2014-01-29. Migration of Monarch Butterflies Shrinks Again Under Inhospitable Conditions. Excerpt: Faltering under extreme weather and vanishing habitats, the yearly winter migration of monarch butterflies to a handful of forested Mexican mountains dwindled precipitously in December, continuing what scientists said was an increasingly alarming decline. ...Mexico is the southern terminus of an age-old journey in which monarchs shuttle back and forth between far-flung summertime havens in Canada and the United States and a single winter home in Mexico’s Sierra Madre mountains. ...The latest drop is best explained by a two-year stretch of bad weather, said Chip Taylor, a biologist at the University of Kansas.... But while good weather may help the monarchs rebuild their numbers, their long-term problem — the steady shrinking of habitat along their migratory route — poses a far greater danger. The monarchs’ migratory freeway runs through the Great Plains. As they flew north from Mexico in early 2012, Dr. Taylor said, months of near-record heat sapped their endurance and skewed their migratory patterns in ways that limited their ability to reproduce. Last spring, he said, the opposite happened: Unusual springtime cold in Texas delayed the butterflies’ northward migration, causing them to arrive late in areas where they would normally have bred weeks earlier. ...Monarchs lay their eggs only on milkweed, and patches of the plant have rapidly disappeared from the Great Plains over the last decade. As corn prices have risen — spurred in part by a government mandate to add ethanol to gasoline — farmers have planted tens of millions of acres of idle land along the monarchs’ path that once provided both milkweed and nectar. ...The monarchs are but the most visible victims of the habitat loss, Dr. Oberhauser said. A wide variety of pollinators and other insects, including many that are beneficial to farmers, are also disappearing, she said, along with the predators that feed on them.... http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/30/us/monarch-butterflies-falter-under-extreme-weather.html. Michael Wines, The New York Times.
2013-06-03. Jellyfish surge in Mediterranean threatens environment – and tourists. Excerpt: Scientists across the Mediterranean say a surge in the number of jellyfish this year threatens not just the biodiversity of one of the world's most overfished seas but also the health of tens of thousands of summer tourists. ...Professor Stefano Piraino of Salento University in southern Italy...is the head of a Mediterranean-wide project to track the rise in the number of jellyfish as global warming and overfishing clear the way for them to prosper. ..."There are now beaches on the island of Lampedusa, which receives 300,000 tourists a year, where people can only swim for a week in the summer," said Piraino. ...The institute has detected a surge this spring in one of the most poisonous species, the mauve stinger or Pelagia noctiluca, along the coast of Catalonia and Valencia. "We have seen banks several kilometres long and with a density of 30 to 40 jellyfish per square metre," the institute's Verónica Fuentes told Spain's ABC newspaper. ...Global warming, overfishing and human intervention – especially breakwaters that protect sandy beaches but provide a home for larvae – are all blamed. As predators disappear, population surges are happening with greater frequency. ..."The socio-economic impact on tourist areas is huge," said Piraino. "We are losing millions of euros." Beaches in Catalonia are rarely affected for more than 15 days each summer, but some Mediterranean resorts are now considering using two-metre-deep nets to fence off safe zones for bathers. The best protection against stings is suncream, which prevents the venom released by the tentacles from penetrating the skin. ...Not everyone is appalled ...The Chinese have been eating them for 5,000 years and export some $20m worth each year. ...Scientists also point to at least one species of Mediterranean jellyfish – the fried egg jellyfish or Cotylorhiza tuberculata – as a potential source of raw materials for cancer treatments and antioxidants.... http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2013/jun/03/jellyfish-surge-mediterranean-environment-tourists. Giles Tremlett, The Guardian.
2013 March 10. Amplified Greenhouse Effect Shifts North's Growing Seasons. By NASA Release 13-069. Excerpt: Vegetation growth at Earth's northern latitudes increasingly resembles lusher latitudes to the south, according to a NASA-funded study based on a 30-year record of land surface and newly improved satellite data sets....
