2014 Earth Stewardship Initiative Demonstration Project: sustaining and enhancing Earth’s life-support systems

The American River Parkway at the nexus of ecological science and design

ESA2014 Sacramento logo

99th Annual Meeting
The Ecological Society of America
Press*Program

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Monday, July 28, 2014
Contact: Alison Mize 703-625-3628; Alison@esa.org

 

“Cities that Work for People and Ecosystems” is the theme for a full week of demonstration projects in the Sacramento’s American River Parkway from August 10−15 during the Ecological Society of America’s annual meeting. The 23-mile long Parkway faces multiple competing demands for water, flood control, habitat and recreation.

Blending ecological research and applied ecological understanding with landscape management can inform the design and management of the Parkway for long-term adaptive management.  A host of ecologists working with local urban planners, flood system managers and landscape architects will combine scientific experiments with landscape design. Field site installations along the American River and displays in the Sacramento Convention Center will compliment a robust schedule of special sessions and workshops during the week.

The 119-mile long American River headwaters begin in California’s High Sierra Nevada mountain range. The river plays an important role in the area’s history as gold was first discovered on along its banks in 1848, which ignited the Gold Rush. The almost 500,000 residents that call Sacramento home consider the American River Parkway the crown jewel of their city. Recreational opportunities abound along its 23-mile stretch of forests, beaches, bike paths and hiking trails.

The demonstration project is part of the Ecological Society of America’s Earth Stewardship Initiative, which seeks to provide the scientific basis for actively shaping trajectories of social-ecological change to enhance ecosystem resilience and human well-being. Human activities affect Earth’s life support systems so profoundly as to threaten many of the ecological services that are essential to society. Society has a window of opportunity in the next few decades to redefine our relationship with the planet to reduce risks of dangerous global changes. Ecologists are seeking to address this challenge with a new science agenda that integrates people with the rest of nature to chart a sustainable relationship between society and the biosphere.

“What better way to illustrate how the science of ecology can be put to use than with a demonstration project woven into ESAs annual meeting?” said ESA President Jill Baron.  “Many of our ecologists embrace the idea of using their knowledge for the public good; the American River Parkway provides a great example of ecologists working with practitioners to promote more sustainable urban ecosystems.”


 

Ecological Society of America’s 99th Annual Meeting, August 10-15th, 2014, in Sacramento, Cal.

Main * Program * Press Information * App

2014 Earth Stewardship Initiative Schedule

Many sessions, field trips and demonstration projects will delve into the benefits of ecological science and its applications that are useful for urban design, planning and adaptive management.

American River Parkway morning Photo by Robert Course_Baker

Morning lights the bike path on the American River Parkway in Sacramento, Cal. Cyclists share the easement with egrets, wild turkeys, deer, beaver and other wildlife. Credit, Robert Course-Baker.

Field Trip 10:  Urban Bioblitz Along The American River Corridor
Sunday, August 10, 2014: 8:30 AM-3:00 PM, J Street Entrance, Sacramento Convention Center

The American River Parkway within Sacramento is the site for this field trip’s urban bioblitz. ESA organizers will be joined by US Fish and Wildlife Service wildlife biologists and volunteers from the American River Parkway Foundation to help conduct an the bioblitz. Participants will collect and identify the biodiversity along the corridor in teams that will focus on plant diversity, birds, insects and macro aquatic invertebrates.  A reference collection from the bioblitz will be given to the local community.

Organizer: Gillian Bowser  gbowser@colostate.edu
Co-organizers: Harold Balbach and Luben Dimov

 

Field Trip 14:  Ecological Planning and Design Along the American River Parkway
Monday, August 11, 2014: 8:00 AM-1:00 PM, J Street Entrance, Sacramento Convention Center

This field trip is designed as an exploration of the American River Parkway employing ecological principles into the design landscapes to perform ecosystem services.

Organizer: Alexander J. Felson   alexander.felson@yale.edu
Co-organizer: Neal M. Williams

 

Special Session 8:  From Studying To Shaping: A Design Charette Bridging Site Analysis To Conceptual Design
Monday, August 11, 2014: 10:15 AM-11:30 AM, Camellia, Sheraton Hotel

Using the American River Parkway as a case study, this session provides an educational opportunity for ecologists to develop collaborative activities that build ecological resilience and sustainability principles into urban planning and landscape architecture.

