Climate Adaptation


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Lady the osprey lays 69th egg at Perthshire reserve

A veteran breeding osprey has laid her 69th egg at a Perthshire nature reserve. Lady the osprey returned to Loch of the Lowes for the 24th consecutive year, having reared 50 chicks there in the past. And staff at the centre confirmed that she laid her first egg of the season early on Sunday morning.

The 29-year-old female is thought to be the oldest breeding raptor in the world. An update on the centre’s osprey blog welcomed the “wonderful news” of the latest egg. It read: “At around 00:30 our nightwatch staff noticed classic egg-laying behaviour, and at 00:47 the female stood up to reveal her new egg.

“It is just as well the birds have built such a deep, snug cup in the centre of the nest as it was so windy last night, the whole nest was rocking.

“The staff and volunteers here are over the moon, and we are so relieved that our beloved female is still breeding at her advanced age.”

(via BBC News)

I’m VERY skeptical of National Wildlife Federation’s claim that these polar bears dug into the soil to cool down. NWF claims that these particular bears were over heated and needed to cool down their body temperatures. Cute, but I don’t believe it for a second! Here’s the description of these pics from the the NWF’s bleeding-heart blog post: 

Heartbreaking new photos of polar bears in Hudson Bay show just how real the climate situation is for the hungry and stressed bears, as news continues to break on their steep decline and worsening condition.

The heat-stressed polar bears were digging holes in the dirt, trying to stay cool by lying on the permafrost below. The photos were taken by Larry Schweiger, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation. He just returned from the Hudson Bay in Canada, where he and scientists observed the polar bears. His polar bear photos are available for sharing (credit the National Wildlife Federation).

Wrong. This is exactly how polar bears sleep. They dig shallow holes to curl up in, hold their backs against the wind, and nap for about 8 hours.

Misleading blog posts like the above contribute to science illiteracy. The NWF should show 1) that these particular bears don’t normally sleep like this. After all, this is how polar bears sleep - explain why are these bears an exception. 2) Show the baseline data that these particular bears were in fact heat stressed. These guys look fat and healthy. 3) Show that these bears actually cooled off after their nap. In the least, show a correlation between heat stress and cooling off vis a vis digging a hole. And 4) show where and how the bears learned this behavior. After all, temperatures do swing in the Arctic. Polar bears are prepared for these normal swings.

I just see polar bears doing their normal sleepy time. And that these photos were taking from a helicopter on a long-lens, which tells me the bears weren’t actually baselined nor studied.

I’ve left a note for the blog post’s author to clarify and will post an update.

Great news! Shark fin soup quickly declining in China

Great read by WaPo.

Secretary Jewell personally welcomes back furloughed employees from Dept. of Interior.

70,000 Interior employees are back on the job, as national parks, wildlife refuges, public lands, energy bureaus, and BIA offices begin to re-open.

Kenya Wildlife Services (KWS) rangers, veterinarians and Lewa staff remove the horn of a wild male black rhino named Sero at Lewa Wildlife conservancy on August 26, 2013.

Eleven of Lewa’s total 73 endangered black rhinos are being relocated to neighboring Borana conservancy to afford them more space. Borana currently has no rhino population and is hoping to help increase their numbers.

The horn of each relocated rhino is cut and a tracking device is fitted to monitor its movements and to help discourage poaching. Lewa has suffered severe poaching in the past. Illegally poached rhino horn is sold for large sums as an ingredient in some traditional Chinese medicine. (Carl De Souza/AFP/Getty Images)

via In Focus

CNN reports Alabama is abusing BP oil spill money. Above, a state rep defends plans to spend beach restoration funds on building a new convention center and tourist attractions on the beach, above. 

Alabama is spending just 8.5% on restoring beaches and marine ecosystems. Louisiana, for comparison, is spending 100% of the BP penalties on wetland, wildlife, marshes, and other coastal restoration. Florida is spending 90% on restoration.