2012 December 04. Climate Models Project Increase in U.S. Wildfire Risk. By NASA RELEASE: 12-419. Excerpt: WASHINGTON -- Scientists using NASA satellite data and climate models have projected drier conditions likely will cause increased fire activity across the United States in coming decades. Other findings about U.S. wildfires, including their amount of carbon emissions and how the length and strength of fire seasons are expected to change under future climate conditions, were also presented Tuesday at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco. Doug Morton of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., [said] "Climate models project an increase in fire risk across the U.S. by 2050, based on a trend toward drier conditions that favor fire activity and an increase in the frequency of extreme events"…. The analysis by Morton and colleagues used climate projections, prepared for the Fifth Assessment Report of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, to examine how dryness, and therefore fire activity, is expected to change. …in the next 30-50 years… high fire years like 2012 would likely occur two to four times per decade by mid-century, instead of once per decade under current climate conditions. Through August of this year, the U.S. burned area topped 2.5 million hectares (6.17 million acres), …short of the record 3.2 million hectares (7.90 million acres) burned in 2011, but exceeds the area burned during 12 of the 15 years since record keeping began in 1997…. For images and additional information on this research, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/topics/earth/features/climate-fire.html …. Read the full article: http://www.nasa.gov/home/hqnews/2012/dec/HQ_12-419_Fire_and_Climate.html. See also U.S. official: Wildfires to get more destructive, by Rocky Barker, Idaho Statesman
2012 Nov 27. Beetles Warm BC Forests. By Sabrina Richards, TheScientist. Excerpt: Pine beetle infestation increases the summertime temperatures of some Canadian forests by 1 degree Celsius—about the same impact as a forest fire—according to new findings published Sunday (November 25) in Nature Geoscience. The beetle populations, spurred into profusion by global warming, appear to be contributing to a temperature feedback loop, …. The results reinforce the conclusion that ecological disturbances like beetle infestations can have significant ecological impacts, said Allan Carroll, an insect ecologist at the University of British Columbia…. ”We have until very recently considered biotic disturbances a bit player [in climate change],” …. The current study confirms that pine beetles can have massive effects that set up “an uncomfortable feedback” wherein warming temperatures encourage more beetle damage, which in turn influences warming… Pine beetles lay their eggs under pine tree bark, introducing a fungus that inhibits nutrient flow in the trees. Usually pine beetles are killed off by freezing winter temperatures, limiting their spread. But a recent spate of warm winters, combined with forests dominated by mature pine trees, enabled a beetle population boom in North America, including parts of Alberta, Wyoming, and Colorado. About 170,000 square kilometers of British Columbia’s forest—almost 20 percent of the province’s area—have been affected by pine beetle infestations, costing thousands of timber industry jobs. Many studies have focused on the role of global warming on pine beetle outbreaks, but fewer have looked at how the beetles themselves may be contributing to climate change…. Read the full article: http://www.the-scientist.com/?articles.view/articleNo/33447/title/Beetles-Warm-BC-Forests/
2012 May 30. Where Have All the Hummingbirds Gone?. By Cheryl Dybas, the National Science Foundation. Excerpt: The [glacier] lily, a plant that grows best on subalpine slopes, is fast becoming a hothouse flower. In Earth's warming temperatures, its first blooms appear some 17 days earlier than they did in the 1970s, scientists David Inouye and Amy McKinney of the University of Maryland and colleagues have found. The problem, say the biologists, with the earlier timing of these first blooms is that the glacier lily is no longer synchronized with the arrival of broad-tailed hummingbirds, which depend on glacier lilies for nectar. By the time the hummingbirds fly in, many of the flowers have withered away, their nectar-laden blooms going with them…The biologists calculate that if current trends continue, in two decades the hummingbirds will miss the first flowers entirely….
2012 Feb 19. Yosemite’s alpine chipmunks take genetic hit from climate change. By Sarah Yang, Media Relations UC Berkeley News Center. Excerpt: BERKELEY — Global warming has forced
alpine chipmunks in Yosemite to higher ground, prompting a startling
decline in the species’ genetic diversity, according to a new study by
researchers at the University of California, Berkeley.
2011 March 9. Heat Damages Colombia Coffee, Raising Prices. By Elisabeth Rosenthal, The NY Times. Excerpt: Average temperatures in Colombia’s coffee regions have risen nearly
one degree in 30 years, and in some mountain areas the increase has
been double that, says Cenicafé, the national coffee research center.
