Conservation Science News December 12, 2014



Focus of the Week










NOTE: Please pass on my weekly news update that has been prepared for
Point Blue Conservation Science
staff.  You can find these weekly compilations posted on line
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The items contained in this update were drawn from,, SER The Society for Ecological Restoration,,,, The Wildlife Society NewsBrief, CA BLM NewsBytes and other sources as indicated.  This is a compilation of information available on-line, not verified and not endorsed by Point Blue Conservation Science.  
You can sign up for this news compilation by signing up for the California Landscape Conservation Cooperative Newsletter or the Bay Area Ecosystems Climate Change Consortium listserve to receive this. You can also email me directly at Ellie Cohen, ecohen at with questions or suggestions. 

Founded as Point Reyes Bird Observatory, Point Blue’s 140 scientists advance nature-based solutions to climate change, habitat loss and other environmental threats to benefit wildlife and people, through bird and ecosystem science, partnerships and outreach.  We work collaboratively to guide and inspire positive conservation outcomes today — for a healthy, blue planet teeming with life in the future.  Read more about our 5-year strategic approach here.



Focus of the Week


POINT BLUE and partners in the news:

A little rest from grazing improves native grasslands

Dec 04, 2014

Just like us, grasslands need rest to improve their health. A study just published by Point Blue Conservation Science in the journal Ecological Restoration shows a 72 percent increase in where native perennial grasses were found on a coastal California ranch when cattle grazing was changed to give the land more time to rest.
Over the last 300 years, nonnative annual grasses have invaded California’s grasslands. These exotic grasses complete their lifecycle in one year and out-compete the native perennial grasses (grasses that live for multiple years).

Native perennial grasslands in California are one of the most biologically diverse ecosystems in the world, providing habitat for many bird species and other wildlife while also allowing water to better infiltrate soil, decreasing erosion and increasing water storage. They also stay green into the dry months and provide forage for cattle during lean times.

“Managing land and animals to promote perennial grasses through holistic planned grazing offers ranchers the most effective means of creating a profitable beef business, viable in the long-term, “says Joe Morris of T.O. Cattle Company. “By managing for perennial grasses we tend to increase the productivity of our ranches, their beauty, and their resilience against drought. The flip side of this is better performance for our animals and more profit for our business. These are the hallmarks sustainability.”

The study’s scientists documented the increase in perennial grasses by monitoring plant communities at TomKat Ranch near Pescadero, Calif., over the last three years. TomKat Ranch is a 728 hectare (1,800 acre) cow-calf grass-fed beef operation of 100-150 head.

In 2011, the ranch switched from continuous grazing, allowing cattle to graze over large portions of the ranch for months at a time, to a planned grazing approach. They increased cattle density by moving them through a series of smaller subdivided pastures, resting each pasture for 70 to 120 days before grazing again.
Three years after the change, the number of vegetation survey units where native perennial grasses were found increased by 72 percent.

“At TomKat Ranch, we value food production done in a way that maximizes benefits to our entire ranching system—our business, our community and the environment” says Kat Taylor, owner of TomKat Ranch. “Point Blue’s science shows how using rest-rotational grazing can begin to restore coastal rangelands to native grasses and improve water and carbon storage in the soil, while increasing biodiversity and the grass forage potential for our herd.”

The research suggests planned grazing promotes native perennial grass growth by reducing competition from invasive annual grasses. The periods of rest from grazing, especially during plant flowering, allows for more native perennial seed production and increases plant numbers, vigor and size. As California rangelands face the possibility of another drought year, incorporating more rest into grazing practices could improve the health of grasslands and help make ranching more ecologically sustainable.


Henneman, C., N.E. Seavy, & T. Gardali. 2014. Restoring Native Perennial Grasses by Changing Grazing Practices in Central Coastal California. Ecological Restoration, 32:352-354.






‘Family’ matters when predicting ecosystems’ reaction to global change

Posted: 05 Dec 2014 07:00 AM PST

A new study shows that just as our family histories dictate what we look like and how we act, plant evolutionary history shapes community responses to interacting agents of global change... The research, published in the open-access journal PLOS ONE, may help predict what ecosystems will look like in the future and how they will work. “The issues of global change have already begun to jeopardize the natural functioning of ecosystems and important services that we often take for granted like clean air, clean water, food and fiber production,” said Rachel Wooliver, lead author and doctoral student in ecology and evolutionary biology. “Our study is the first to experimentally show that plant communities with different evolutionary backgrounds will respond differently to human-caused physical and biological changes.” In other words, regarding the future effects of global change on ecosystem services and processes humans rely upon, it’s all in the family… They analyzed plant activity in an ambient environment versus one of increased levels of carbon dioxide and soil nitrogen. “We found that only those communities composed of native species within one evolutionary lineage responded significantly to elevated carbon dioxide and nitrogen by taking carbon from the atmosphere and sequestering it into biomass,” said co-author John Senior of the University of Tasmania. “Communities from another lineage, on the other hand, showed no response, which suggests that they will play a less crucial role in offsetting the rise of carbon dioxide and global warming.This means that evolutionary history will shape which species will effectively sequester carbon and which won’t. Further, the presence of the nonnative species in these communities influenced productivity differently depending on the evolutionary background of the interacting native species. Thus, family trees can be used to predict how the spread of nonnative species by humans will shape the look and function of ecosystems as global change continues. “Overall, this study provides new direction for global change scientists by highlighting that evolutionary history is key to understanding outcomes of plant function and diversity with rapid ecological change,” said Wooliver.


Rachel Wooliver mail, John K. Senior, Jennifer A. Schweitzer, Julianne M. O’Reilly-Wapstra J. Adam Langley, Samantha K. Chapman, Joseph K. Bailey. Evolutionary History and Novel Biotic Interactions Determine Plant Responses to Elevated CO2 and Nitrogen Fertilization. PLoS One, December 05, 2014 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0114596


Underwater ecosystem (stock image). “In a sea of tipping points, identifying, anticipating, and reacting to sudden ecosystem changes will be critical as we seek to maintain the delivery of the goods and services from our oceans,” says co-author Phil Levin, a fisheries biologist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Credit: © Pakhnyushchyy / Fotolia

Avoiding ecosystem collapse: Experts Weigh in

Posted: 24 Nov 2014 09:56 AM PST

From coral reefs to prairie grasslands, some of the world’s most iconic habitats are susceptible to sudden collapse due to seemingly minor events. A classic example: the decimation of kelp forests when a decline of otter predation unleashes urchin population explosions. Three studies hold the promise of helping resource managers predict, avoid, and reverse the tipping points that lead to degraded habitats, economic losses, and social upheaval.“In a sea of tipping points, identifying, anticipating, and reacting to sudden ecosystem changes will be critical as we seek to maintain the delivery of the goods and services from our oceans,” says co-author Phil Levin, a fisheries biologist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). In the first study, scientists from the Center for Ocean Solutions at Stanford University and the Environmental Defense Fund evaluated 51 case studies around the globe. They found that successful management of systems with known tipping points depends strongly on three factors: consistent monitoring, explicit incorporation of tipping points data into management actions, and management at small geographic scales. The authors conclude that areas of approximately 6,500 mi2 (17,000 km2, roughly twice the area of Yellowstone National Park) or less are easier to understand, monitor, and manage at the local scale. “Managers who use tipping points science are achieving positive results for virtually every kind of ecosystem,” said co- author Ashley Erickson, policy and education manager with the Center for Ocean Solutions at Stanford. “The findings of our study can help resource managers focus and prioritize their efforts.” The second study, authored by researchers from NOAA and the University of Hamburg, provides additional guidance for marine managers on how to incorporate the risk of reaching a tipping point into current ecosystem-based management frameworks. The authors demonstrate how to adapt NOAA’s widely used Integrated Ecosystem Assessment (IEA) framework for marine ecosystems where tipping points are a concern. This risk-analysis based approach helps managers determine the likelihood that an ecosystem will cross a threshold, and what the resulting socio-economic and environmental impacts might be. In the third study, researchers from the Center for Ocean Solutions, Stockholm Resilience Centre, University ofai`i, NOAA, and the Scripps Institute of Oceanography used a comprehensive global dataset to identify three distinct and stable regimes of Hawaiian Archipelago reef ecosystems: hard corals, turf algae, or macroalgae. Though some algal cover is natural, algae-dominated reefs are the degraded remains of once-diverse coral communities. More than half of Hawaii’s reefs are currently in the algae-dominated regime, thanks to overfishing and nutrient pollution…..



Preventing biodiversity loss due to ash dieback disease

Posted: 11 Dec 2014 06:00 PM PST

A new study of woodlands across the UK reveals that, as Chalara ash dieback disease progresses, encouraging the growth of other broadleaved trees as alternatives to ash could protect the almost 1000 species of plants and animals which usually use ash trees for food and habitat.


Sampling rivers for genes rather than organisms

Posted: 11 Dec 2014 05:11 AM PST

Effective environmental management depends on a detailed knowledge of the distribution of species. But taxonomists are in short supply, and some species can be difficult to identify, even for experts. Scientists are now pursuing a new approach for species identification, requiring no more than samples of DNA shed into the environment….

Bits of Plastic in Oceans: 5.25 Trillion and Counting

By JOHN SCHWARTZ 2:00 PM ET December 10, 2014

New computer modeling suggests that plastic particles weighing almost 269,000 tons are floating in the world’s oceans…


Lethal control of wolves backfires on livestock

Posted: 03 Dec 2014 11:25 AM PST

Researchers have found that it is counter-productive to kill wolves to keep them from preying on livestock. Shooting and trapping lead to more dead sheep and cattle the following year, not fewer. Wildlife biologists say that, for each wolf killed, the odds of more livestock depredations increase significantly.… The gray wolf was federally listed as endangered in 1974. During much of its recovery in the northern Rocky Mountains, government predator control efforts have been used to keep wolves from attacking sheep and livestock. With wolves delisted in 2012, sport hunting has also been used. But until now, the effectiveness of lethal control has been what Wielgus and Peebles call a “widely accepted, but untested, hypothesis.” Their study is the largest of its kind, analyzing 25 years of lethal control data from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services Interagency Annual Wolf Reports in Montana, Wyoming and Idaho. They found that killing one wolf increases the odds of depredations 4 percent for sheep and 5 to 6 percent for cattle the following year. If 20 wolves are killed, livestock deaths double. Work reported in PLOS ONE last year by Peebles, Wielgus and other WSU colleagues found that lethal controls of cougars also backfire, disrupting their populations so much that younger, less disciplined cougars attack more livestock. Still, Wielgus did not expect to see the same result with wolves….


Robert B. Wielgus, Kaylie A. Peebles. Effects of Wolf Mortality on Livestock Depredations. PLoS ONE, 2014; 9 (12): e113505 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0113505


Reduced-impact logging supports diversity of forests almost as well as leaving them alone

Posted: 01 Dec 2014 09:51 AM PST

When it comes to logging, it may be possible to have our timber and our tropical forests, too. The key, according to a report, is careful planning and the use of reduced-impact logging practices that avoid unnecessary damage to the surrounding forest.



Toxic nectar affects the behavior of insect pollinators

Posted: 11 Dec 2014 06:00 PM PST

Natural toxins in nectar and pollen can poison insects and affect their memory, behavior and reproductive success, researchers have found. Toxins in lupin pollen cause bumble bees to produce fewer offspring while chemicals found in rhododendron nectar are toxic to honeybees but not bumble bees, toxic effects that could be contributing to the worrying decline in pollinator species….


UW-Madison researchers Philip Hahn and John Orrock used grasshoppers, like the above Melanoplus found in the South Carolina longleaf pine forests, as indicators of the recovery success of post-agricultural woodlands.Credit: Phil Hahn

Grasshoppers signal slow recovery of post-agricultural woodlands, study finds

Posted: 24 Nov 2014 01:04 PM PST

By comparing grasshoppers found at woodland sites once used
for agriculture to similar sites never disturbed by farming, researchers show that despite decades of recovery, the numbers and types of species found in each differ, as do the understory plants and other ecological variables, like soil properties.




Researchers get a rabbit’s-eye view

Posted: 03 Dec 2014 01:11 PM PST

Researchers are using innovative imaging techniques to map the properties of vegetation that influence how and when animals use cover from the elements and predators. Their data could help dictate land management decisions and restoration of the landscape...
Researchers used LiDAR to capture detailed images. Using remote sensing, LiDAR targets an object with a laser, and then analyzes the reflected light to capture an image of the object’s 3D structure. “It essentially creates a map showing relative risk for an animal based on how well it can be hidden,” Forbey said. Using unmanned aerial vehicles, the team gathered data from multiple vantage points, representing predator sightlines as well as the visibility of potential predators by prey. Information gathered could help researchers understand how habitat changes can impact the predator-prey relationship. The report notes that many prey in Southwest Idaho (such as pygmy rabbits and sage-grouse) rely on sagebrush vegetation for refuge from predators like badgers and birds of prey. But the increase in invasive species is altering the landscape and affecting the ability of prey to find shelter. Images captured by LiDAR are allowing researchers to compare the landscape from various eye-heights (coyote vs. weasel), positions (standing vs. lying) and modes of hunting (ground vs. air)….



Another human footprint in the ocean: Rising anthropogenic nitrate levels in North Pacific Ocean

Posted: 27 Nov 2014 06:23 PM PST

Human-induced changes to Earth’s carbon cycle — for example, rising atmospheric carbon dioxide and ocean acidification — have been observed for decades. However, a new study has shown that human activities, in particular industrial and agricultural processes, have also had significant impacts on the upper ocean nitrogen cycle. “The burgeoning human population needs energy and food — unfortunately, nitrogen pollution is an unintended consequence and not even the open ocean is immune from our daily industrial activities,” said Karl.

Given the likelihood that the magnitude of atmospheric nitrogen deposition will continue to increase in the future, the North Pacific Ocean could rapidly switch to having surplus nitrate. Thus, past and future increases in atmospheric nitrogen deposition have the potential to alter the base of the marine food web; and, in the long term, the structure of the ecosystem. In particular, the shift in nutrient availability could favor marine organisms that thrive under the high nitrate and low phosphorus conditions. If similar trends are confirmed in the Atlantic and Indian Oceans, it would constitute another example of a global-scale alteration of Earth system. Further, the findings of this study of the North Pacific highlight the need for greater controls on the emission of nitrogen compounds during combustion and agricultural processes.


Il-Nam Kim, Kitack Lee, Nicolas Gruber, David M. Karl, John L. Bullister, Simon Yang, Tae-Wook Kim. Increasing anthropogenic nitrogen in the North Pacific Ocean. Science, 2014 DOI: 10.1126/science.1258396


Thirty new spider species found in one of China’s richest biodiversity hotspots

Posted: 04 Dec 2014 06:11 AM PST

Scientists have devoted years to study the astounding diversity hidden in the depths of the Xishuangbanna tropical rain forests. One team now reveals 30 new spider species, which constitutes a minor share of what is yet to be found in this biodiversity hotspot.


Citizen science increases environmental awareness, advocacy

Posted: 03 Dec 2014 01:11 PM PST

Citizen science boosts environmental awareness and advocacy more than previously thought and can lead to broader public support for conservation efforts, according to a new study. The researchers found that in addition to gaining environmental knowledge and skills such as population monitoring and species identification, participants in the projects often became environmental advocates, sharing their knowledge within their social networks.


Drugs in the environment affect plant growth

Posted: 05 Dec 2014 08:39 AM PST

By assessing the impacts of a range of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, research has shown that the growth of edible crops can be affected by these chemicals — even at the very low concentrations found in the environment. The research focused its analysis on lettuce and radish plants and tested the effects of several commonly prescribed drugs, including diclofenac and ibuprofen. These drugs are among the most common and widely used group of pharmaceuticals, with more than 30 million prescribed across the world every day.


The Sulawesi streaked flycatcher (Muscicapa sodhii), whose discovery has just been confirmed 15 years after the first sighting in Indonesia, is distinguished by its mottled throat and short wings.

Credit: Martin Lindop & Ticiana Jardim Marini

New bird species confirmed 15 years after first observation

Posted: 24 Nov 2014 11:36 AM PST

Biologists have confirmed the discovery of a new bird species more than 15 years after the elusive animal was first seen.