Solid reporting @CNN’s OutFront

Obama administration plans to end gray wolf protections across most of Lower 48

Note this is in addition to previous efforts by Obama that allowed hunting of wolves for the first time in decades. Over 1,600 have been killed. See my wolf tag for additional background. 

In addition to the earlier polar bear fail: Efforts to curb the sale of ivory and rhino horns were voted down on Thursday at an international wildlife summit in Bangkok.

At the 178-nation Convention in Trade in Endangered Species (Cites) meeting, Burkina Faso and Kenya cited the “merciless slaughter of elephants” in their attempt to extend to a wider group of nations a pledge from some countries not to sell ivory stockpiles before 2016.

But the proposal was seen as legally flawed by many delegates and failed to get support.

But Tom Milliken, head of the elephant and rhino team at wildlife trade monitoring network Traffic, said he was more optimistic than ever that tough action would still be taken. “This time people are listening because everything is pointing in the same direction: poaching is up to a record high, as is illegal ivory trading and elephants seem to be down,” he said. About 25,000 elephants were killed by poachers in 2012.

At the Cites talks, 19 nations face bans on all wildlife trade unless they crack down on the poaching, smuggling or sale of illegal ivory. The summit is also considering compulsory forensic testing of seized tusks, so the criminal chain can be traced and compulsory reporting of stockpiles of ivory, to prevent corruption or thefts.

Separately, Kenya attempted to prevent the export of trophy-hunted rhino horns from South Africa. Vietnamese and east European gangs use the practice as a cover to feed the illegal Vietnamese market with the 1,000 horns a year it is demanding. But Milliken said that South Africa had already put an end to the “pseudo-hunting”. There are 20,000 white rhinos at present, he said, and despite more than 600 being poached in 2012, the population is rising.

Milliken said: “It is probably a good idea to keep these [trophy-hunting] incentives for private wildlife reserve owners at a time when they are having to spend more on protection from poachers.” He said, in contrast, Vietnam was doing extremely little to tackle rhino sales.

The Cites meeting did, however, unanimously raise the protection of the west African manatee to the highest level, overriding advice from officials that “scant” scientific data did not support the move.

The slow-moving creature, which can measure up to 4.5m long and weigh 350kg, is found in the coastal lagoons and rivers of 21 states, and can reach as far inland as Mali, Niger and Chad.

Illegal kills can raise $4,500 per animal and less than 10,000 remain. They are hunted for meat and oil, killed as by bycatch by fishermen and also suffer as their habitat is destroyed by mangrove harvesting, pollution and dams. The Cites conference also bid farewell to a series of extinct animals by removing them from protection lists, including Australia’s dusky flying fox, crescent nail-tail wallaby, buff-nosed rat-kangaroo and the pig-footed- and rabbit-eared bandicoots.”

Via The Guardian

This should go over well with politicians.

"Coming Soon: Long-Delayed Decisions on Endangered Species

The Oregon spotted frog, a four-inch-long amphibian that prefers the Pacific Northwest’s dwindling marshy spots, is to be considered this year for federal protection as an endangered species.

It has been languishing for 22 years — since 1991 — awaiting its day in the bureaucratic sun.

The eastern massasauga rattlesnake has been a candidate for protection since 1982, a legless bridesmaid, never a bride. Ditto the elfin-woods warbler. Like them, the Dakota skipper butterfly, a cucumber-bodied flier that zips unusually fast (for a butterfly) over the Minnesota and Dakota prairies, is dying out as development shrinks its habitat. It nevertheless has hung on, its candidacy deferred since 1975.

Belatedly, the Interior Department’s Fish and Wildlife Service is giving them all — and 258 more — a thumbs up or down for protection under the Endangered Species Act, the 1973 law that was among the early triumphs of the environmental movement.

It is evidence of the law’s travails that it took a federal judge to get them to this point.

