described in the paper, but rather to proxy arguments for what people think is ‘important’….. Using the metric that Hoerling and Mass are proposing is equivalent to assuming that all effects of extremes are linear, which is very unlikely to be true. The ‘loaded dice’/’return time’/’frequency of extremes’ metrics being used by Hansen, Pall, Rahmstorf & Coumou, Allen etc. are going to be much more useful for anyone who cares about what effects these extremes are having.




New Climate History Adds to Understanding of Recent Antarctic Peninsula Warming

August 22, 2012 — A recent study adds a new dimension to our understanding of Antarctic Peninsula climate change and the likely causes of the break-up of its ice … > full story



Massachusetts butterflies move north as climate warms (August 19, 2012) — A new study shows that, over the past 19 years, a warming climate has been reshaping Massachusetts butterfly communities. Subtropical and warm-climate species — many of which were rare or absent in Massachusetts as recently as the late 1980s — show sharp increases in abundance. At the same time, more than three quarters of northerly species — species with a range centered north of Boston — are now declining in Massachusetts, many of them rapidly. … > full story



Arctic Death Spiral Watch: (Cryosp)here Today, Gone Tomorrow

Posted: 20 Aug 2012 03:39 PM PDT

The record lows for Arctic sea ice area and volume are generally set in mid- to late September.

But as Neven’s Arctic Sea Ice Blog reports, we’re already starting to see those September minimum records being broken in mid-August….




issued by  CLIMATE PREDICTION CENTER/NCEP/NWS  and the International Research Institute for Climate and Society

9 August 2012  ENSO Alert System Status: El Niño Watch

Synopsis: El Niño conditions are likely to develop during August or September 2012.

……  Nearly all of the dynamical models favor the onset of El Niño beginning in July- September 2012 (Fig. 6). As in previous months, several statistical models predict ENSO-neutral conditions through the remainder of the year, but the average statistical forecast of Niño-3.4 increased compared to last month. Supported by model forecasts and the continued warmth across the Pacific Ocean, there is increased confidence for a weak-to-moderate El Niño during the Northern Hemisphere fall and winter 2012-13. El Niño conditions are likely to develop during August or September 2012 (see CPC/IRI consensus forecast).

FROM: NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center web site (El Niño/La Niña Current Conditions and Expert Discussions). Forecasts for the evolution of El Niño/La Niña are updated monthly in the Forecast Forum section of CPC’s Climate Diagnostics Bulletin. The next ENSO Diagnostics Discussion is scheduled for 6 September 2012. To receive an e-mail notification when the monthly ENSO Diagnostic Discussions are released, please send an e-mail message to:


Antarctic ice sheet quakes shed light on ice movement and earthquakes (August 23, 2012) — Analysis of small, repeating earthquakes in an Antarctic ice sheet may not only lead to an understanding of glacial movement, but may also shed light on stick slip earthquakes like those on the San Andreas fault or in Haiti, according to geoscientists. … > full story


From subscription required:

Climate science: Himalayan glaciers in the balance ▶
J. Graham Cogley
Climate change: Brief but warm Antarctic summer ▶
Eric J. Steig 

Recent Antarctic Peninsula warming relative to Holocene climate and ice-shelf history ▶
Robert Mulvaney, Nerilie J. Abram, Richard C. A. Hindmarsh, Carol Arrowsmith, Louise Fleet et al.
An ice-core record from the northeastern Antarctic Peninsula shows that the present warming period in the region is unusual in the context of natural climate variability over the past two thousand years, and that continued warming could cause ice-shelf instability farther south along the peninsula.


Report card shows Australia’s oceans are changing (August 16, 2012) — The 2012 Marine Climate Change in Australia Report Card shows climate change is having significant impacts on Australia’s marine ecosystems. … > full story


Extreme weather linked to global warming, Nobel prize-winning scientist says (August 20, 2012) — New scientific analysis strengthens the view that record-breaking summer heat, crop-withering drought and other extreme weather events in recent years do, indeed, result from human activity and global warming, Nobel Laureate Mario J. Molina has said. … > full story


In Southwest, Worst-Case Fire Scenario Plays Out

NPR – ‎August 24, 2012‎

As the Earth’s average temperature creeps upward, climate scientists have predicted record heat waves and droughts. That’s what we’ve seen this summer in the U.S.. The question has become, are we now seeing the real damage climate change can do?….



Past Tropical Climate Change Linked to Ocean Circulation

Aug 24, 2012

A new record of past temperature change in the tropical Atlantic Ocean’s subsurface provides clues as to why Earth’s climate is so sensitive to ocean circulation patterns, according to climate scientists at Texas A&M University. Geological oceanographer Matthew Schmidt and two of his graduate students teamed up with Ping Chang, a physical oceanographer and climate modeler, to help uncover an important climate connection between the tropics and the high latitude North Atlantic. Their new findings are in the current issue of PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences). The researchers used geochemical clues in fossils called foraminifera, tiny sea creatures with a hard shell, collected from a sediment core located off the northern coast of Venezuela, to generate a 22,000-year record of past ocean temperature and salinity changes in the upper 1,500 feet of water in the western tropical Atlantic. They also conducted global climate model simulations under the past climate condition to interpret this new observational record in the context of changes in the strength of the global ocean conveyor-belt circulation….

“What we found was that subsurface temperatures in the western tropical Atlantic rapidly warmed during cold periods in Earth’s past,” Schmidt explains.

“Together with our new modeling experiments, we think this is evidence that when the global conveyor slowed down during cold periods in the past, warm subsurface waters that are normally trapped in the subtropical North Atlantic flowed southward and rapidly warmed the deep tropics. When the tropics warmed, it altered climate patterns around the globe.”


No-till could help maintain crop yields despite climate change (August 23, 2012) — Reducing tillage for some Central Great Plains crops could help conserve water and reduce losses caused by climate change, according to studies at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. … > full story


Ohio Farmers Work To Keep Climate Change On The Agenda: ‘The Drought Moved The Needle’

Posted: 22 Aug 2012 08:41 AM PDT

Farmers in Ohio may not be facing extreme drought conditions like their counterparts in Kansas, Nebraska, and Oklahoma, but record high temperatures and little rain still caused plenty of headaches in the state this summer. Corn yields in the state are expected to fall 29 percent this year. In some areas of the state, farmers are seeing yields up to 60 percent below last year. And some believe those losses, caused by the recent rash of usually hot, dry weather, has raised awareness of climate change among traditionally skeptical farmers in Ohio.

“I really do think that there are farmers that are being converted by the drought,” said Joe Logan, who owns a 300-acre corn, soy and livestock farm in Northeast Ohio. “I think farmers see the changes in precipitation patterns – not just this year, but over time – and make the connection. And I do think the drought moved the needle some more.” Logan, who is also director of agricultural programs at the Ohio Environmental Council, isn’t quite sure how far the needle has moved – or if it will have any political influence. Like in many other states around the country, policymakers have been silent – if not downright hostile – on the issue of climate change…..



August 14, 2012

Farmers in Drought – a teachable moment on climate?

Kristin Hyde  climate access

At a gathering of ranchers in Kansas City last weekend, every meeting and meal was opened with a prayer, including a plea for rain to end this devastating drought. Drought-caused price spikes for feed are forcing many livestock producers to slaughter their herds to a level they can afford to feed. You won’t often see a direct link in these stories to climate change, and you are even less likely to hear such a link made by the farmers and ranchers themselves.   The key is to understand farmers’ perspectives, be strategic about effective engagement and find common ground.


Public and Farmer Attitudes on Food Farming and Biofuels.pdf 16.5 MB




Australia: Can Swan River Survive Climate Change?
It’s been called Perth’s greatest natural asset, but the stunning Swan River that winds through Western Australia’s capital is under increasing pressure from deadly algal blooms caused by the state’s drying climate. The government has spent just $40 million over five years to try and save the Swan and Canning rivers while having spent nearly $440 million to transform Perth’s central riverfront in a smaller version of Sydney’s Circular Quay (a pedestrian water front area). The government has spent an additional $3.3 million over three years to establish nutrient catchments through tree planting and wetland restoration.


Helping Vulnerable People Cope with Climate Change: STOP SAYING THAT!

Posted: 17 Aug 2012 08:52 AM PDT Shaun Martin, WWF-US

Allow me to begin by saying I am all for helping vulnerable people. As in previous entries in this series, I am less concerned whether or not this phrase is technically correct and more interested in how it is interpreted… If you work for a disaster response and recovery organization, continue to use “cope.” Coping is important. At one time we will all at need assistance in managing major disruptions in our lives when they occur. However, if your aim is to ensure that we will need a lot less coping when trouble comes our way, then use words like prepare for, manage, and adapt. As for that troublesome word, “vulnerable,” if you cannot specify exactly whom it is you want to help, try leaving out “vulnerable” altogether. In many cases “empowering people to prepare for the changing climate starting with those who need the most help” might work just fine.


Flood risk ranking reveals vulnerable cities (August 21, 2012) — A new study of nine coastal cities around the world suggests that Shanghai is most vulnerable to serious flooding. European cities top the leader board for their resilience. … > full story


Temperature rise ‘slows economy in poor countries’, Friday 17 August 2012 06.55 EDT  Small increases in temperature may have reduced the industrial and agricultural production of poor countries, according to a study by US economists…Higher temperatures may also have contributed to political instability in these countries — defined as those with below-median per capita income, adjusted for the purchasing power of the country’s currency — according to the study published in the American Economic Journal: Macroeconomics last month. In contrast, rich countries have so far shown no measurable economic or political consequences resulting from temperature change. “Temperature fluctuations can have large negative impacts on poor countries,” said Benjamin Olken, an economics professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and one of the authors of the study….









Alaskans see pipeline threat from reserve proposal

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) August 20, 2012— Special protections proposed for wildlife habitat in the 36,000-square mile National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska would block oil development on half the area, but Alaska officials’ immediate concern is how it would affect… more »


Must-See Video: Oil And Ice Don’t Mix — The Risks Of Drilling In Alaska’s Arctic Ocean

Posted: 20 Aug 2012 07:42 AM PDT

By Kiley Kroh and Michael Conathan

As the decision looms whether to allow Shell Oil to begin exploratory drilling in the Arctic Ocean this summer, the Center for American Progress released a new video today examining our lack of preparedness to respond to an oil spill in the remote and untested region.  Whether the Department of the Interior approves offshore drilling activity in the Arctic Ocean this year or next, the Arctic is still dangerously deficient in infrastructure and scientific knowledge. In “Oil and Ice: The Risks of Drilling in Alaska’s Arctic Ocean,” U.S. Coast Guard Captain Gregory Saniel, Chief of Response says the thought of mustering a response to a major incident like an oil spill “keeps me up at night.”




New nontoxic bird friendly oil spill dispersant  August 20, 2012

Scientists from the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg presented the prototype of a new nontoxic bird friendly oil spill dispersant at the August 20, 2012, session of the 244th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society. The presentation was reviewed at the Eureka Alert web site. Each of the ingredients in the new oil dispersant comes from food products like peanut butter, chocolate and whipped cream. The new oil dispersant breaks up oil and prevents the deposition of oil on birds and other wet animals, plants, and surfaces. Birds that come in contact with oil that is captured by the new dispersant can easily shed the oil and dispersant colloid. This development is expected to prevent damage to birds by oil and dispersants as well as minimize the need for bird cleaning from oil spills.…..Department of the Interior and the Deepwater Horizon Unified Command estimated that the Deepwater Horizon oil spill resulted in the immediate death of 6,045 birds and estimates are that a total of more than 50,000 birds died from the event. Alabama has leased huge tracts of ocean for new oil and gas development in 2012. Another oil spill is probable. Better oil dispersants will prevent some of the environmental damage that will occur in the future.






  1. 4.     POLICY


U.S. court strikes down EPA rule on coal pollution

By Valerie Volcovici Tues Aug 21, 2012

Aug 21 (Reuters) – A U.S. appeals court on Tuesday overturned a key Obama administration rule to reduce harmful emissions from coal-burning power plants, sparking a rally in coal company shares and relief among utility firms. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit said in a 2-1 decision that the Environmental Protection Agency had exceeded its mandate with the rule, which was to limit sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions from power plants in 28 mostly Eastern states and Texas…

….The EPA’s rule was designed to reduce sulfur dioxide emissions by 73 percent and nitrogen oxide by 54 percent at coal-fired power plants from 2005 levels, improving health for over 240 million people, according to the agency. The reasoning is that unhealthy emissions from those plants, pollutants that cause acid rain and smog, cross state lines. Two of the three judges ruling on the case said the EPA had exceeded its “jurisdictional limits” in interpreting the Clean Air Act and imposed “massive emission reduction requirements” on upwind states. “By doing so, EPA departed from its consistent prior approach to implementing the good neighbor provision and violated the (Clean Air Act),” Judge Brett Kavanaugh said in the court’s opinion. The rule, known as CSAPR, also established a cap-and-trade system that enabled power producers to comply with the emission limits by buying, trading and selling pollution permits. Environmental market traders said they were “surprised and disappointed” by the ruling.

….John Walke, clean air director at the Natural Resources Defense Council, said the dissenting opinion of Judge Judith Rogers more accurately reflected the opinion of the court.

“The EPA can – and should – immediately appeal this decision. The dissenting judge correctly follows the Clean Air Act and prior rulings by this court. The majority opinion is an outlier at odds with the court’s own rulings as well as the Clean Air Act,” Walke said. Judge Rogers said the other two judges were “trampling on this court’s precedent on which the Environmental Protection Agency was entitled to rely in developing the Transport Rule rather than be blindsided by arguments raised for the first time in this court”. The appeals court had in June ruled 2-1 in favor of the EPA in a challenge to the agency’s greenhouse gas regulations.



Farm Bill Stalls During August Recess 

After substantial advancement in recent weeks, progress on the 2012 Farm Bill has ground to a halt, according to the Wildlife Management Institute. In late June, the Senate passed its version of the bill by a vote of 64 to 35. The House Agriculture Committee quickly followed suit and passed their version of the bill on July 12th. ….



Texas: Dr. Pepper Invests $1.1 Million to Save Prairies
Nearly 7,500 acres of wilderness in Texas will be protected thanks to a somewhat unexpected source: the Dr. Pepper Snapple Group (DPS). The beverage company has invested $1.1 million in The Nature Conservancy for preservation and restoration of five natural areas. The preserves are all major watersheds in Texas.



The Climate Change Limits of U.S. Natural Gas

by Michael Levi August 20, 2012  Council on Foreign Relations

The Associated Press reported last week that U.S. greenhouse gas emissions have dropped to a twenty-year low on the back of abundant natural gas. “The question,” it correctly observed, “is whether the shift is just one bright spot in a big, gloomy [climate change] picture, or a potentially larger trend.”

I’ve argued repeatedly in the past that surging supplies of natural gas are good news for climate change. But there are important limits to what U.S. natural gas can do. This post is going to illustrate those with some simple numbers.….The bottom line? Natural gas can do a lot to bend the U.S. emissions curve over the coming years. In even the medium run, though, simply moving from coal to gas is not a substitute for broader policy, at least not if the United States wants to realize the sorts of emissions cuts that both Barack Obama and John McCain talked about only four years ago. Best to think of gas as a climate opportunity – to forestall construction of long-lived and highly polluting infrastructure,  to make carbon capture and sequestration cheaper, to balance intermittent renewable sources – rather than as a solution in itself.


Report: Bird-strike data for planes skimpy

USA TODAY  August 23, 2012

The Federal Aviation Administration doesn’t keep good track of how many times planes strike birds, and its inspectors often aren’t familiar with wildlife, according to an inspector general’s report Thursday.



Sacramento levees fail federal maintenance criteria  Published Friday, Aug. 24, 2012

Levees protecting most of the city of Sacramento and 15 other areas of the Central Valley were declared on Thursday to have failed federal maintenance criteria. As a result, those levees are no longer eligible for federal money to rebuild if damaged in a storm.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers made the declaration after concluding that a new state plan to improve Central Valley levees does not provide enough detail to ensure that maintenance problems, such as erosion and intruding structures, will be fixed.

The affected areas include 40 miles of levees wrapping most of the city of Sacramento on the American and Sacramento rivers. This system of levees, known on flood-control maps as Maintenance Area 9, includes the south bank of the American River from about Bradshaw Road downstream to the confluence with the Sacramento River, then downstream from there nearly to Courtland…


US election 2012: Romney and Obama avoid the climate change elephant

Next week’s Republican convention will highlight – by its omission – how toxic climate change has become in the US.  The Republicans roll into Tampa next week – hurricanes permitting – for their national convention where Mitt Romney will be officially confirmed as the party’s candidate for president.

The build-up to the convention has been overshadowed by the highly controversial “legitimate rape” remarks made by Todd Atkin, a congressman from Missouri, and his subsequent refusal to quit his bid for re-election despite pressure from the party’s leadership.

But while the US media has largely focused on this unedifying internal battle, Mitt Romney has laid out his all-important energy plans for the country. The headline is that, if elected as president, he will make the US “energy independent” by 2020 and, by doing so, create three million jobs.


Florida: Environmental Groups Launch Amendment Drive to Protect Environmental Funds
The Florida Water and Land Legacy Campaign has launched a petition drive to put an amendment on the November 2014 ballot that would guarantee a stable source of money for environmental protection. Since 2009, legislators have cut funding for the state’s Florida Forever program by 97.5% to $23 million for land management and ecological restoration, including the Everglades.


[NY CITY]Council Wants City to Prepare for Extreme Weather of Climate Change

Thursday, August 23, 2012 12:00 AM | by Sarah Crean and Cristian Salazar NEW YORK — For Sabrina Terry, the Sunset Park neighborhood where she works is at the front line of climate change.

…..Terry and her group have been vocal about their belief that the city wasn’t preparing sufficiently for the impact that climate change would have on coastal communities already struggling with environmental problems. The City Council took steps to address those concerns yesterday, voting in favor of a bill that would enlarge the scope of a climate change panel and task force to focus on populations that are especially vulnerable to extreme weather events — such as the elderly, children and the poor. The legislation also makes the panel and task force permanent. Council Speaker Christine Quinn said the point was to make sure that the city was thinking as broadly as possible…



Programs to Reduce Carbon Emissions

August 18, 2012 Compiled: 12:46 AM  (NYT)

Two environmental organizations discuss carbon credits and fees.

More wolves need to go
The Associated Press via Missoulian
Rick Hill, Republican candidate for governor of Montana, said he wants more done to reduce the number of wolves in the state, along with making management changes at the Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks. The former congressman said he thinks management of Fish, Wildlife and Parks is flawed and needs to be more focused on improving available wildlife opportunities for its customers, the hunters. More

Young Conservatives Discover Climate Change  Daily Beast August 20, 2012

As recently as 2010, major Republican leaders such as Lindsey Graham were comfortable proposing (although not passing) market-based solutions to climate change. That was largely swept away with the Tea Party, but the hints of a comeback are emerging.








  1. 5.   RESOURCES

NEW: Tidal Marsh Restoration- A Synthesis of Science and Practice

Tidal Marsh Restoration by Charles T. Roman and David M. Burdick is the latest title in the SER-Island Press book series The Science and Practice of Ecological Restoration. The book provides the scientific foundation and practical guidance necessary for coastal zone stewards to initiate salt marsh tidal restoration programs. Compiling a synthesizes and interpretation of the current state of knowledge on the science and practice of salt marsh restoration, Tidal Marsh Restoration is an essential work for managers, planners, regulators, environmental and engineering consultants, and others engaged in planning, designing, and implementing projects or programs aimed at restoring tidal flow to tide-restricted or diked salt marshes


Resilience Practice-Building Capacity to Absorb Disturbance and Maintain Function
In 2006, Resilience Thinking addressed an essential question: As the natural systems that sustain us are subjected to shock after shock, how much can they take and still deliver the services we need from them? Now, in Resilience Practice, authors Brian Walker and David Salt take the notion of resilience one step further, applying resilience thinking to real-world situations and exploring how systems can be managed to promote and sustain resilience. This book offers an easy-to-read but scientifically robust guide through the real-world application of the concept of resilience.


This just to remind you all that The River Otter Ecology Project is researching Bay Area river otters, and part of our project is a citizen science “Otter Spotter” program. If you see river otters in the course of your ramblings, we would appreciate it so much if you would go to our website, and click the OTTER SPOTTER icon to input your sighting, and photos/video if any. Then we update our range map, which you can see online. We’ve had over 130 sightings reported since March!


Conversation Helps Build Website for Global Climate Change Awareness
Conversation, a marketing agency located in midtown Manhattan, is helping to build a new website for the Blue Carbon Initiative, a collaborative effort between three conservation organizations (CI, IUCN, IOC-UNESCO). The Initiative is an integrated program with a comprehensive and coordinated global agenda focused on mitigating climate change through the conservation and restoration of coastal marine ecosystems. The website will serve as an informative resource to support the work of the Blue Carbon Initiative.


EcoSummit 2012-Ecological Sustainability– Sept. 30- Oct. 5

6th Annual Conference on Coastal and Estuarine Habitat Restoration– Oct. 20-24

SER2013: 5th World Conference on Ecological Restoration– Oct 6-11, 2013
SER will hold its 5th World Conference in Madison, Wisconsin, from October 6-11 ,2013.




Central Valley Project Improvement Act Habitat Restoration Program Grants- Oct 5, 2012
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and U.S. Bureau of Reclamation today announced the availability of over $2.2 million in grants to improve conditions for federally- imperiled species and their habitats impacted by the Central Valley Project (CVP). The 2012 grants continue 18 years of funding projects. This year, four categories of projects will be funded: land acquisition (fee title and conservation easement); habitat restoration; research; and captive breeding.

U.S. Forest Service Teams with Nonprofit Foundation in Wildfire Recovery Efforts

U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell has announced a new nonprofit-operated fund allowing people across the country to support environmental restoration work in areas damaged by wildfire. The Wildfire Recovery Fund established by the National Forest Foundation will help work crews to restore and protect waterways, stabilize soils to prevent mudslides and plant new trees following wildfires.

California to Receive $11 Million in Grants for Habitat Restoration
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has announced $11 million in federal grants for California agencies for habitat restoration and other wildlife protection. The grants, funded by the Cooperative Endangered Species Conservation Fund, are among $33 million in funding awarded to 21 states.

Earth Island Institute: Supporting community-based wetland restoration initiatives
Through the Small Grants Program, Earth Island Institute has been able to support locally based restoration efforts to do just that. Small grassroots efforts to restore the coastal habitats of Southern California, which have been depleted by an astounding 98%, have been slowly working to bring our wetlands back from the brink of extinction. By supporting and empowering the new restoration leaders, we ensure our collective success in restoring some of the earth’s most fragile ecosystems.


Restoration and Education Internship, Winter 2012-13, Palomarin, Farallones, and more:  PRBO Conservation Science (PRBO)









Public wave energy test facility begins operation in Oregon (August 21, 2012) — One of the first public wave energy testing systems in the United States began operation this week off the Oregon coast near Newport, and will allow private industry or academic researchers to test new technology that may help advance this promising form of sustainable energy. … > full story

Urine based ‘potion’ can act as CO<sub>2</sub> absorbent (August 17, 2012) — Absorbing the large quantities of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases present in cities would require millions of tons of some naturally occurring substance. Urine could be the reactive agent. As a resource available across all human societies, it is produced in large quantities and is close to the pollution hubs of large cities. … > full story

Cloud brightening to control global warming? Geoengineers propose an experiment (August 20, 2012) — A scientist has proposed an experiment to test cloud brightening, a geoengineering concept that alters clouds in an effort to counter global warming. His proposed experiment is part of a larger paper detailing the latest thinking on cloud brightening. … > full story



Fuel Efficiency Driving Onshoring

Posted: 24 Aug 2012 08:39 AM PDT by Roland Hwang, via NRDC’s Switchboard

Lost in the current debate about “offshoring” is the remarkable story of the “onshoring” of fuel-efficiency manufacturing.  Thanks in large part to stronger standards, American drivers no longer have to buy foreign if they want to trade in their gas guzzler for gas sippers. Fuel-efficiency is driving sales and jobs growth in the auto industry.  And as demand grows, so does the business case to make fuel efficient cars and components in America.

Hybrid productions exemplify this trend.  With U.S. hybrid sales booming (up 63% this year), Toyota and Honda are bringing production to the U.S.  Most recently, Honda Motor Co. plans to invest $40 million and bring all global Civic Hybrid manufacturing to its Greensburg, Indiana manufacturing plant from Japan, creating 300 jobs by the end of the year.

Earlier this year, Toyota announced it would bring production of its Highlander mid-size SUV, including the Highlander Hybrid, to its Princeton, Indiana plant from its current plant in Japan.  The move to expand capacity represents an investment of $400 million and will add another 400 jobs.  Furthermore, Toyota plans to begin producing the Prius hybrid in the U.S. by 2015, bringing production inshore from Japan to a yet-to-be specified plant.


Warming-Driven Drought Pushes Crop Prices To Record Levels, As We Burn 40% Of Corn Crop In Our Engines  Posted: 23 Aug 2012 03:23 PM PDT

When will the madness stop? In a piece titled, “Nearly Half Of Corn Devoted To Fuel Production Despite Historic Drought,” Bloomberg editorialized: Record-high corn prices should be sending a clear message to policy makers in Washington: Requiring people to put corn-based fuel in their gas tanks is a bad idea…..







Lindzen, Happer, and Cohen-Climate Change Wall Street Journal Rerun

Posted on 22 August 2012 by dana1981

Readers may recall a letter published in the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) in January 2012, signed by 16 climate contrarians, which we dubbed The Latest Denialist Plea for Climate Change InactionRoger Cohen, William Happer, and Richard Lindzen (hereafter CHL) were 3 of the 16 signatories on that letter, and have published yet another in the WSJ a mere 7 months later.  As we noted at the time, neither Happer nor Cohen has a single climate science publication to his name, while Happer is a member of two fossil fuel-funded climate denialist think tanks (George C. Marshall Institute and Global Warming Policy Foundation) and Cohen is a George C. Marshall Institute ‘expert’ who has previously worked for ExxonMobil.  Richard Lindzen is of course a climate scientist, but quite possibly the most consistently wrong climate scientist on climate issues on the planet.

Suffice it to say that CHL do not have a great deal of credibility on climate science issues, which is perhaps why they continue to publish their opinions in the conservative mainstream media rather than subjecting their arguments to the scientific peer-review process.  As we saw in January, the first WSJ letter was little more than a compilation of many long-debunked climate myths, and the quality of their arguments has not improved much in their second attempt.  In fact the two letters bear some striking resemblances, for example both citing the climate opinions of Ivar Giaever, who we have previously seen has not even done the most basic climate science research.

In this post we will examine the claims made in the latest WSJ letter from CHL, with one in particular standing out above the rest.


Electrifying success in raising antioxidant levels in sweet potatoes (August 20, 2012) — Already ranked by some as number one in nutrition among vegetables, the traditional sweet potato can be nutritionally supercharged with a simple, inexpensive electric current treatment that increases its content of healthful polyphenols or antioxidants by 60 percent, scientists have said. This is believed to be the first electrical enhancement of sweet potatoes, a dietary staple since prehistoric times. … > full story

Stop grilling dinner: Specific toxic byproduct of heat-processed food leads to increased body weight and diabetes, mouse study finds (August 20, 2012) — Researchers have identified a common compound in the modern diet that could play a major role in the development of abdominal obesity, insulin resistance, and type 2 diabetes. The research team recommends that clinical guidelines be revised to eliminate foods cooked using dry heat and replace them with methods that use lower heat or lots of moisture (water) as in stewing, poaching or steaming. Examples from the AGE-less diet include stewed beef, chicken and fish instead of grilled meats. … > full story


Multiple factors, including climate change, led to collapse and depopulation of ancient Maya (August 21, 2012) — A new analysis of complex interactions between humans and the environment preceding the 9th century collapse and abandonment of the Central Maya Lowlands in the Yucatan Peninsula points to a series of events — some natural, like climate change; some human-made, including large-scale landscape alterations and shifts in trade routes — that have lessons for contemporary decision-makers and sustainability scientists. … > full story




Baby Boomers Urged to Get Hepatitis C Test

By KATE YANDELL BODY NY TIMES AUGUST 20, 2012, 3:19 PM23 Comments

The Centers for Disease Control and Preventionrecommended last week that all Americans born from 1945 through 1965 get a one-time hepatitis C test.

Baby boomers account for 75 percent of the hepatitis C cases in the United States, even though they make up only 27 percent of the total population. Officials estimated that the new recommendation would help to identify 800,000 people with the infection.

Hepatitis C is a blood-borne virus spread through shared needles, blood transfusions that took place before routine screening, and other exposures to infected blood. The virus can also be spread through sexual contact.


Mountain lion captured in downtown Reno plaza

August 24, 2012(AP) — State wildlife officials have tranquilized and removed a mountain lion that wandered into a downtown Reno entertainment plaza and hid under a stage. Reno police say guests at Harrah’s casino reported seeing the cat running in the plaza… more »



And for some exciting local news!!


Petaluma Nationals – 2012 Little League World Series blog

Petaluma wins, will play for U.S. title

Friday, August 24, 2012 at 1:46 by P360


SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. — During the telecast of Petaluma National’s elimination game against McAllistar Park National of San Antonio, ESPN2 flashed a screen shot of Google Earth as it zoomed down on Petaluma, somewhere in all that bumpy green between the Pacific and the Central Valley.

Thirteen happy-go-lucky Little Leaguers are truly putting their city on the map.

The Petaluma all-stars tried a different approach Thursday. After a series of close, tense wins, they won going away against the Southwest representative, scoring six runs in the first inning and breezing to an 11-1 victory that was called after five innings because of the 10-run “mercy” rule…..






  1. 8.     IMAGES OF THE WEEK






















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