When polar bears (Ursus maritimus) meet glaucous gulls (Larus hyperboreaus) over the remains of a bowhead whale (Balaena mysticetus), they may be sharing more than a meal. As the warming climate brings animals into new proximity, parasites, viruses, and bacteria can find opportunities to spread to new and naïve hosts, sometimes jumping from birds to mammals, and from marine ecosystems to land ecosystems. Credit: USGS

In a rapidly changing north, new diseases travel on the wings of birds

Posted: 02 Dec 2014 10:55 AM PST

When wild birds are a big part of your diet, opening a freshly shot bird to find worms squirming around under the skin is a disconcerting sight. That was exactly what Victoria Kotongan saw in October, 2012, when she set to cleaning two of four spruce grouse (Falcipennis canadensis) she had taken near her home in Unalakleet, on the northwest coast of Alaska. The next day, she shot four grouse and all four harbored the long, white worms. In two birds, the worms appeared to be emerging from the meat.


Arabian sea humpback whales isolated for 70,000 years

Posted: 03 Dec 2014 12:18 PM PST

Scientists have made a fascinating discovery in the northern Indian Ocean: humpback whales inhabiting the Arabian Sea are the most genetically distinct humpback whales in the world and may be the most isolated whale population on earth. The results suggest they have remained separate from other humpback whale populations for perhaps 70,000 years, extremely unusual in a species famed for long distance migrations.


Endangered hammerhead shark found migrating into unprotected waters

Posted: 25 Nov 2014 05:58 PM PST

The precise movements of a young hammerhead shark have been tracked for the first time, scientists report. The study, which ran over a 10-month period, reveals important gaps in current efforts to protect these endangered sharks and suggests key locations that should be protected to help the survival of the species.


Hoyos-Padilla, James T Ketchum, A Klimley, Felipe Galván-Magaña. Ontogenetic migration of a female scalloped hammerhead shark Sphyrna lewini in the Gulf of California. Animal Biotelemetry, 2014; 2 (1): 17 DOI: 10.1186/2050-3385-2-17


Endangered sockeye salmon swim over spawning grounds in Redfish Lake, Idaho. The naturally spawned offspring of the fish are returning at a high enough rate to rebuild the species, a new analysis shows.Credit: Idaho Department of Fish and Game

Endangered species success: Idaho salmon regaining fitness advantage

Posted: 25 Nov 2014 11:08 AM PST

Once on the brink of extinction with only a few fish remaining, Snake River sockeye salmon are regaining the fitness they need to rebuild wild populations. A
new analysis shows that naturally spawned offspring of fish saved by a hatchery program are now surviving to return at increasing rate — high enough to not only sustain the population but also to rebuild it



Businesses can help preserve endangered bird species with small landscape changes

Posted: 17 Nov 2014 10:08 AM PST

Businesses can contribute to raptor preservation efforts by engaging in less development of lawn areas and increased planting or preservation of native grasslands and woodlots. As more businesses are built on the edges of urban areas, land where raptors once lived becomes industrialized, which raises concerns about the consequences of habitat destruction on raptor populations, experts say.

















First Predator-proof Fence on Kaua’i Completed at Kīlauea Point National Wildlife Refuge

Rare native plant and animal communities that have inhabited a roughly eight-acre area at the Kīlauea Point National Wildlife Refuge—including imperiled bird species found nowhere else on earth—will be protected from predators thanks to the completed installation of a predator-proof fence that stretches almost a half-mile in length. The effort is a collaboration that includes the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Kaua’i National Wildlife Refuge Complex, American Bird Conservancy, Pacific Rim Conservation, and the Kaua’i Endangered Seabird Recovery Project (a Hawai’i Department of Land and Natural Resources Division of Forestry and Wildlife/Pacific Cooperative Studies Unit project). The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation provided critical funding support. The state-of-the-art fence took about three months to construct and will keep introduced mammalian predators, including cats, dogs, rats, and mice, out of the area so that native species such as the endangered Nēnē (Hawaiian Goose), the Mōlī (Laysan Albatross), and rare plants can flourish again in a protected environment. In addition, the absence of introduced predators make this restored site an appropriate translocation site for the threatened ‘A’o (Newell’s Shearwater) and for the reintroduction of rare native plants.



Tooth loss in birds occurred about 116 million years ago

Posted: 11 Dec 2014 11:21 AM PST

A question that has intrigued biologists is: Were teeth lost in the common ancestor of all living birds or convergently in two or more independent lineages of birds? A research team used the degraded remnants of tooth genes in birds to determine that teeth were lost in the common ancestor of all living birds more than 100 million years ago.


How birds get by without external ears

Posted: 11 Dec 2014 08:57 AM PST

Unlike mammals, birds have no external ears. The outer ears have an important function: they help the animal identify sounds coming from different elevations. But birds are also able to perceive whether the source of a sound is above them, below them, or at the same level. Now a research team has discovered that birds are able to localize these sounds by utilizing their entire head.


March of the penguin genomes

Posted: 11 Dec 2014 11:24 AM PST

Two penguin genomes have been sequenced and analyzed for the first time. The study reveals insights into how these birds have been able to adapt to the cold and hostile Antarctic environment.


Major comeback for sea turtles: Highest reported nest counts in Nicaragua

Posted: 11 Dec 2014 08:53 AM PST

Scientists noticed a dramatic increase in nesting of critically endangered hawksbill sea turtles including the highest nest counts since a conservation project began there in 2000.








January-October 2014 temperatures highest on record

Posted: 29 Nov 2014 04:57 AM PST

The global average temperature over land and ocean surfaces for January to October 2014 was the highest on record, according to the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. It said October was the hottest since records began in 1880.



El Niño’s discharged heat fuels intense hurricanes (historical tracks in black).

El Niño’s ‘remote control’ on hurricanes in the Northeastern Pacific

Posted: 04 Dec 2014 01:06 PM PST

El Niño peaks in winter and its surface ocean warming occurs mostly along the equator. However, months later, El Niño events affect the formation of intense hurricanes in the Northeastern Pacific basin — not along the equator. Scientists have now revealed what’s behind ‘remote control.’El Niño, the abnormal warming of sea surface temperatures in the Pacific Ocean, is a well-studied tropical climate phenomenon that occurs every few years. It has major impacts on society and Earth’s climate – inducing intense droughts and floods in multiple regions of the globe. Further, scientists have observed that El Niño greatly influences the yearly variations of tropical cyclones (a general term that includes hurricanes, typhoons and cyclones) in the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. However, there is a mismatch in both timing and location between this climate disturbance and the Northern Hemisphere hurricane season: El Niño peaks in winter and its surface ocean warming occurs mostly along the equator, i.e., a season and region without tropical cyclone (TC) activity. This prompted scientists to investigate El Niño’s influence on hurricanes via its remote ability to alter atmospheric conditions such as stability and vertical wind shear rather than the local oceanic environment. Fei-Fei Jin and Julien Boucharel at the UH Mānoa School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology (SOEST), and I-I Lin at the National Taiwan University published a paper today in Nature that uncovers what’s behind this “remote control.” Jin and colleagues uncovered an oceanic pathway that brings El Niño’s heat into the Northeastern Pacific basin two or three seasons after its winter peak – right in time to directly fuel intense hurricanes in that region….

F.-F. Jin, J. Boucharel, I.-I. Lin. Eastern Pacific tropical cyclones intensified by El Niño delivery of subsurface ocean heat. Nature, 2014; 516 (7529): 82 DOI: 10.1038/nature13958



Looking at El Niño’s past to predict its future

Posted: 05 Dec 2014 08:40 AM PST

Scientists see a large amount of variability in the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) when looking back at climate records from thousands of years ago. Without a clear understanding of what caused past changes in ENSO variability, predicting the climate phenomenon’s future is a difficult task. A new study shows how this climate system responds to various pressures, such as changes in carbon dioxide and ice cover, in one of the best models used to project future climate change.

Some key findings of the new simulations of El Niño over the past 21,000 years:

  • Strengthening ENSO over the current interglacial period, caused by increasing positive ocean-atmosphere feedbacks
  • ENSO characteristics change drastically in response to meltwater discharges during early deglaciation
  • Increasing deglacial atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations tend to weaken ENSO
  • Retreating glacial ice sheets intensify ENSO…


Zhengyu Liu, Zhengyao Lu, Xinyu Wen, B. L. Otto-Bliesner, A. Timmermann, K. M. Cobb. Evolution and forcing mechanisms of El Niño over the past 21,000 years. Nature, 2014; 515 (7528): 550 DOI: 10.1038/nature13963


Global warming continues despite continuous denial

By John Abraham & December 11, 2014

Human emissions of greenhouse gases cause the Earth to warm. We’ve known that for decades – actually for over 100 years. But how do we measure warming? How fast is the planet heating? Turns out, this is conceptually easy to answer, even though it is difficult to implement the required measurements.


West Antarctic melt rate has tripled in last decade

Posted: 02 Dec 2014 03:33 PM PST

A comprehensive, 21-year analysis of the fastest-melting region of Antarctica has found that the melt rate of glaciers there has tripled during the last decade.


Better forecasts for sea ice under climate change: Effect of waves

Posted: 25 Nov 2014 05:54 PM PST

New research is helping pinpoint the impact of waves on sea ice, which is vulnerable to climate change, particularly in the Arctic where it is rapidly retreating. Scientists report the first laboratory experiments testing theoretical models of wave activity in frozen oceans.


Baltic sea: Climate change counteracts decline in eutrophication

Posted: 01 Dec 2014 07:03 AM PST

Despite extensive measures to protect the Baltic Sea from anthropogenic activities since the late 1980s, oxygen concentrations continue to decrease. Rising temperatures in the bottom water layers could be the reason for the oxygen decline. A new paper reports on the first comprehensive analysis of measurement data from the Boknis Eck time series station.


Carbon dioxide warming effects felt just a decade after being emitted

Posted: 03 Dec 2014 05:43 AM PST

It takes just 10 years for a single emission of carbon dioxide (CO2) to have its maximum warming effects on the Earth. This is according to researchers who have dispelled a common misconception that the main warming effects from a CO2 emission will not be felt for several decades.… The results, which have been published today, 3 December, in IOP Publishing’s journal Environmental Research Letters, also confirm that warming can persist for more than a century and suggest that the benefits from emission reductions will be felt by those who have worked to curb the emissions and not just future generations.

Some of these benefits would be the avoidance of extreme weather events, such as droughts, heatwaves and flooding, which are expected to increase concurrently with the change in temperature. However, some of the bigger climate impacts from warming, such as sea-level rise, melting ice sheets and long-lasting damage to ecosystems, will have a much bigger time lag and may not occur for hundreds or thousands of years later, according to the researchers. Lead author of the study Dr Katharine Ricke said: “Amazingly, despite many decades of climate science, there has never been a study focused on how long it takes to feel the warming from a particular emission of carbon dioxide, taking carbon-climate uncertainties into consideration. “A lot of climate scientists may have an intuition about how long it takes to feel the warming from a particular emission of CO2, but that intuition might be a little bit out of sync with our best estimates from today’s climate and carbon cycle models.”…. The results showed that the median time between a single CO2 emission and maximum warming was 10.1 years, and reaffirmed that most of the warming persists for more than a century. The reason for this time lag is because the upper layers of the oceans take longer to heat up than the atmosphere. As the oceans take up more and more heat which causes the overall climate to warm up, the warming effects of CO2 emissions actually begin to diminish as CO2 is eventually removed from the atmosphere. It takes around 10 years for these two competing factors to cancel each other out and for warming to be at a maximum.Our results show that people alive today are very likely to benefit from emissions avoided today and that these will not accrue solely to impact future generations,” Dr Ricke continued. “Our findings should dislodge previous misconceptions about this timeframe that have played a key part in the failure to reach policy consensus.”


Katharine L Ricke, Ken Caldeira. Maximum warming occurs about one decade after a carbon dioxide emission. Environmental Research Letters, 2014; 9 (12): 124002 DOI: 10.1088/1748-9326/9/12/124002


Protect the world’s deltas, experts urge

Posted: 03 Dec 2014 11:26 AM PST

Extensive areas of the world’s deltas — which accommodate some of the world’s major cities — will be drowned in the next century by rising sea levels, according to new work. A geologist calls for maintenance efforts to be started now to avert the loss of vast expanses of coastline, and the consequent losses of ecological services, economic and social crises, and large-scale migrations.


Liviu Giosan, James Syvitski, Stefan Constantinescu, John Day. Climate change: Protect the world’s deltas. Nature, 2014; 516 (7529): 31 DOI: 10.1038/516031a


Salinity counts when it comes to sea level

Posted: 20 Nov 2014 10:34 AM PST

Using ocean observations and a large suite of climate models, scientists have found that long-term salinity changes have a stronger influence on regional sea level changes than previously thought... The team found that there was a long-term (1950-2008) pattern in halosteric (salinity-driven) sea level changes in the global ocean, with sea level increases occurring in the Pacific Ocean and sea level decreases in the Atlantic. These salinity-driven sea level changes have not been thoroughly investigated in previous long-term estimates of sea level change. When the scientists contrasted these results with models, the team found that models also simulated these basin-scale patterns, and that the magnitude of these changes was surprisingly large, making up about 25 percent of the total sea level change.


Paul J Durack, Susan E Wijffels, Peter J Gleckler. Long-term sea-level change revisited: the role of salinity. Environmental Research Letters, 2014; 9 (11): 114017 DOI: 10.1088/1748-9326/9/11/114017



This is an aerial photo of a coral reef taken by Hebrew University researchers who developed a new way to quantify the effect of ocean acidification on calcifying organisms. Credit: Boaz Lazar, Hebrew University

As CO2 acidifies oceans, scientists develop new way to measure effect on marine ecosystems

Posted: 19 Nov 2014 07:19 AM PST

Due to human-made emissions, the CO2 content of the oceans has increased dramatically and is gradually acidifying the surface waters. To understand how ocean acidification is affecting large marine areas, scientists studied a 5,000 km long strip of ocean and developed a new way to simultaneously assess overall calcification rates of coral reefs and open sea plankton over a whole oceanic basin, based on variations in surface water chemistry. This is the first study that demonstrates the feasibility of quantifying this type of information on an oceanic basin scale


Permafrost soil: Possible source of abrupt rise in greenhouse gases at end of last ice age

Posted: 20 Nov 2014 05:23 AM PST

Scientists have identified a possible source of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases that were abruptly released to the atmosphere in large quantities around 14,600 years ago.

CT scans of coral skeletons reveal ocean acidity increases reef erosion

Posted: 24 Nov 2014 03:01 PM PST

For coral reefs to persist, rates of reef construction must exceed reef breakdown. Prior research has largely focused on the negative impacts of ocean acidification on reef growth, but new research demonstrates that lower ocean pH also enhances reef breakdown: a double-whammy for coral reefs in a changing climate.



This graph shows evolutionary response to environmental variation under different levels of predictability and relative timescale of environmental variation.
Credit: Dr. Carlos Botero

Environmental ‘tipping points’ key to predicting extinctions

Posted: 24 Nov 2014 12:25 PM PST

Researchers from North Carolina State University have created a model that mimics how differently adapted populations may respond to rapid climate change. Their findings demonstrate that depending on a population’s adaptive strategy, even tiny changes in climate variability can create a ‘tipping point’ that sends the population into extinction. “These results were in line with what we would expect,” Botero says. “Within their zones, most of these strategies allow for some variability — and in some cases, the changes within zones can be really huge without much effect on the organism. But when the organism gets close to the margin of another zone, even the tiniest change in either predictability or rate of environmental change can result in immediate extinction, because the initial adaptive strategy no longer works.

“We hope that this model can serve as a first step in the process of locating populations that exist close to these boundary areas, so we can better identify species that are most at risk of extinction.”


Carlos A. Botero, Franz J. Weissing, Jonathan Wright, Dustin R. Rubenstein. Evolutionary tipping points in the capacity to adapt to environmental change. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2014; 201408589 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1408589111



Climate Change Threatens to Strip the Identity of Glacier National Park

By MICHAEL WINES November 22, 2014 NY Times

In a century, the number of glaciers in Montana’s Glacier National Park, on the Canadian border, has dropped to about 25 from 150….


Logging destabilizes forest soil carbon over time

Posted: 02 Dec 2014 01:15 PM PST

Logging doesn’t immediately jettison carbon stored in a forest’s mineral soils into the atmosphere but triggers a gradual release that may contribute to climate change over decades, a new study finds.