Under a 2011 settlement of two lawsuits by conservation activists, the wildlife service has pledged to decide the fates of all the backlogged species by 2018. A schedule issued by the service on Feb. 8 promised to decide by September whether to add 97 species to the endangered list, including 70 covered by the lawsuit settlement.

Moreover, the service has finished preliminary work on more than 550 other potential candidates for the endangered-species list, almost all of which will be further evaluated after the backlog is erased.

“They’ve dramatically increased the number of decisions they’re making — both positive and negative decisions, but the vast majority of decisions are positive,” said Kierán Suckling, the executive director of the Center for Biological Diversity, an Arizona conservation organization that is a party to the settlement.

It is the most feverish activity on imperiled wildlife in two decades, an improbable feat amid ferocious attacks from conservative critics and in an economy with little money to spare for environmental frivolities.”

Via NYTimes


Dumping of Toxic Fracking Wastewater Reaffirms Natural Gas Industry Free-for-All in Ohio

A week after the dumping of at least 20,000 gallons of toxic and potentially radioactive fracking waste into a storm drain that empties into a tributary of the Mahoning River in Youngstown, Ohio, by Hard Rock Excavating, state regulators have yet to disclose information about the quantity of waste and the chemicals involved.

Dang. Most storm drains dump untreated run-off into a river, pond, lake, or some other body of water. Storm drain infrastructure drains roads and parking lots of rain water and snow melt.

My understanding is that it is illegal under the Clean Water Act (e.g., the EPA) to dump toxic chemicals into these drains since fish, riparian mammals, amphibians, and reptiles, birds, kids, swimmers, and farmers use surface waters on a regular basis.

If the above is correct (I’m skeptical), that frackers are dumping chemical-waste-water into storm drains, holy shit - Ohioans downstream are in for a big surprise…

Free Climate Webinar: Downscaling Climate Change Models to Local Conditions

This promises to be a good webinar. “Downscaling" is a fancy term for making climate science available in your community. Keeping it simple, most climate science is based on computer models that predict where impacts will occur, like flooding, droughts, and storms.

For example, these models show that the southwest U.S. will be come drier, and there will be water shortages. But the models cover huge areas, like thousands of miles. That doesn’t really help you or your town figure out what could happen.

So scientists came up with a solution to help better predict what will happen in smaller, geographical areas. Instead of modeling the entire state of Arizona, “downscaling” allows for predictions at a much smaller area, such as your county or city.

There are a lot of problems with these computer models - climate impacts are often more severe than the models show. But the general trend is they are reliable predictors of what will happen as the climate changes.

This particular webinar covers how scientists are using downscaled climate models to manage wildlife habitat on the coasts.

Why does this matter? It helps locals, businesses, and governments plan for the future. If there is going to be water shortages, for one example, then all three constituencies can (and should) work together to figure out how to make better use of their water infrastructure. It’s the same situation for coastal communities that face sea-level rise. Communities can use downscaled models to figure out the best places to move homes, protect habitat, stop development, restore wetlands, dredge deltas etc…

Downscaling is technical. Yet it’s one of the most important tools the public can use to make their communities more resilient to disasters and other environmental impacts. So push through the tech-jargon if you can. This webinar will give you an idea of how climate science is being used in the real world, and should spark neato thoughts on how you can use it to help your community.

Below are the details. If you sign up, hit me up and let me know what you think!

January 16th from 1:00-2:30pm ET
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Wildlife Federation hosts:
Downscaling Climate Change Models to Local Site Conditions: Effects of Sea-Level Rise and Extreme Events on Coastal Habitats and Their Wildlife.”
Dr. John Y. Takekawa (Research Wildlife Biologist, USGS Western Ecological Research Center) will provide an overview of the project. It examines the potential climate change effects on transitional coastal habitats with high-quality local habitat data, downscaled climate models, and projected storm effects. It also links habitat responses to wildlife using vulnerability assessments.
Register online here. If you cannot attend, a recording will be posted approximately1-2 weeks after the presentation at: