Weather Waves and Habitat Changes

This animation shows where the 21 species in the study occur during each week of the year. Brighter colors (yellows) indicate more species are present than darker areas (blues and purples); overall, the species spend more time in Central American wintering grounds than on their northern breeding grounds. Map and animation by Frank La Sorte.

Once again eBird data and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology studies highlight the importance of forest conservation for species survival.

Climate Change Or Habitat Loss? Study Weighs Future Priorities For Conserving Forest Migrants

Birds are among the first to let us know when the environment is out of whack. But predicting what might happen to bird populations is tricky. Studies often focus on a single issue or location: breeding grounds or wintering grounds, changes in climate, loss of habitat. But in the real world, nothing occurs in isolation. A new study just published in the journal Global Change Biology pulls the pieces together.

“This is really the first study to measure the combined impact of climate change and land-use change over a bird’s full annual cycle,” says lead author Frank La Sorte at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. “Typically, studies tend to focus on the breeding season. If you do that, you’re missing the real story which is inherently dynamic and complex.”

The study merges projections for climate change with land-use change to model what the future might look like for 21 species of forest birds. Scientists ran dozens of scenarios to learn which combinations of factors would make this group of flycatchers, vireos, and warblers—all of which breed in eastern North America and winter in Central America—even more vulnerable to population decline. Continue reading

Scotland, Land Of Butterfly Resurgence

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For a second day in a row, a butterfly story catches our attention. Small stories of unexpected good fortune are always welcome:

Rare butterfly spotted in Scotland for the first time since 1884

Elusive and endangered white-letter hairstreak discovered in a field in the Scottish borders could become the 34th species to live and breed in the country Continue reading

A Highway For Monarchs

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Interstate 35, which stretches from Minnesota to Mexico, lies in the heart of the monarchs’ migration route.

Thanks to Janet Marinelli and the team at YaleEnvironment360:

Can the Monarch Highway Help Save a Butterfly Under Siege?

The population of North American monarch butterflies has plummeted from 1 billion to 33 million in just two decades. Now, a project is underway to revive the monarch by making an interstate highway the backbone of efforts to restore its dwindling habitat. Continue reading

Farming Fish For The Whole World

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A Russian fish farming operation in Ura Bay in the Barents Sea.
Maxim Zmeyev/AFP/Getty Images

Thanks to Alastair Bland and the folks at the salt at National Public Radio (USA) for this look at the prospects for aquaculture on a global scale:

For years, scientists and activists have sounded the alarm that humans’ appetite for seafood is outpacing what fishermen can sustainably catch.

But new research suggests there is space on the open ocean for farming essentially all the seafood humans can eat. A team of scientists led by Rebecca Gentry, of the University of California, Santa Barbara, found that widescale aquaculture utilizing much of the ocean’s coastal waters could outproduce the global demand for seafood by a staggering 100 times. Continue reading

Ensuring Public Access To Climate Science

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Sterling Library at Yale University in New Haven Connecticut, US. Photograph: Alamy

Thanks to John Abraham, and the Guardian’s team focused on the Environment, for shining the light on the good works of those who work to ensure our access to essential environmental science at a time when there are efforts to silence the science:

Yale Climate Connections: America’s beacon of climate science awareness

Stellar work by group led by Anthony Leiserowitz on putting climate change research into public domain is empowering citizens and institutions Continue reading

Conservationists And Public Servants Collaborate In South Texas

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Birders walking under trees draped in Spanish moss in the Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge near Alamo, Tex. The border wall would traverse the refuge. Credit Michael Stravato for The New York Times

Thanks to Michael Hardy and the New York Times for this coverage of an unwanted, disruptive intruder:

MISSION, Tex. — Last month, Marianna Wright, the executive director of the privately owned National Butterfly Center here, discovered survey stakes on the property marking out a 150-foot-wide swath of land.

Ms. Wright later encountered a work crew cutting down trees and brush along a road through the center. The workers said they had been hired by United States Customs and Border Protection to clear the land.

“You mean my land?” Ms. Wright asked, before kicking them out. Continue reading

Chile Finds A Better Path To Renewable Energy

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The first geothermal energy plant in South America is in Cerro Pabellón, Chile, 14,760 feet above sea level, surrounded by volcanoes. Credit Meridith Kohut for The New York Times

Chile’s near catastrophe with hydroelectric energy, averted in part thanks to the efforts of friends in the Patagonia Sin Represas campaign, made us wonder whether Chile’s path to a greener future would be straight and narrow. Thanks to the New York Times and Ernesto Londoño we think we have strong evidence helping us with the answer:

Chile’s Energy Transformation Is Powered by Wind, Sun and Volcanoes

CERRO PABELLÓN, Chile — It looks and functions much like an oil drilling rig. As it happens, several of the men in thick blue overalls and white helmets who operate the hulking machine once made a living pumping crude.

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A worker inspecting solar panels in the Atacama Desert in Chile, one of the driest and sunniest places on Earth. The sun is so strong there that workers must wear protective suits and slather on thick layers of sunscreen. Credit Meridith Kohut for The New York Times

With the ability to power roughly 165,000 homes, the new plant is yet another step in Chile’s clean energy transformation. This nation’s rapidly expanding clean energy grid, which includes vast solar fields and wind farms, is one of the most ambitious in a region that is decisively moving beyond fossil fuels.

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Wind turbines in the Atacama Desert and other turbines along Chile’s 2,653-mile coast contribute to power to national grid. Credit Meridith Kohut for The New York Times

Latin America already has the world’s cleanest electricity, having long relied on dams to generate a large share of its energy needs, according to the World Bank.

But even beyond those big hydropower projects, investment in renewable energy in Latin America has increased 11-fold since 2004, nearly double the global rate, according to a 2016 report by the International Renewable Energy Agency, an intergovernmental organization. Chile, Mexico and Brazil are now among the top 10 renewable energy markets in the world.

Chile3So as Latin America embraces greener energy sources, government officials and industry executives in the region have expressed a sense of confusion, even bewilderment, with the Trump administration’s decision to withdraw from the climate changecommitments contained in the Paris Agreement, declare an end to the “war on coal” and take aim at American environmental regulations. Continue reading

Words For Wonders

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Does the banner above work for you, as a call to action? Or in any way to care? If yes, click on it; if not, read on:

If Moses had promised the Israelites a land flowing with mammary secretions and insect vomit, would they have followed him into Canaan? Though this means milk and honey, I doubt it would have inspired them.

Screen Shot 2017-08-09 at 10.54.29 AMWe believe that pairs of words such as ecosystem services have value, and we celebrate cases related to the concept of ecosystem services. Ditto for words like natural capital. Still, the point is well taken from one of our favorite editorialists, reminding us that words matter:

So why do we use such language to describe the natural wonders of the world? There are examples everywhere, but I will illustrate the problem with a few from the UK. On land, places in which nature is protected are called “sites of special scientific interest”. At sea, they are labelled “no-take zones” or “reference areas”. Had you set out to estrange people from the living world, you could scarcely have done better. Continue reading

Patagotitan, Farm To Museum

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Patagotitan cast, in a hangar. D. Pol.

Thanks to Ed Yong, at the Atlantic, for expanding our horizons beyond the farm to table movement and reminding us that discoveries are still bringing new/old wonders of the planet Earth to the attention of scientists, and then to the rest of us via museums:

…Patagotitan lived during the Cretaceous period around 101 million years ago. And for some reason, it frequented the area that eventually became the Mayo family’s farm. Carballido and Pol’s team returned to the site more than a dozen times, disinterring every fossil they could find. In the process, they built a road and partially removed a hill. Eventually, they recovered bones from at least six Patagotitan individuals. And their bones reveal that they were in their prime—young, still growing, and not yet at their full adult size. Continue reading

Hello Again, Rebecca Solnit

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Rebecca Solnit, the essayist-turned-progressive-icon, at home in San Francisco. Credit Trent Davis Bailey

We have appreciated her in these pages over the years without really knowing anything about her, so thanks to Alice Gregory for this (may we just say that it seems odd to find it in the Entertainment section of the New York Times Magazine; why not the Arts section, or even the Politics section?):

How Rebecca Solnit Became the Voice of the Resistance

Subjects that the author and essayist Rebecca Solnit has written about, some at considerable length, include Irish history, atlases, Alzheimer’s, a traveling medical clinic, natural disasters, urban planning, tortoises, walking, gentrification, Yosemite National Park and Apple Inc.

‘‘There’s something interdisciplinary at best and wildly wandering at worst about how I think,’’ she told me recently over the phone from San Francisco, where she lives and works. ‘‘I am interested in almost everything, and it can sometimes seem like a burden.’’ She cited Virginia Woolf and Henry David Thoreau as the writers most important to her: ‘‘Each of them wrote exquisitely about experiential, immediate encounters with the tangible world but could also be very powerful political polemicists. And the arc of their work describes a space in which you can be both.’’ Continue reading

Sunlight and Seaweed

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Thanks to the Conversation for highlighting the potential of this inspiring technology.

How farming giant seaweed can feed fish and fix the climate

Bren Smith, an ex-industrial trawler man, operates a farm in Long Island Sound, near New Haven, Connecticut. Fish are not the focus of his new enterprise, but rather kelp and high-value shellfish. The seaweed and mussels grow on floating ropes, from which hang baskets filled with scallops and oysters. The technology allows for the production of about 40 tonnes of kelp and a million bivalves per hectare per year. Continue reading

Have Cause Will Travel

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We have found that when travelers can support a cause they believe in while traveling, they will go out of their way to do so. When our hotelier colleagues make it easier for a traveler to support a cause, we can only celebrate it:

The Standard Telephone Co. Wants YOU to Ring Your Rep

Over the past few months, we’ve been thinking a lot at The Standard about what we can do to support positive, productive activism. As we’ve gone out and talked to people who are engaged in this very thing, one piece of advice we’ve heard again and again is this: speak up! There are lots of ways to take action, lots of ways to make a difference, but there is no substitute for the simple act of making your voice heard. Continue reading

Entomological Wonders Will Never Cease

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Galápagos finches, which helped inspire the theory of evolution, are under urgent threat. Will a controversial scientific technique be their deliverance? Photograph by Mint Images Limited / Alamy

Thanks to Brent Crane writing in the Elements section of the New Yorker’s website:

A Tiny Parasite Could Save Darwin’s Finches from Extinction

Five years ago, George Heimpel, an entomologist at the University of Minnesota, travelled to Trinidad in search of insect larvae. He was after several kinds in particular—Philornis downsi, a fly whose parasitic young feed on the hatchlings of tropical birds, and various minuscule wasp species whose own offspring feed on those of the fly. Continue reading

If You Happen To Be In New York City

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Food Still Lifes installed, 2017

Sandy Skoglund, an artist who seven years ago came to our attention in this brief video (thanks to the Public Broadcasting Service), has a show called Food Still Lifes that will be open for five more days. It is not what we would have expected from that introductory video. It is more than the odd she projected then, and more oddly beautiful than we would expect of luncheon meat (for example):

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Credit© Sandy Skoglund; Courtesy of the artist and RYAN LEE Gallery, New York. “Luncheon Meat on a Counter,” 1978.

Look at a few more of these, you will want more. And bigger. Continue reading

Archeologists On Ice

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The global glacier meltdown may be bad for those of us who live in the present, but it’s giving archeologists an exciting window into the past. Photograph by Zacharie Grossen / Wikimedia Commons

Thanks to Alan Burdick for illuminating some of the silver linings of the otherwise cloudy prospects of melting glaciers:

An Ancient Lunchbox Emerges from the Ice

In the past century, the glaciers and ice fields of the European Alps have lost half their volume to global warming, and their continued retreat, like that of glaciers everywhere in the world, is accelerating. By 2100, many scientists predict, they will have all but disappeared. The meltdown has already disrupted the region’s sensitive mountain ecosystems and tourist resorts—some local communities have taken to laying protective white blankets over the snow and ice—but it has also opened up new avenues of scientific inquiry. Continue reading

If You Happen To Be In New York City

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“Dance,” a sculpture made in 2000 by Honda Shoryu, in “Japanese Bamboo Art: The Abbey Collection,” at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Credit Jake Naughton for The New York Times

Bamboo is an important part of the ecosystem in just about every place where we have worked over the last two decades; thanks to Roberta Smith for this:

Protecting the High Seas Commons

 

A school of bluefin tuna in a fishery tow cage. Countries around the world have begun to negotiate a treaty that would create marine protected areas in waters beyond national jurisdiction. Credit Paul Sutherland/National Geographic, via Getty Images

Still a long way to go and many tough issues to be resolved but a good start…

Nations Will Start Talks to Protect Fish of the High Seas

More than half of the world’s oceans belong to no one, which often makes their riches ripe for plunder.

Now, countries around the world have taken the first step to protect the precious resources of the high seas. In late July, after two years of talks, diplomats at the United Nations recommended starting treaty negotiations to create marine protected areas in waters beyond national jurisdiction — and in turn, begin the high-stakes diplomatic jostling over how much to protect and how to enforce rules.

“The high seas are the biggest reserve of biodiversity on the planet,” Peter Thomson, the ambassador of Fiji and current president of the United Nations General Assembly, said in an interview after the negotiations. “We can’t continue in an ungoverned way if we are concerned about protecting biodiversity and protecting marine life.”

Without a new international system to regulate all human activity on the high seas, those international waters remain “a pirate zone,” Mr. Thomson said. Continue reading

Prairie Land Livestock

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Farmer Wendy Johnson markets hogs, chickens, eggs and seasonal turkeys. She also grows organic row crops at Joia Food Farm near Charles City, Iowa. Amy Mayer/Harvest Public Media

Thanks to Harvest Public Media, Amy Mayer and the folks at the salt over at National Public Radio (USA):

How, And Why, Some Farmers Are Bringing Livestock Back To The Prairie

On a cloudy summer day, Iowa farmer Wendy Johnson lifts the corner of a mobile chicken tractor, a lightweight mesh-covered plastic frame that has corralled her month-old meat chickens for a few days, and frees several dozen birds to peck the surrounding area at will. Soon, she’ll sell these chickens to customers at local markets. Continue reading

Scale, Distribution & Disruption

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Three stories in today’s New York Times, two in the main Business section and the other in the Media subsection of Business, are an interesting read in tandem:

As Amazon’s Influence Grows, Marketers Scramble to Tailor Strategies

While Other U.S. Companies Flee China, Starbucks Marches In

With ‘Logan Lucky,’ Soderbergh Hopes to Change Film’s Business Model