How soil microorganisms get out of step through climate change

Posted: 03 Dec 2014 05:37 AM PST

The way soil microorganisms react to climatic change has been the focus of recent study. Researchers have concluded that extreme weather events such as long periods of drought and heavy rainfall have a strong impact on the metabolic activity of microbes. This may lead to a change in the nutrient balance in soils and, in extreme cases, may even increase greenhouse gas emissions like nitrous oxide to the atmosphere concentrations.


Silvia Gschwendtner, Javier Tejedor, Carolin Bimueller, Michael Dannenmann, Ingrid Kögel Knabner, Michael Schloter. Climate Change Induces Shifts in Abundance and Activity Pattern of Bacteria and Archaea Catalyzing Major Transformation Steps in Nitrogen Turnover in a Soil from a Mid-European Beech Forest. PLoS ONE, 2014; 9 (12): e114278 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0114278


Cover crops can sequester soil organic carbon

Posted: 02 Dec 2014 08:06 AM PST

A 12-year study shows that, although the use of cover crops does not improve crop yields, the practice does increase the amount of sequestered soil organic carbon using three different soil management systems.



The Floating Gardens of Bangladesh

By AMY YEE November 18, 2014 NY Times

Floating farms — and the produce that can flourish in flood conditions — are a way to help Bangladeshis live with rising waters in the low-lying country….


NASA study shows 13-year record of drying Amazon caused vegetation declines

Posted: 10 Dec 2014 02:17 PM PST

A 13-year decline in vegetation in the eastern and southeastern Amazon has been linked to a decade-long rainfall decline in the region. With global climate models projecting further drying over the Amazon in the future, the potential loss of vegetation and the associated loss of carbon storage may speed up global climate change…



The Last Time the Arctic Was Ice-Free in the Summer, Modern Humans Didn’t Exist

By Eric Holthaus

Enjoy it while you can. Image: Thomas A. Brown and Simon T. Belt

Ice has been a relatively constant feature of the Arctic for most of the past 36 million years, but there have been some gaps. Scientists aren’t exactly sure what happened during the most recent major ice-free period, but it’s often considered an analog to our future, warmer Earth. The only difference is, the gap in Arctic sea ice that scientists believe will happen by midcentury is being caused by us.* Scientists are now piecing together the puzzle in an increasingly urgent attempt to understand what might happen once Arctic ice goes away again, effectively for good. One new study, published last week in the journal Nature Communications, attempts determine what happened during that last major gap in Arctic ice. The study provides new evidence that the last major gap ended about 2.6 million years ago, after which ice sheets spread southward and humanity’s ancestors began to respond to colder temperatures in Africa, forcing adaptation like the use of stone tools. Humans themselves wouldn’t evolve for more than a million more years. The study cites geological changes in the Arctic region, like mountainous uplifts and the connection of North and South America in present-day Panama, as mostly responsible for the burst of ancient ice. Those changes altered ocean dynamics and sharply increased the availability of freshwater in the Arctic, which freezes more easily than salty water.


Hot sun (stock image). The dramatic changes in the Southwest took place near the end of the Medieval Warm Period, the warmest in the Northern Hemisphere for the last 2,000 years. The period had a smaller temperature change than we’re seeing now, and its impact on the Southwest is unclear. But it is clear the Southwest went through a major change.

Localized climate change contributed to ancient southwest depopulation

Posted: 04 Dec 2014 04:43 AM PST

The role of localized climate change in one of the great mysteries of North American archaeology — the depopulation of southwest Colorado by ancestral Pueblo people in the late 1200s — has been detailed by researchers. In the process of their study, investigators address one of the mysteries of modern-day climate change: How will humans react? Their data paint a narrative of some 40,000 people leaving the Mesa Verde area of southwest Colorado as drought plagued the niche in which they grew maize, their main food source. Meanwhile, the Pajarito Plateau of the northern Rio Grande saw a large population spike…Such big climate differences in such a small area illustrates how some areas could be hit harder than others by the extremes of global climate change, said Bocinsky. He said it is telling that, when the Pueblo people moved, they moved to where they could preserve their farming techniques. He said that could be important to keep in mind as farmers, particularly subsistence farmers on marginal lands, face localized climate impacts in the future. “When we are looking for ways to alleviate human suffering, we should keep in mind that people are going to be looking for places to move where they can keep doing their type of maize agriculture, keep growing the same type of wheat or rice in the same ways,” he said. “It’s when those niches really start shrinking on the landscape that we start having a major problem, because you’ve got a lot of people who are used to doing something in one way and they can no longer do it that way.”


R. Kyle Bocinsky, Timothy A. Kohler. A 2,000-year reconstruction of the rain-fed maize agricultural niche in the US Southwest. Nature Communications, 2014; 5: 5618 DOI: 10.1038/ncomms6618



California Flood Threat: Pineapple Express to Bring Heavy Rain, Sierra Snow, High Winds (FORECAST)

By Jon Erdman Dec 10 2014 07:15 AM EST 

Thanks to an atmospheric river known as the Pineapple Express, more soaking rain and mountain snow is on the way for California, the epicenter of the nation’s most widespread exceptional drought.

Last week, Los Angeles County dams and spreading ground captured 1.8 billion gallons of water, enough to meet the needs of 44,000 people in one year. That’s a relative drop in the multi-year drought bucket, but a start. While this all sounds like good news, more flooding, rock/mudslides, debris flows and even damaging winds are possible with this upcoming storm. The National Weather Service in Monterey, California, said Monday that this storm is “expected to be one of the strongest storms in terms of wind and rain intensity” since storms in October 2009 and January 2008.

Forecast depiction of the “Pineapple Express”, a plume of deep moisture that will be directed into the West Coast this week.

What has finally opened the door to drought relief in California? Last winter, the Pacific jet stream was diverted well to the north of the U.S. West Coast by blocking high pressure in the upper-levels of the atmosphere. (MORE: 2013 Was California’s Record Driest Year)
Now, an energetic Pacific jet stream will point squarely over the West Coast this week. This Pacific jet will tap a narrow, deep plume of tropical moisture over 3,000 miles long known as an atmospheric river.  According to 
NOAA’s Earth System Research Laboratory, these atmospheric rivers (ARs) are important:

– About 30-50 percent of annual precipitation in the West Coast states occurs in just a few AR events.

– The strongest ARs can transport as water vapor up to 15 times the average flow of liquid water at the mouth of the Mississippi River, triggering flooding when stalling or making landfall.

In this case, an AR known as the Pineapple Express, so named due to the origin of the moist plume in the central Pacific Ocean near Hawaii, will slide down the West Coast through the week, wringing out the heaviest rainfall from western Washington to northern California….After an initial round of rain that soaked parts of western Washington on Tuesday, the bulk of the heavy rain event will arrive on the West Coast on Wednesday. A band of heavy rain accompanying the initial cold front will sweep ashore from western Washington to northwest California during the day Wednesday.

Wednesday night and Thursday, the Pineapple Express will sag slowly south through northern and central California as the southward dip in the vigorous Pacific jet stream swings into the Golden State. 

It’s at that time that the heaviest rain and, therefore, highest threat of flash flooding will be in play in those areas. Late Thursday night and Friday, the weakening atmospheric river and corresponding southward dip in the jet stream will swing over Southern California, providing a quick burst of rain for the Southland in time for Friday morning’s rush hour….

Wed. Dec. 10, 2014



At Point Blue, some scientists have been talking about how birds responds to big storms like this – for example, do they know ahead of time that they should fatten up?  (Thanks Nat, Libby and others!)






California’s drought is the worst in 1,200 years, evidence suggests

Posted: 05 Dec 2014 09:43 AM PST

California finally experiences the arrival of a rain-bearing Pineapple Express this week, two climate scientists from the University of Minnesota and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution have shown that the drought of 2012-2014 has been the worst in 1,200 years. Daniel Griffin, an assistant professor in the Department of Geography, Environment and Society at the University of Minnesota, and Kevin Anchukaitis, an assistant scientist at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, asked the question, “How unusual is the ongoing California drought?” Watching the severity of the California drought intensify since last autumn, they wondered how it would eventually compare to other extreme droughts throughout the state’s history. To answer those questions, Griffin and Anchukaitis collected new tree-ring samples from blue oak trees in southern and central California. “California’s old blue oaks are as close to nature’s rain gauges as we get,” says Griffin. “They thrive in some of California’s driest environments.” These trees are particularly sensitive to moisture changes and their tree rings display moisture fluctuations vividly… Tree rings are a valuable data source when tracking historical climate, weather and natural disaster trends. Floods, fires, drought and other elements that can affect growing conditions are reflected in the development of tree rings, and since each ring represents one year the samples collected from centuries-old trees are a virtual timeline that extend beyond the historical record in North America. So what are the implications? The research indicates that natural climate system variability is compounded by human-caused climate change and that “hot” droughts such as the current one are likely to occur again in the future. California is the world’s 8th largest economy and the source of a substantial amount of U.S. produce.
Surface water supply shortages there have impacts well beyond the state’s borders. With an exceptionally wet winter, parts of California might emerge from the drought this year. “But there is no doubt,” cautions Anchukaitis, “that we are entering a new era where human-wrought changes to the climate system will become important for determining the severity of droughts and their consequences for coupled human and natural systems.

Daniel Griffin, Kevin J Anchukaitis. How unusual is the 2012-2014 California drought?
Geophysical Research Letters, 2014; DOI:

California drought, high temperatures create worst conditions in 1,200 years -study

SACRAMENTO, Calif. Fri Dec 5, 2014 4:13pm EST

Utilities »

Dec 5 (Reuters) – A combination of record high temperatures and sparse rainfall during California’s three-year drought have produced the worst conditions in 1,200 years, according to a study accepted for publication by the American Geophysical Union (AGU).

The state has gone through numerous periods of dry weather, with as little or less rainfall as the past few years, but scientists looking at the cumulative effects of temperature, low precipitation and other factors said that it all adds up to the worst conditions in more than a millennium. “The current California drought is exceptionally severe in the context of at least the last millennium and is driven by reduced though not unprecedented precipitation and record high temperatures,” the report’s authors said in the study released late Thursday. The study by the University of Minnesota and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution said that warm, dry conditions have shrunk the supply of surface water from reservoirs, streams and the Sierra Nevada snowpack in the state, even as demand from people and farms has gone up, resulting in unprecedented scarcity. Despite its conclusion that several factors add up to the worst conditions in 1,200 years, the report’s authors point out that six years during that period were possibly drier than 2014, and that three-year-droughts are not unusual in the state.

Even so, the report said, the latest drought stands out because of its “cumulative severity.” The report has been peer-reviewed but not yet edited for publication, so some of the wording in it may change, a spokesman said. It comes as California is experiencing a wet start to December that could result in 12-inches (30 cm) of rain and yards (meters) of snow over the next two weeks, according to the forecasting service Accuweather. In October, the AGU published a study by NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York City saying that the 1934 U.S. drought, which caused the upheaval known as the Dust Bowl, was the worst in 1,000 years. (Reporting by Sharon Bernstein; Editing by Sandra Maler)


NOAA: Researchers offer new insights into predicting future droughts in California

Natural cycles, sea surface temperatures found to be main drivers in ongoing event

December 8, 2014

According to a new NOAA-sponsored study, natural oceanic and atmospheric patterns are the primary drivers behind California’s ongoing drought. A high pressure ridge off the West Coast (typical of historic droughts) prevailed for three winters, blocking important wet season storms, with ocean surface temperature patterns making such a ridge much more likely. Typically, the winter season in California provides the state with a majority of its annual snow and rainfall that replenish water supplies for communities and ecosystems. Further studies on these oceanic conditions and their effect on California’s climate may lead to advances in drought early warning that can help water managers and major industries better prepare for lengthy dry spells in the future. “It’s important to note that California’s drought, while extreme, is not an uncommon occurrence for the state. In fact, multi-year droughts appear regularly in the state’s climate record, and it’s a safe bet that a similar event will happen again. Thus, preparedness is key,” said Richard Seager, report lead author and professor with Columbia University’s Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory. This report builds on earlier studies, published in September in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, which found no conclusive evidence linking human-caused climate change and the California drought. The current study notes that the atmospheric ridge over the North Pacific, which has resulted in decreased rain and snowfall since 2011, is almost opposite to what models project to result from human-induced climate change. The report illustrates that mid-winter precipitation is actually projected to increase due to human-induced climate change over most of the state, though warming temperatures may sap much of those benefits for water resources overall, while only spring precipitation is projected to decrease. The report makes clear that to provide improved drought forecasts for California, scientists will need to fully understand the links between sea surface temperature variations and winter precipitation over the state, discover how these ocean variations are generated, and better characterize their predictability. This report contributes to a growing field of science-climate attribution-where teams of scientists aim to identify the sources of observed climate and weather patterns. “There is immense value in examining the causes of this drought from multiple scientific viewpoints,” said Marty Hoerling, report co-author and researcher with NOAA’s Earth System Research Laboratory. “It’s paramount that we use our collective ability to provide communities and businesses with the environmental intelligence they need to make decisions concerning water resources, which are becoming increasingly strained.” To view the report, visit:

Climate change in drylands studied

Posted: 19 Nov 2014 07:20 AM PST

Ecologists are analyzing vegetation stability during and after droughts. Approximately 40 percent of Earth’s surface is covered by drylands in which average annual precipitation is lower than evaporation. The changes projected to unfold in these areas in the course of climate change are alarming. Greater variations in annual and seasonal precipitation will lead to more frequent droughts and, presumably, longer drought periods. This means that drylands are among those areas most severely affected by climate change.We were surprised to see that the type of ecosystem (biome) is a rather poor indicator of vegetation stability in the face of drought. It does not make a large difference whether a drought occurs in a savanna, grassland or shrubland. The decisive factor is the dominant herbaceous life history — that is, whether we are dealing with annual or perennial plants,” Ruppert explains. Drylands that are dominated by annual plants are more severely affected during droughts, but recover more quickly afterwards. Areas in which perennial plants dominate exhibit the opposite trend. The effect of the grazing regime on vegetation stability in the face of drought is also highly dependent on whether one is dealing with annual or perennial plants….The good news is that drylands have a relatively good pre-adaption to droughts. The bad news is that the combined effects of climate change and overgrazing could have detrimental effects on the capability of drylands to resist droughts and recover from them,” Ruppert sums up. “The progressing loss of perennial grasses and decreasing vegetation cover in drylands can serve as important warning signs.”


Jan C. Ruppert, Keith Harmoney, Zalmen Henkin, Hennie A. Snyman, Marcelo Sternberg, Walter Willms, Anja Linstädter. Quantifying drylands’ drought resistance and recovery: the importance of drought intensity, dominant life history and grazing regime. Global Change Biology, 2014; DOI: 10.1111/gcb.12777


Researchers measured leaves’ drought tolerance at the “turgor loss point” — the level of dehydration that causes them to wilt. Credit: Lawren Sack

Plants have little wiggle room to survive drought, life scientists report

Posted: 13 Nov 2014 12:29 PM PST

Plants worldwide are more sensitive to drought than many scientists realized, new research by life scientists indicates. The research may improve predictions of which plant species will survive intensified drought under climate change…The researchers expected plants’ plasticity to be very different based on whether they live in deserts, which may get less than an inch of rainfall per year, or rainforests, which may receive more than 10 feet. Instead, they found relatively small differences across ecosystems, meaning that plants are potentially vulnerable no matter where they live, the scientists said. The researchers also compared plasticity for crops. They found a strikingly contrasting result: Whereas differences in plasticity among wild species were relatively small and unimportant, among the varieties of certain crop species — such as coffee and corn — greater plasticity resulted in improved drought tolerance. “It’s been suspected for a long time that plasticity in cell saltiness might improve crop drought tolerance, so it makes sense that we found impressive differences among crop cultivars and that these differences translate into drought tolerance,” Bartlett said. “Our study points to plasticity in turgor loss point as an especially important focus for breeding and selecting drought tolerant cultivars.”


Megan K. Bartlett, Ya Zhang, Nissa Kreidler, Shanwen Sun, Rico Ardy, Kunfang Cao, Lawren Sack. Global analysis of plasticity in turgor loss point, a key drought tolerance trait. Ecology Letters, 2014; 17 (12): 1580 DOI: 10.1111/ele.12374




Coalition Releases Comprehensive Recommendations to Help California’s Cities, Farms and Environment Weather the Drought

November 17, 2014

…to that end, the coalition today released Wetter or Not – Actions to Ease the Current Drought and Prepare for the Next (summary  and full report available), a comprehensive set of recommendations for near-term action by local, state, and federal agencies and lawmakers — many of which are designed to ensure that the funds in the recently approved water bond are spent efficiently and effectively.
The coalition’s recommendations call for action in a broad range of areas, including:

  • expanding drought-resistant water sources, such as water efficiency, water recycling and stormwater management
  • improving smart water storage
  • investing in natural infrastructure and healthy ecosystems
  • spending public funds wisely




Water’s role in the rise and fall of the Roman Empire

Posted: 11 Dec 2014 06:06 AM PST

Smart agricultural practices and an extensive grain-trade network enabled the Romans to thrive in the water-limited environment of the Mediterranean, a new study shows. But the stable food supply brought about by these measures promoted population growth and urbanization, pushing the Empire closer to the limits of its food resources.





In world first, researchers convert sunlight to electricity with over 40 percent efficiency

Posted: 07 Dec 2014 06:16 AM PST

Australia’s solar researchers have converted over 40 percent of the sunlight hitting a solar system into electricity, the highest efficiency ever reported. A key part of the prototype’s design is the use of a custom optical bandpass filter to capture sunlight that is normally wasted by commercial solar cells on towers and convert it to electricity at a higher efficiency than the solar cells themselves ever could.



High-tech mirror beams heat away from buildings into space

Posted: 26 Nov 2014 10:38 AM PST

Engineers have invented a material designed to help cool buildings. The material reflects incoming sunlight, and it sends heat from inside the structure directly into space as infrared radiation.


New plastic that disappears when you want it to

Posted: 25 Nov 2014 07:17 AM PST

Plastic populates our world through everything from electronics to packaging and vehicles. Once discarded, it resides almost permanently in landfills and oceans. A new discovery holds scientific promise that could lead to a new type of plastic that can be broken down when exposed to a specific type of light and is reduced back to molecules, which could then be used to create new plastic.





China agrees to enhance its role in global climate change mitigation: Turning the massive ‘coal ship’ around won’t be easy, experts say

Posted: 04 Dec 2014 04:40 AM PST

A rapid process of urbanization and an expanding middle class with increasingly western tastes will keep energy consumption and carbon dioxide emissions in China at high levels over the next 20 years. However, changes are unfolding in China that offer promise and opportunities for cutting emissions and for promoting sustainable energy and climate policies.



A woman uses a fork to dig for shellfish on the reef-mud flats of a lagoon in the central Pacific island nation of Kiribati on May 23, 2013. David Gray/Reuters

At Lima Climate Talks, 2-Degree Warming Limit Is a Thing of the Past

By Zoë Schlanger 12/1/14 at 1:29 PM

We are now officially in arm’s reach of “dangerous” levels of global warming. United Nations negotiators are meeting this week in Peru to forge a much-anticipated draft agreement to curb global climate change. They’re brimming with optimism after the recent climate agreement between the U.S. and China, which had eluded negotiators for years.   But amid the hope is a much darker reality: Years of stalled talks and baby steps toward action have all but ensured that we will pass the previous do-not-pass benchmark of 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) of warming by 2100. Now, The New York Times reports, the negotiators’ objective is to stave off atmospheric warming of 4 to 10 degrees Fahrenheit, or roughly 2.2 to 5.6 degrees Celsius, by the end of the century, at which point, experts say, Earth may “become increasingly uninhabitable.”…


Just Outside The Peru Climate Talks, More Personal Calls For Protection

by Jesse Vogel – Guest Contributor Posted on December 11, 2014 Updated: December 12, 2014

In the face of harassment and violence, Amazonian tribes are calling for protection of their homes and forests from fossil fuel development….



Climate Neutrality – the Lifeboat Launched by Lima

By Diego Arguedas Ortiz
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Activists demand that the COP20 government delegates approve measures to foment investment in renewable energies and eliminate their huge subsidies for fossil fuels. Credit: Joshua Wiese/IPS

LIMA, Dec 8 2014 (IPS) – Packed into stifling meeting rooms in the Peruvian capital, delegates from 195 countries are trying to find a path that would make it possible for the planet to reach climate neutrality in the second half of this century – the only way to avoid irreversible damage, scientists warn.

Climate neutrality is defined as no net greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, achieved by minimising emissions as much as possible, so an equivalent amount is sequestered or offset. The term climate neutral, rather than carbon neutral, is used to reflect the fact that it is not just carbon dioxide (CO2) that is causing climate change but other greenhouse gases as well. To reach climate neutrality it is essential to accelerate the transition from a fossil fuel-based economy to one that employs renewable energies.
As the COP20 climate summit hosted by Lima Dec. 1-12 approaches the end, the number of developing countries accepting the proposal to set a climate neutral goal – also known as “net zero” – for 2050 is growing. “The scientific data are more and more alarming,” said Giovanna Valverde, president pro tempore of the Association of Independent Latin American and Caribbean states (AILAC), a regional group of governments of middle-income countries that are negotiating as a bloc in the 20th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP20) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)….




Politics, not severe weather, drive global-warming views

Posted: 01 Dec 2014 07:03 AM PST

Scientists have presented the most comprehensive evidence to date that climate extremes such as droughts and record temperatures are failing to change people’s minds about global warming.


Investors Recruited to Restore Farmland in Latin America


MEXICO CITY — Conservation groups announced plans on Sunday to restore degraded land across Latin America with financing from private investment funds. The project, announced at a conference on climate change in Lima, Peru, is an effort to cut greenhouse gas emissions by improving the productivity of current farmland, reducing the need to turn over additional land for food production. The region has lost some 36 million hectares, or 89 million acres, of forest and grasslands to agriculture since 2000, said Walter Vergara, a senior fellow at the World Resources Institute in Washington, one of the conservation groups supporting the project. Latin America accounts for 13 percent of global food trade, a figure that has been growing over the past several decades, according to the World Bank. “It cannot be done at the expense of virgin forest and natural grasslands,” Mr. Vergara said. The institute estimates that converting land to farms and using it for agriculture and livestock accounts for almost half of all greenhouse gas emissions in the region. Cutting down forests to make way for farms or ranches releases carbon, eliminating the benefit that forests perform by absorbing the chemical from the atmosphere. The project, called Initiative 20×20, intends to restore about 49 million acres of degraded land — an area larger than Uruguay — including about 21 million acres in Mexico. A separate project is planned to cover Brazil exclusively. But rather than turn to grants from charities, the project is relying on investors seeking to turn a profit.



Photo: Karen Nichols, AP

California bans coyote hunts that offer prizes

San Francisco Chronicle

December 6, 2014 – California officials on Wednesday banned coyote hunting contests that have sparked a culture clash between wildlife advocates and ranchers …


The Jaws effect: Biting review finds shark policy based on movie myths

Posted: 11 Dec 2014 06:06 AM PST

The film “Jaws” has heavily influenced Western Australia’s stance on sharks, a review of over a decade of state government policy has found.


On environment, Republicans closer to Independents than Tea Party

Posted: 02 Dec 2014 01:13 PM PST

Environmentalists dispirited by the Republicans’ dominance of the recent midterm elections can take heart: non-Tea Party Republicans’ views on science and environmental issues are closer to those of Independents than to Tea Party supporters.


55 percent of carbon in Amazonian indigenous territories and protected lands may be at risk

Posted: 02 Dec 2014 11:48 AM PST

A new peer-reviewed study reveals the unprecedented amount of carbon stored within the nine-nation network of Amazonian indigenous territories and protected natural areas. The article suggests that protecting the vast amount of carbon stored above ground in the forests of indigenous and protected lands is critical to the stability of the global climate.


Opinion poll: Canada’s climate change consensus confronts Keystone

Posted: 20 Nov 2014 08:22 AM PST

Despite the fact that 81% of Canadians accept that temperature on Earth is increasing, researchers have revealed that Canadians are generally misinformed about the science of climate change and are divided over the construction of new oil pipelines.







Missing ingredient in energy-efficient buildings: Trained people

Posted: 02 Dec 2014 10:24 AM PST

More than one-third of new commercial building space includes energy-saving features, but without training or an operator’s manual many occupants are in the dark about how to use them.


Atmospheric carbon dioxide used for energy storage products

Posted: 02 Dec 2014 11:06 AM PST

Researchers have discovered a fascinating new way to take some of the atmospheric carbon dioxide that’s causing the greenhouse effect and use it to make an advanced, high-value material for use in energy storage products.


Buckyballs enhance carbon capture

Posted: 03 Dec 2014 02:18 PM PST

Amines bound by buckyballs can absorb carbon dioxide from emissions at industrial plants and at natural gas wells, according to new research. Tests from one to 50 atmospheric pressures showed the newly developed compound captured a fifth of its weight in carbon dioxide but no measurable amount of methane.


Energy efficient homes linked to asthma

Posted: 11 Dec 2014 07:20 AM PST

The drive for energy efficient homes could increase asthma risks, according to new research that has found that a failure by residents to heat and ventilate retrofitted properties could lead to more people developing the respiratory condition...


Chemicals released during natural gas extraction may harm reproduction, development

Posted: 05 Dec 2014 02:50 PM PST

Unconventional oil and gas operations combine directional drilling and hydraulic fracturing to release natural gas from rock. Discussions have centered on potential air and water pollution from chemicals and how they affect the more than 15 million Americans living within one mile of UOG operations. Now, a researcher has conducted the largest review of research centered on fracking byproducts and their effects on human reproductive and developmental health.







Managing Drought Monday, January 12, 2015 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. Sheraton Grand Sacramento

Public Policy Institute of California

California’s historic drought is revealing strengths and weaknesses in how we manage our precious water resources. At this half-day event—coinciding with the beginning of a new legislative session—participants will examine Australia’s millennium drought, consider climate change and future droughts in California, look back at lessons from 2014, and look forward to policy priorities for 2015.  This event is made possible with funding from the California Water Foundation, an initiative of the Resources Legacy Fund.

Please register by January 6, 2015.  There is no charge to attend, but space is limited. Breakfast and lunch will be provided. This event will also be webcast live.



The Western Section of The Wildlife Society 2015 Annual Meeting

January 26-30, 2015 — Vineyard Creek Hyatt, Santa Rosa, CA

Conservation through Collaboration

Click here for the 2015 Annual Meeting website.


CA Rangeland Conservation Coalition 10th Annual Summit – Collaborative Conservation for Rangelands

February 3, 2015 Sacramento, CA         
A group of speakers will share their experiences, successes and challenges of collaborative conservation initiatives across the US. Although different in their geographic scope, goals and composition, these partnerships have been able to restore trust and work together to achieve their common goals for the land and for the ranching community. 
Click here for more information. 





Bringing Science and Managers Together:
California Landscape Conservation Workshop
Save the Date!: March 3-4, 2014  UC Davis Conference Center

The CA LCC is excited to announce the first annual California Landscape Conservation Workshop! This
workshop will bring scientists and managers together to share climate-smart conservation results and lessons learned across the California landscape. Activities will engage participants in building collaborative partnerships for resilient California landscapes.Stay tuned for an upcoming call for sessions and more information.




2015 California Climate & Agriculture Summit  March 24 and 25, 2015
UC Davis Conference CenterCall for Workshop and Poster Presentations   


INVITATION TO PARTICIPATE  Abstract submission deadline is 1 November 2014 


ABSTRACT SUBMISSION (through November 1, 2014) and REGISTRATION (through January 25, 2015) NOW OPEN for Science for Parks, Parks for Science: The Next Century – A 2.5-day Summit at U.C. Berkeley March 25-27, 2015 convening natural and social scientists, managers and practitioners — 100 years after historic meetings at U.C. Berkeley helped launch the National Park Service — to rededicate a second century of science and stewardship for national parks.  This summit will feature visionary plenary lectures, strategic panel discussions on current controversies, and technical sessions of contributed paper and posters.   Keynote Speaker: E. O. Wilson.  Distinguished Plenary Speakers and Panelists include David Ackerly, Jill Baron, Steven Beissinger, Joel Berger, Edward Bernbaum, Ruth DeFries, Thomas Dietz, Josh Donlan, Holly Doremus, Ernesto Enkerlin, John Francis, David Graber, Denis Galvin, Jane Lubchenco, Gary Machlis, George Miller, Hugh Possingham, Jedediah Purdy, Nina Roberts, Mark Schwartz, Daniel Simberloff, Monica Turner, & Jennifer Wolch.


National Adaptation Forum– Call for Proposals
May 12 – 14, 2015 in St. Louis, MO

The National Adaptation Forum is a biennial gathering of the adaptation community to foster information exchange, innovation, and mutual support for a better tomorrow. The Forum will take place from May 12 – 14, 2015 in St. Louis, MO. 
Proposals are being accepted for Symposia, Training Sessions, Working Groups, Poster Presentations, and a Tools Cafe. 

Click here for more information.


Ninth International Association for Landscape Ecology (IALE) World Congress meeting, July 9th 2015

Coming to Portland, Oregon July 5-10, 2015! The symposium, which is held every four years, brings scientists and practitioners from around the globe together to discuss and share landscape ecology work and information. The theme of the 2015 meeting is Crossing Scales, Crossing Borders: Global Approaches to Complex Challenges.








A dozen ways to go green for the holidays

Posted: 10 Dec 2014 04:41 AM PST

Sustainability experts have put together a list of 12 steps, big and small, that everyone can take to reduce holiday waste and make the season a little greener...



Bill McKibben giving a speech in the  run-up to the People’s Climate March in New York City. (Photo credit: ©2014 Steve Liptay)

Amid Receipt of ‘Alternative Nobel,’ McKibben Donates Prize Money to, Steps Down as Chair

“Don’t worry,” author and activist assured members. “I’ll still be there when the time comes to go to jail, or to march in the streets, or to celebrate the next big win on divestment.”

By Jon Queally, staff writer December 2, 2014

In a letter on Tuesday morning sent from Stockholm, Sweden—where on Monday night he accepted a Right Livelihood Award on behalf of himself and the climate action group—the journalist turned activist Bill McKibben announced that in addition to donating the prize money to the group he co-founded with former students, he will also be stepping down as chair of the organization’s board of directors. “…I’m looking forward to the next 25 years—the quarter century that will decide whether we make progress enough to preserve our civilizations. Together we’ve built a movement; now, together, we’ll deploy it to confront the greatest crisis we’ve ever faced. 2014 will be the hottest year in the planet’s history; that means we have to make 2015 the politically hottest season the fossil fuel industry has ever come up against, and 2016 after that, and….  In his acceptance speech for the award, McKibben stated, “We simply must defeat those forces that want to delay large-scale change so they can have a decade or two more profit. There’s no ducking that fight: If you invest in fossil fuel companies, you profit from the destruction of the earth. That’s the definition of dirty money. Those who invest in fossil fuel companies are making a wager that the world will do nothing to combat climate change. That’s an immoral wager.”….


Recycling Styrofoam into rigid plastic

Posted: 18 Nov 2014 04:26 AM PST

Mexican entrepreneurs designed the first national machine capable of recycling Styrofoam (expanded polystyrene) and transform it into a raw material used in the manufacture of transparent hard plastic.


Human exposure to metal cadmium may accelerate cellular aging

Posted: 11 Dec 2014 05:15 AM PST

The metal cadmium has been the focus of new study that finds that higher human exposure can lead to significantly shorter telomeres, bits of DNA at the ends of chromosomes that are associated with cardiovascular disease, diabetes and other diseases of old age.



Fructose and glucose: Brain reward circuits respond differently to two kinds of sugar

Posted: 10 Dec 2014 05:07 AM PST

New information suggests the brain responds differently to different sugars, and that one type could be connected with overeating. Brain responses to fructose, a simple sugar contained in high-fructose corn syrup, produced activation in the brain’s ‘reward circuit,’ and increased the desire for food, according to new research. This was not true for glucose, the body’s major energy source, which is produced mainly by breakdown of complex carbohydrates.













Ellie Cohen, President and CEO

Point Blue Conservation Science (formerly PRBO)

3820 Cypress Drive, Suite 11, Petaluma, CA 94954

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Point Blue—Conservation science for a healthy planet.


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