Rain in this area was more than 25 percent above average in the last
few years. At the new, higher temperatures, the plants’ buds abort or their fruit
ripens too quickly for optimum quality. Heat also brings pests like
coffee rust, a devastating fungus that could not survive the previously
cool mountain weather. The heavy rains damage the fragile Arabica
blossoms, and the two-week dry spells that prompt the plant to flower
and produce beans occur less often, farmers say....
2011 February 22. Owls change colour as climate warms. By Emma Brennand, BBC Earth News. Excerpt: Tawny owls turn brown to survive in warmer climates, according to scientists in Finland.
Feather colour is hereditary, with grey plumage dominant over brown.
But the study, published in the journal Nature Communications, found
that the number of brown owls was increasing....
...The results also suggest that a changing climate could, in some
species, reduce the number and variety of characteristics that can be
2010 August 19. Damaged Ecosystems Magnify Asia's Killer Floods. By Karl Malakunas.
Excerpt: Climate change may be playing a part in record rains ravaging
Asia but environment experts say the destruction of ecosystems is more
directly to blame for the severity of killer floods.
Widespread deforestation, the conversion of wetlands to farms or urban
sprawl and the clogging up of natural drainage systems with garbage are
just some of the factors exacerbating the impacts of the floods, they
"You can't just blame nature... humans have encroached on the natural flood plains," ...
..."When there is any big flooding it's become commonplace for climate
change to be blamed when in fact many of the problems are fixable at
the local level," said Constantino. Millions of people who built homes
along flood plains in recent decades, the destruction of upstream
forests and a proliferation of garbage that clogged up waterways all
magnified the disaster...
...Constantino Pangare, from the International Union for Conservation
of Nature, echoed this theme, saying investment in "natural
infrastructure" was the only way to protect people from the impacts of
potential climate change-induced floods. "Building concrete and walls
to stop the floods is not the answer," he said. "You have to invest in
natural infrastructure -- forests, river basins, lakes, wetlands."
2010 August 19. Drought Drives Decade-long Decline in Plant Growth. By Steve Cole, NASA. Excerpt:
Global plant productivity that once was on the rise with warming
temperatures and a lengthened growing season is now on the decline
because of regional drought according to a new study of NASA satellite
data. Plant productivity is a measure of the rate of the photosynthesis
process that green plants use to convert solar energy, carbon dioxide
and water to sugar, oxygen and eventually plant tissue... ...The shift,
however, could impact food security, biofuels and the global carbon
..."This is a pretty serious warning that warmer temperatures are not going to endlessly improve plant growth," Running said...
..."This past decade’s net decline in terrestrial productivity
illustrates that a complex interplay between temperature, rainfall,
cloudiness, and carbon dioxide, probably in combination with other
factors such as nutrients and land management, will determine future
patterns and trends in productivity,"...
...Researchers want to continue monitoring these trends in the future
because plant productivity is linked to shifting levels of greenhouse
gas carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and stresses on plant growth that
could challenge food production...
..."Even if the declining trend of the past decade does not continue,
managing forests and crop lands for multiple benefits to include food
production, biofuel harvest, and carbon storage may become exceedingly
challenging in light of the possible impacts of such decadal-scale
2010 July 22. Listing Endangered Species as a Tool to Combat Warming. By Todd Woody, Yale Environment 360. Excerpt:…A
pocket-sized member of the rabbit family... the American pika lives on
rocky slopes high in alpine mountain ranges from the Sierra Nevada to
the Rockies. Sporting a thick gray-brown coat, the pika does not
hibernate and so maintains a high internal temperature to survive
frigid winters. Because it can’t turn off its heater, the animal can
die in the summer if its body temperature increases by as little as 3
degrees Celsius (5.4 F)
…The pika has become an indicator species in more ways than one. It is
in the vanguard of a growing number of animals and plants that U.S.
environmental groups have petitioned to protect as the Endangered
Species Act becomes the latest battleground over global warming.
…The regulations governing the Endangered Species Act are complicated,
but at heart the law requires the government to determine if a plant or
animal’s existence is threatened or endangered and then to protect the
species and its habitat and formulate a plan for its recovery. With
limited exceptions, no one may harm a listed species or modify its
…Stopping the logging of an ancient redwood forest can save birds that
nest in treetops and shutting down a water pump can prevent thousands
of fish from being mutilated by machinery. But how to keep Arctic ice
from melting, or temperatures from rising on Sierra Nevada
mountaintops, when greenhouse gas emissions from millions of sources
worldwide contribute to a species’ decline?
…The most important thing, [Earthjustice attorney Greg Loarie] says, is
to get plants and animals at risk of climate-change extinction listed
so the government can begin to take action to ameliorate those effects.
Those steps include reducing impacts not related to climate change,
identifying where animals may need to migrate as the world warms, and
establishing wildlife corridors and other protected areas.
…Notes Loarie: “There are certain areas where the pika is likely to go
extinct. But the bottom line is that anything we can do to protect the
pika now will pay a dividend for other species.”
2010 May 11. China drought highlights future climate threats. By Jane Qiu, Nature News. Excerpt:
Born into a farming family in south Yunnan province, China, Zhu
Youyong's life has always been tied to the soil. At the age of 54,
however, Zhu — now president of Yunnan Agricultural University in
Kunming — says he "has never seen such severe drought in Yunnan".
Since last September, the province has had 60% less rainfall than
normal. According to the Ministry of Civil Affairs, 8.1 million people
— 18% of Yunnan's population — are short of drinking water, and
US$2.5-billion worth of crops are expected to fail.
Scientists in China say that the crisis marks one of the strongest case
studies so far of how climate change and poor environmental practice
can combine to create a disaster. They are now scrambling to pin down
exactly what caused the drought, and whether similar events are likely
to hit the region more often in the future....
...Climate change is not the only factor affecting the drought.
Deforestation in mountainous Yunnan is also being blamed. "Natural
forests are a key regulator of climate and hydrological processes,"
says Xu, who is also China's representative at the World Agroforestry
Centre, an international think tank headquartered in Nairobi, Kenya.
...Many scientists are now worried that severe droughts, such as
Yunnan's, will become more common across southeast Asia. In addition to
the effect on humans, "the impact on biodiversity could be huge," says
Jennifer Baltzer, an ecologist at Mount Allison University in
Sackville, New Brunswick, Canada....
2009 November 2. Deep-sea ecosystems affected by climate change. MBARI News Release. Excerpt:
The vast muddy expanses of the abyssal plains occupy about 60 percent
of the Earth's surface and are important in global carbon cycling.
Based on long-term studies of two such areas, a new paper in the
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) shows that
animal communities on the abyssal seafloor are affected in a variety of
ways by climate change.
Historically, many people, including marine scientists, have considered
the abyssal plains, more than 2,000 meters below the sea surface, to be
relatively isolated and stable ecosystems. However, according to Ken
Smith, a marine ecologist at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research
Institute (MBARI)..., changes in the Earth's climate can cause
unexpectedly large changes in deep-sea ecosystems....
...In this cold, dark environment, very little food is available. What
food there is takes the form of bits of organic debris drifting down
from the sunlit surface waters, thousands of meters above. During its
long descent, this organic matter may be eaten, excreted, and
decomposed, drastically reducing its nutritive value. It is estimated
that less than five percent of the organic matter produced at the
surface reaches the abyssal plains.
...The authors point out that global climate change could affect the
food supply to the deep sea in many ways. Some relevant ocean processes
that may be affected by climate change include wind-driven upwelling,
the depth of mixing of the surface waters, and the delivery of
nutrients to surface waters via dust storms. Climate-driven changes in
these processes are likely to lead to altered year-to-year variation in
the amount of organic material reaching the seafloor.
...Based on their observations, the authors conclude that long-term
climate change is likely to influence both deep-sea communities and the
chemistry of their environment. According to Smith, "Essentially,
deep-sea communities are coupled to surface production. Global change
could alter the functioning of these ecosystems and the way carbon is
cycled in the ocean."...
2008 May. The Carbon Hoofprint. Lauren Wilcox, The WorldArk. Excerpt:
A recent report from the United Nations contained a stunning statistic:
One industry is responsible for nearly 20% of the greenhouse gases
released int the atmosphere worldwide. It isn't long-haul trucking, or
air travel, or stell-smelting vactories, or any of the other
exhaust-belching suspects ususally associated wtih environmental woes.
It is the livestock industry.
In "Livestock's Long Shadow,"
released in 2006, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the
United Nations freported that raising and processing cattle, hogs,
poultry and other animals produces 18% of the greenhouse gases; just
13% comes from trucks, cars and other transportation. ...The livestock
industry's transgressions include the deforestation of grazing land,
the pollution of air and grondwater from animal waste, the excessive
use of water to raise grain for feed and its threat on biodiversity....
2008 December 22. Bigger Sea Creatures, Like Squid, May Feel Effects of Higher CO2. By Henry Fountain. Excerpt:
Increased emissions of carbon dioxide affect more than the atmosphere.
Much of the CO2 is absorbed by the oceans, causing them to become more
acidic.Recent research has looked at the impact of the acidification on
corals and other small calcifying organisms. But increasing CO2,
coupled with gradual warming of the oceans, may have other effects, and
may affect bigger creatures, because there will be less oxygen at the
surface and deep oxygen-poor zones will expand vertically...The
researchers found that under conditions of elevated CO2 similar to
those forecast for surface waters for the end of the century, the
squids’ metabolic and activity rates slowed significantly. So it is a
good bet that these squid will become more lethargic, less adept at
hunting prey and less able to avoid predators like seals, sharks,
swordfish and marlin, and sperm whales...
2008 October 28. Stanford researchers: Global warming is killing frogs and salamanders in Yellowstone Park. EurekAlert. Excerpt:
Frogs and salamanders, those amphibious bellwethers of environmental
danger, are being killed in Yellowstone National Park. The predator,
Stanford researchers say, is global warming.
Biology graduate student Sarah McMenamin spent three summers in a
remote area of the park searching for frogs and salamanders in ponds
that had been surveyed 15 years ago. Almost everywhere she looked, she
found a catastrophic decrease in the population.
The amphibians need the ponds for their young to hatch, but high
temperatures and drought are drying up the water. The frogs and
salamanders lay eggs that have a gelatinous outer layer—basically
"jelly eggs," McMenamin says—that leaves them completely unsuitable for
gestation on land. If the ponds dry up, so do the eggs. "If there isn't
any water, then the animals simply don't breed," she said.
..."Everybody can identify with the loss of glaciers, but in
Yellowstone the decrease in lakes and ponds and wetlands has been
astounding," John Varley, the former chief scientist for Yellowstone,
told New West. "What were considered permanent bodies of water, meaning
reference was given to them in the 1850s, '60s and '70s, and bestowed
with a name as a lake, are now gone. Some wetlands that were considered
permanent ponds are no longer there. Some lakes have become
2008 July 15. Study: Future snowmelt in West twice as early as expected; threatens ecosystems and water reserves. By Elizabeth K. Gardner, Perdue University News. Excerpt:
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - According to a new study, global warming could
lead to larger changes in snowmelt in the western United States than
was previously thought, possibly increasing wildfire risk and creating
new water management challenges for agriculture, ecosystems and urban
Researchers, including a Purdue University professor of earth and
atmospheric sciences, discovered that a critical surface temperature
feedback is twice as strong as what had been projected by earlier
...Sara A. Rauscher, visiting scientist at the Abdus Salam
International Centre for Theoretical Physics in Trieste, Italy, and
lead author on the paper, said the melting snow contributes to a
feedback loop that accelerates warming.
"Because snow is more reflective than the ground or vegetation beneath
it, it keeps the surface temperatures lower by reflecting energy from
the sun," Rauscher said. "When snow melts or does not accumulate in the
first place, more solar energy is absorbed by the ground, warming the
surface. A feedback loop is created because the warmer ground then
makes it more difficult for snow to accumulate and perpetuates the
2008 Spring. 3 Terrain Magazine articles. Berkeley Ecology Center. Inside Out: Behind the Scenes at the Bird Wash. by Nicole Edmison. Excerpt:
The spill will affect wildlife for years-and the impact extends far
beyond the bay. ...I blearily opened the newspaper in a Corvallis,
Oregon coffeeshop and stared at a photo of an oil-drenched western
grebe. The caption said that oil had spilled into San Francisco Bay
after the Cosco Busan had knocked into a pillar of the Bay Bridge. This
disaster in the making warranted no more than a photo, but as a
wildlife biologist with a special affinity for birds, I felt as if my
liver had been ripped out. When I returned to Berkeley, I realized the
true scope of what had happened. ... After the "oil on beach" signs
have disappeared and volunteers have gone back to their daily lives,
oil is still traveling in our open ocean, up and down our coast,
lurking in the substrates of our bays, and polluting the environment
for all of its inhabitants. Bringing the Outside In. by Lisa Owens Viani.Interview
with Eddie Bartley... a San Francisco-based naturalist ...When the
Cosco Busan spill hit, Bartley surveyed for oiled birds and worked with
San Francisco Animal Care and Control to rescue injured birds. Dismayed
by bureaucratic confusion and inaction, Bartley is working on a Web
site and an action map that should help alleviate agency dysfunction
if-or more likely, when-there is another spill. Outside In: Renegades to the Rescue. by Lisa Owens Viani. Birders got busy as officials fluttered...
2008 Mar 18. In a Warmer Yellowstone Park, a Shifting Environmental Balance By Jim Robbins, NY Times. Excerpt:
The grassy sweep of the Lamar Valley in the northeastern corner of the
Yellowstone National Park is famous for its wildlife. But while
walking across the Lamar last fall, Robert L. Crabtree pointed out a
cascade of ecological changes under way… The number of grizzly bears
and gophers in the valley has increased, Dr. Crabtree said, an increase
supported by the spread of an invasive plant from the Mediterranean
that a warming climate benefits. The plant, Canada thistle, provides
food for grizzlies in more than one way but may also be squeezing out
native plants that cannot compete… Areas along the Lamar River that
were once marshy have dried out because of a drought that began around
2000. As the ground becomes drier, the thistle invades. Enter the
pocket gopher, a half-pound dynamo that tunnels into the ground near
the surface. The gophers love the abundant, starchy roots of the plant
and burrow beneath it to harvest the tubers. What they do not eat they
stockpile under plants or rocks. The expansion of pocket gophers and
thistle is not gradual, Dr. Crabtree said, but a rapid
positive-feedback loop… For their part, grizzly bears have discovered
the gophers’ caches and raid them. As a result, the Lamar Valley is
pockmarked with holes where grizzlies have clawed up bundles of roots.
Bears also devour gophers and their pups. As climate change alters
ecosystems, Dr. Crabtree said, “the winners are going to be the
adaptive foragers, like grizzlies that eat everything from ants to
moose, and the losers are going to be specialized species that can’t
adapt.” As budgets for controlling invasive species shrink, he
suggested a triage. “If you are going to give up on a species,” he
said, “it’s best to give up on one that has ecological value.”
2007 February 23. After 200 Years, a Beaver Is Back in New York City. Wildlife Conservation Society. By ANAHAD O'CONNOR.Excerpt:
A crudely fashioned lodge perched along the snow-covered banks of the
Bronx River - no more than a mound of twigs and mud strewn together in
the shadow of the sits steps away from an empty parking lot and a busy
intersection. Scientists say that the discovery of this cone-shaped
dwelling signifies something remarkable: For the first time in two
centuries, the North American beaver, forced out of town by
agricultural development and overeager fur traders, has returned to New
York City. The discovery of a beaver setting up camp in the Bronx is a
testament to both the animal's versatility and to an increasingly
healthy Bronx River. A few years ago the river was a dumping ground for
abandoned cars and rubber tires, but it has been brought back to life
recently through a big cleanup effort. The biologists who discovered
the beaver say they have nicknamed it José, after United States
Representative José E. Serrano of the Bronx, who has directed $15
million in federal funds toward the river's rebirth….. A beaver
sighting was reported last month in East Hampton on Long Island.
Environmental officials said that if it was a beaver, it may have come
across the Long Island Sound from Connecticut or from Gardiners Island,
a tract of private land between Long Island's forks…..The North
American beaver vanished from New York City in the early 1800s as a
result of trapping, fur trading, and deforestation. Beavers helped
speed Manhattan's development by attracting fur traders who were eager
to feed huge demands for their pelts in Europe. To this day, beavers
remain tightly linked to New York's identity……
5: Soil, the Living Skin of the Earth
7: One Global Ocean
8:Champions of a Sustainable World