Organizer: Alexander J. Felson   alexander.felson@yale.edu
Co-organizer: Jill Baron

 

Special Session 7:  Engaging with Business and Industry to Advance Earth Stewardship – Business and Biodiversity
Monday, August 11, 2014: 10:15 AM-11:30 AM, 204, Sacramento Convention Center

This session builds on ESA’s Earth Stewardship initiative to explore solutions that will help redefine our relationship with the planet and reduce the risks of degrading Earth’s life-support systems. It is the latest in a series of conversations, workshops, and demonstration projects from universities, agencies, land managers, religious communities and businesses.

Organizer: Jill Baron  Jill.Baron@colostate.edu
Co-organizers: Scott L. Collins, David W. Inouye, Teresa Mourad, Clifford Duke and Katherine McCarter

 

Symposia 14:  Green Cities: Ecology and Design in Urban Landscapes
Wednesday, August 13, 2014: 1:30 PM-5:00 PM, Gardenia, Sheraton Hotel

Over 50% of all humans now live in cities with increasing demands on sustainable water and food systems, waste infrastructure, social networks and human health. This symposium will explicitly feature examples of the synthesis of ecology and design in urban landscapes.

Organizer: Sharon K. Collinge   Sharon.collinge@colorado.edu
Co-organizers: Ari E. Novy and Alexander J. Felson

 

Workshop 38:  From Studying to Shaping Land: A Workshop Bridging Ecology with Design Performance Objectives
Wednesday, August 13, 2014: 8:00 PM-10:00 PM, 104, Sacramento Convention Center

Using the case study of the American River Parkway, this workshop will explore ways of extending the scope and rigor of a leading international program, the Landscape Architecture Foundation’s Landscape Performance Series, to monitor and evaluate landscape solutions using environmental, economic and social outcomes as proposed design alternatives.

Organizer: Alexander J. Felson  alexander.felson@yale.edu
Co-organizers: Timothy Carter and  Emilie K. Stander

 

SYMP 24:  Ecological Design and Planning for Ecologists: Applying Earth Stewardship
Friday, August 15, 2014: 8:00 AM-11:30 AM, Magnolia, Sheraton Hotel

Ecology is undergoing a transformation from a field historically disengaged from the human- built environment to one that can provide insight into the understanding, design, and management of urbanized land. This symposium will present ecological design and ecosystem-based management strategies for large-scale green infrastructure and engineering projects.

Organizer: Alexander J. Felson   alexander.felson@yale.edu


 

Journalists and public information officers can gain access to full texts of all ESA publications by contacting the public affairs office. Email Liza Lester, llester@esa.org.

The Ecological Society of America is the world’s largest community of professional ecologists and a trusted source of ecological knowledge. ESA is committed to advancing the understanding of life on Earth. The 10,000 member Society publishes five journals, convenes an annual scientific conference, and broadly shares ecological information through policy and media outreach and education initiatives. Visit the ESA website at http://www.esa.org.

To subscribe to ESA press releases, contact Liza Lester at llester@esa.org.

The control of nature: stewardship of fire ecology by native Californian cultures

ESA2014 Sacramento logo

99th Annual Meeting
The Ecological Society of America

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Friday, July 25, 2014
Contact:
Ecological Society of America: Liza Lester (202) 833-8773 x 211; llester@esa.org
U.S. Forest Service Pacific Southwest Station: Sherri Eng (510) 559-6327; sleng@fs.fed.us

 

Before the colonial era, 100,000s of people lived on the land now called California, and many of their cultures manipulated fire to control the availability of plants they used for food, fuel, tools, and ritual. Contemporary tribes continue to use fire to maintain desired habitat and natural resources.

Frank Lake, an ecologist with the U.S. Forest Service’s Pacific Southwest Station, will lead a field trip to the Stone Lake National Wildlife Refuge during the Ecological Society of America’s 99th Annual Meeting in Sacramento, Cal., this August. Visitors  will learn about plant and animal species of cultural importance to local tribes. Don Hankins, a faculty associate at California State University at Chico and a member of the Miwok people, will co-lead the trip, which will end with a visit to California State Indian Museum.

Lake will also host a special session on a “sense of place,” sponsored by the Traditional Ecological Knowledge section of the Ecological Society, that will bring representatives of local tribes into the Annual Meeting to share their cultural and professional experiences working on tribal natural resources issues.

“The fascinating thing about the Sacramento Valley and the Miwok lands where we are taking the field trip is that it was a fire and flood system,” said Lake. “To maintain the blue and valley oak, you need an anthropogenic fire system.”

Lake, raised among the Yurok and Karuk tribes in the Klamath River area of northernmost California, began his career with an interest in fisheries, but soon realized he would need to understand fire to restore salmon. Fire exerts a powerful effect on ecosystems, including the quality and quantity of water available in watersheds, in part by reducing the density of vegetation.

“Those trees that have grown up since fire suppression are like straws sucking up the groundwater,” Lake said.

The convergence of the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers was historically one of the largest salmon bearing runs on the West Coast, Lake said, and the Miwok, Patwin and Yokut tribal peoples who lived in the area saw and understood how fire was involved.

California native cultures burned patches of forest in deliberate sequence to diversify the resources available within their region. The first year after a fire brought sprouts for forage and basketry. In 3 to 5 years, shrubs produced a wealth of berries. Mature trees remained for the acorn harvest, but burning also made way for the next generation of trees, to ensure a consistent future crop. Opening the landscape improved game and travel, and created sacred spaces.

“They were aware of the succession, so they staggered burns by 5 to 10 years to create mosaics of forest in different stages, which added a lot of diversity for a short proximity area of the same forest type,” Lake said. “Complex tribal knowledge of that pattern across the landscape gave them access to different seral stages of soil and vegetation when tribes made their seasonal rounds.”

In oak woodlands, burning killed mold and pests like the filbert weevil and filbert moth harbored by the duff and litter on the ground. People strategically burned in the fall, after the first rain, to hit a vulnerable time in the life cycle of the pests, and maximize the next acorn crop. Lake thinks that understanding tribal use of these forest environments has context for and relevance to contemporary management and restoration of endangered ecosystems and tribal cultures.

“Working closely with tribes, the government can meet its trust responsibility and have accountability to tribes, and also fulfill the public trust of protection of life, property, and resources,” Lake said. “By aligning tribal values with public values you can get a win-win, reduce fire along wildlife-urban interfaces, and make landscapes more resilient.”


Ecological Society of America’s 99th Annual Meeting, August 10-15th, 2014, in Sacramento, Cal.

Main * Program * Press Information * App

 

Stone Lakes National Wildlife Refuge.   Oct. 2010. Photo, Justine Belson/ USFWS.

Stone Lake National Wildlife Refuge in Elk Grove, Cal. Credit, Justine Belson/ USFWS.

FT 4: Tribal Land and Resource Management in the Sacramento Valley-Delta: Fire and Culture
Saturday, August 9, 2014: 9:00 AM-5:00 PM
Organizer: Frank K. Lake, U.S. Forest Service Pacific Southwest Research Station
Co-organizer: Don Hankins, California State University, Chico

SS 10: Sense of Place
Monday, August 11, 2014: 10:15 AM-11:30 AM
Organizer: Frank K. Lake
Co-organizer: Ronald A. Trosper
Tribes represented include: Pomo, Coastal Miwok, Plains Miwok, and Miwok.

More fire ecology at the upcoming meeting: http://esa.org/am/info/press/topics/#fire

 


The Ecological Society of America is the world’s largest community of professional ecologists and a trusted source of ecological knowledge. ESA is committed to advancing the understanding of life on Earth. The 10,000 member Society publishes five journals, convenes an annual scientific conference, and broadly shares ecological information through policy and media outreach and education initiatives. Visit the ESA website at http://www.esa.org.

 

To subscribe to ESA press releases, contact Liza Lester at llester@esa.org.

Ecological Society of America announces 2014 award recipients

ESA2014 Sacramento logo

99th Annual Meeting
The Ecological Society of America

For Immediate Release: Wednesday, July 15, 2014
Contact: Alison Mize (202) 833-8773 x205; alison@esa.org
or Liza Lester (202) 833-8773 x211; llester@esa.org

 

The Ecological Society of America (ESA) will present ten awards recognizing outstanding contributions to ecology in new discoveries, teaching, sustainability, diversity, and lifelong commitment to the profession during the Society’s 99th Annual Meeting in Sacramento, California. The awards ceremony will take place on Monday, August 11, at 8 AM in the historic Memorial auditorium near the Sacramento Convention Center. More information about ESA awards is available here.

 

W.S. Cooper Award: Scott Wing, Caroline Stromberg, Leo Hickey, Fleur Tiver, Brian Willis, Robyn Burnham, and Anna Behrensmeyer
The Cooper Award honors an outstanding contribution to the field of geobotany, physiographic ecology, plant succession or the distribution of plants along environmental gradients. ESA recognizes Wing, with the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, and colleagues for their paperFloral and environmental gradients on a Late Cretaceous landscape,” published in Ecological Monographs. The study provides a unique insight into the ecological structure of a local community to understand large evolutionary, ecological, and biogeographic patterns from a single point in space and time.

George Mercer Award:Douglas Rasher
The Mercer Award recognizes an outstanding and recently-published ecological research paper by a young scientist.Rasher, now a postdoctoral research associate at the University of Maine, provides rich new insights forthe management and conservation of coral reefsin his 2013 “Consumer diversity interacts with prey defenses to drive ecosystem function,” in Ecological Applications. The study, which he conducted as a graduate student at the Georgia Institute of Technology, shows that interactions between algal defenses and herbivore tolerances create an essential role for consumer diversity in the functioning and resilience of coral reefs.

Robert T. MacArthur Award: Mercedes Pascual
The MacArthur Award recognizes mid-career ecologist for meritorious contributions to ecology with the expectation of continued outstanding ecological research. ESA recognizes Pascual, with the University of Michigan, for her contributions to the theory of food web structure; the ecology, spread and evolution of infectious diseases; and the development and application of novel computational methods for relating climate to disease. Throughout her career, Pascual also has devoted enormous energy to fostering diversity of ecological researchers in the US and mentoring junior researchers worldwide.

Eugene P. Odum Education Award:ManuelC.Molles,Jr.
The Eugene P. Odum Award recipients have demonstrated their ability to relate basic ecological principles to human affairs through teaching, outreach and mentoring activities. ESA honors Molles, with the UniversityofNewMexico, for his outstanding contributions in science, service, and education for K-12, undergraduate and graduate levels. Using his writing gifts, he authored numerous publications including an acclaimed ecology textbook, Ecology: Concepts and Applications. Molles’ teaching philosophy fostered students’ critical and independent thinking. Many of his students’ pursued careers in ecology and also diversified into careers in environmental law, water resources management, and restoration ecology.

Eminent Ecologist Award:Jane Lubchenco
The Eminent Ecologist Award is given to a senior ecologist in recognition of an outstanding body of ecological work or sustained ecological contributions of extraordinary merit. Lubchenco’s career spans from academia to distinguished public service. She has studied marine ecosystems around the world and championed the importance of science and its relevance to policy making and human well-being. From 2009–20013, she made history as the first woman under secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator. Lubchenco has served as president for the American Association for Advancement of Science (AAAS), the International Council for Science, and the Ecological Society of America, and was a member on the National Science Board for 10 years. She has received numerous awards including a MacArthur “genius” award and 18 honorary doctorates. Lubchenco co-founded three organizations (The Leopold Leadership Program, the Communication Partnership for Science and the Sea [COMPASS], and Climate Central) that aim to communicate scientific knowledge to the public, policy makers, media and industry; she also co-founded a research consortium, PISCO, which studies the near-shore ocean along the coasts of Oregon and California.

Commitment to Human Diversity in Ecology Award: Charles Nilon
This ESA award recognizes long-standing contributions of an individual towards increasing the diversity of future ecologists through mentoring, teaching or outreach. ESA honors Nilon, with the University of Missouri-Columbia, for his leadership in developing diversity-enhancing programs within the Ecological Society of America and working to improve minority access to all Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) fields. His work illustrates the relationship between ecology, environmental justice and their impacts on disadvantaged communities.

Sustainability Science Award: Fikret Berkes
The Sustainability Award is given to the authors of a scholarly work that makes the greatest contribution to the emerging science of ecosystem and regional sustainability through the integration of ecological and social sciences. Berkes, with the University of Manitoba, explores the importance of local and indigenous knowledge as a complement to scientific ecology and its cultural and political significance for indigenous groups in his book Sacred Ecology, Taylor and Francis, 2008.

 

To learn more about the August 10–15, 2014 ESA Annual Meeting see:  http://www.esa.org/am/


The Ecological Society of America is the world’s largest community of professional ecologists and the trusted source of ecological knowledge.  ESA is committed to advancing the understanding of life on Earth.  The 10,000 member Society publishes five journals, convenes an annual scientific conference, and broadly shares ecological information through policy and media outreach and education initiatives. Visit the ESA website at http://www.esa.org or find experts in ecological science at http://www.esa.org/pao/rrt/.

For bees (and flowers), tongue size matters

When it comes to bee tongues, length is proportional to the size of the bee, but heritage sets the proportion. Estimating this hard to measure trait helps scientists understand bee species’ resiliency to change. Ecologists will report on this and other pollination research news at the Ecological Society of America’s 2014 Annual Meeting in Sacramento, Cal., August 10-15.

ESA2014 Sacramento logo

99th Annual Meeting
The Ecological Society of America

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Monday, July 14, 2014
Contact: Liza Lester (202) 833-8773 x 211; llester@esa.org

 

 

For bees and the flowers they pollinate, a compatible tongue length is essential to a successful relationship. Some bees and plants are very closely matched, with bee tongue sized to the flower depth. Other bee species are generalists, flitting among flower species to drink nectar and collect pollen from a diverse variety of plants. Data on tongue lengths can help ecologists understand and predict the behavior, resilience and invasiveness of bee populations.

But bee tongues are hard to measure. The scarcity of reliable lingual datasets has held back research, so Ignasi Bartomeus of the Estación Biológica de Doñana (EBD-CSIC) in Sevilla, Spain, and his colleagues at Rutgers University (New Brunswick, N.J.)  looked for a more easily measured proxy, like body size. Bee tongues are proportional to body size, but modulated by family adaptations—bee families typically have characteristic tongue shapes and proportions. The research group came up with an equation to predict tongue length from a combination of body size and taxonomic relationships.

Bartomeus will explain the equation and the usefulness of tongue length data for ecology at the 99th Annual Meeting of the Ecological Society of America in Sacramento, Cal., this August during the “Pollination I” oral session on Thursday afternoon, August 14. The meeting lasts five days and draws roughly 3,500 environmental scientists from around the world.

A bee collects pollen on its body as it laps sugar-rich nectar from within the cupped interior of the flower’s petals, and carries the flower’s genetic heritage away with it to fertilize the next flower of the same species that it visits. In most species, the bee’s tongue is guarded by a long, two-sided, beak of a sheath, which folds under the body when the bee flies.

A lovely Augochlora pura extends half of its tongue. A. pura is a member of the relatively short-tongued Halictidae family, uprettily known as the sweat bees. The small, solitary bee is one of the most common bees of forests and forest edges in the eastern United States, where it forages from a large variety of flowers. . Collected by Phillip Moore in Polk County, Tennessee. Photograph by Phillip Moore. Photo courtesy of the USGS Bee Inventory and Monitoring Lab.

A lovely Augochlora pura extends part of its tongue. A. pura is a member of the relatively short-tongued Halictidae family, uprettily known as the sweat bees. The small, solitary bee is one of the most common bees of forests and forest edges in the eastern United States, and a promiscuous attendant to many flower species. Collected by Phillip Moore in Polk County, Tennessee. Photograph by Phillip Moore. Photo courtesy of the USGS Bee Inventory and Monitoring Lab.

Perched at the mouth of a flower, the bee unfolds the beaky maxilla and extends its tongue into the corolla of the flower, dipping and retracting it to lap up the nectar. If its tongue is too short to reach the nectar, the bee has a problem. Long flowers like honeysuckle or columbine are too deep for short-tongued bees.

But longer isn’t always better; long tongues are harder to wrangle into short flowers. Long-tongued bees are often specialists, favoring a few deep-throated flower species. In the bumblebee-sparse southern tip of Argentina, for example, Bombus dahlbomii, the native long-tongued giant of Patagonia, has lost ground to a new bumblebee from Europe, the short-tongued generalist Bombus terrestris, imported to help pollinate tomatoes. Although disease has likely played a role in the retreat of the long-tongued giant, B. terrestris also appears to be out-competing an earlier European immigrant, the long-tongued Bombus ruderatus.

Because specialists depend on just a few flowers, they can be more vulnerable to change. Tongue length can thus be intertwined with a species’ risk of extinction, as well as specialization.


Presentation:

Contributed talk 122-4 – The allometry of bee tongue length and its uses in ecology
Thursday, August 14, 2014: 2:30 PM
Room 315, Sacramento Convention Center

Speaker:

Ignasi Bartomeus , Estación Biológica de Doñana (EBD-CSIC), Sevilla, Spain
nacho.bartomeus@gmail.com

Session:

Contributed talks 102: Pollination I.
Thursday, August 14, 2014: 1:30 PM-5:00 PM. Room 315.

 

Additional reference:

Carolina L Morales, Marina P Arbetman, Sydney A Cameron, and Marcelo A Aizen (2013). Rapid ecological replacement of a native bumble bee by invasive speciesFrontiers in Ecology and the Environment 11: 529–534. http://dx.doi.org/10.1890/120321

 

More bees, butterflies, birds and other pollinators at ESA’s 2014 Annual Meeting, August 10-15, 2014, at the Sacramento Convention Center in Sacramento, Cal.:

  • Poster session 17-133: Landscape drivers of pollination services in urban gardens
  • Monday, August 11, 2014. Exhibit Hall.
  • Workshop 30: Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services Thematic Assessment of Pollination and Food Production. Tuesday, August 12, 2014: 11:30 AM-1:15 PM. 203.
  • Organized talks 19-4: Nectar microbial community assembly and plant-pollinator mutualism. Tuesday, August 12, 2014: 2:30 PM, 308.
  • Organized talks 31-4: Can pollinator habitat plantings restore both biodiversity and ecosystem services? Wednesday, August 13, 2014: 2:30 PM. Room 307.
  • Organized talks 31-5: Native bee community functional diversity explains sentinel plant pollination in an intensive agricultural landscape. Wednesday, August 13, 2014: 2:50 PM. Room 307.
  • Cointributed talks 77-8: Do ecosystem service-providers and rare bees prefer the same plant species? A three-year experimental field study. Wednesday, August 13, 2014: 4:00 PM. Regency Blrm B, Hyatt.
  • Poster session 41: Pollination. Wednesday, August 13, 2014: 4:30 PM-6:30 PM. Exhibit Hall.
  • Contributed talks 97-1: Abundance, not species richness, drives ecosystem service delivery at large spatial and temporal scales.Thursday, August 14, 2014: 8:00 AM. Regency Blrm D, Hyatt. 
  • Contributed talks session 122: Pollination I. Thursday, August 14, 2014: 1:30 PM-5:00 PM. Room 315.
  • Organized talks 46-5: Investigating the effects of production-scale harvesting on pollination and biocontrol services in bioenergy grasslands. Thursday, August 14, 2014: 2:50 PM. Room 308.
  • Contributed talks 115-10: More pollinator species are required for pollination function at larger spatial scales, but high regional dominance can suppress this effect. Thursday, August 14, 2014: 4:40 PM. Regency Blrm D, Hyatt Regency Hotel.
  • Contributed talk session 140: Pollination II. Friday, August 15, 2014: 8:00 AM-11:30 AM. 314.

 


The Ecological Society of America is the world’s largest community of professional ecologists and a trusted source of ecological knowledge. ESA is committed to advancing the understanding of life on Earth. The 10,000 member Society publishes five journals, convenes an annual scientific conference, and broadly shares ecological information through policy and media outreach and education initiatives. Visit the ESA website at http://www.esa.org.

To subscribe to ESA press releases, contact Liza Lester at llester@esa.org.

Ecologists converge on Sacramento, Cal. for the Annual Meeting of the Ecological Society of America August 10-15, 2014

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Monday, June 16, 2014
Contact: Liza Lester (202) 833-8773 x 211; llester@esa.org

 

The Ecological Society of America’s 99th Annual Meeting “From Oceans to Mountains: It’s all Ecology” will meet in Sacramento, Cal., from Sunday evening, August 10, to Friday morning, August 15, at the Sacramento Convention Center.

ESA invites press and institutional public information officers to attend for free (see credential policy below). To apply, please contact ESA Communications Officer Liza Lester directly at llester@esa.org. Qualified members of the media may also register in the press room during the meeting.

Meeting abstracts are not embargoed. Reporters who would like help locating presenters and outside sources for in person or phone interviews should contact Liza Lester at llester@esa.org or (202) 833-8773 x211.

 

Sessions open to the public:

Opening Plenary: “Living in a world where 1+1=4: aligning the law, science, and practice of multiple stressors in marine ecosystems.” Margaret Caldwell will open the conference with insights from her work blending law and environmental science as a former chair of the California Coastal Commission, senior consultant to the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling, and current director of the Environmental and Natural Resources Law and Policy Program at Stanford Law School. Sunday, August 10, 5:00 p.m.

Scientific Plenary: “Wearing an ecologist’s hat and facing a world of change.” Kathy Cottingham of Dartmouth College will demonstrate how an ecological approach can be used to tackle questions in public environmental health. Monday, August. 11, 8:00 a.m.

Recent Advances: “Back to the land? On the paradoxes of certified organics for agricultural transformations.” Julie Guthman of UC Santa Cruz believes that organic agriculture is a better way to farm, but she will show how the political economy of certified organic has begun to thwart growth in the sector and is thus working against widespread transitions to more ecologically sound production practices. Wednesday, August 13, 12:15 p.m.

Science Café: In cooperation with Jared Shaw and the Davis Science Café, ESA will bring two ecologists to DeVere’s Pub in Davis, Cal. Madhusudan Katti of Cal State Fresno and Simon Brandl of James Cook University in Queensland, Australia, will lead conversations about living with nature, from city flamingoes to the underwater villages of the Great Barrier Reef. This event is designed for communion and conviviality with members of the greater Sacramento-Davis community. Wednesday, August 13, 5:30 pm.

 

These are not your urban lawn flamingos! This pair dancing in the low tide in Mumbai’s busy harbor are Lesser Flamingos, considered near-threatened species due to declining populations in Africa and India. Yet, over the past decade, some 10-25 thousand of them have been turning up in Mumbai’s Thane Creek to spend the winter right in the middle of a megacity of over 20 million people. I photographed this pair just a year ago at Sewri Port, an industrial dockyard area known more for repairing boats than harboring such wildlife which now teems in the creek’s recovering mangroves. Credit, Madhusudan Katti.

Science Cafe: These are not your urban lawn flamingos! This pair dancing in the low tide in Mumbai’s busy harbor are Lesser Flamingos, considered near-threatened species due to declining populations in Africa and India. Yet, over the past decade, some 10-25 thousand of them have been turning up in Mumbai’s Thane Creek to spend the winter right in the middle of a megacity of over 20 million people. I photographed this pair just a year ago at Sewri Port, an industrial dockyard area known more for repairing boats than harboring such wildlife, which now teems in the creek’s recovering mangroves. Credit, Madhusudan Katti. Learn more.

A preliminary program is online. Popular themes include:

  • Ecological effects of climate change
  • California drought
  • Food, fisheries, & agriculture
  • Urban ecology & sustainability
  • Invasive species
  • Endangered species
  • Conservation & ecosystem management
  • Forests & fire
  • Predators, prey & parasites
  • Animal behavior
  • Disease


ESA Policy on Press Credentials

We will waive registration fees for reporters with a recognized press card and current members of the National Association of Science Writers, the Canadian Science Writers Association, the International Science Writers Association and the Society of Environmental Journalists.

We do not waive registration fees for editors of peer-reviewed journals, ad sales representatives, publishers, program officers or marketing professionals.

Institutional Press Officers

We will waive registration fees for press officers. If you cannot attend but would like to promote presenters from your institution, we are happy to distribute your press releases in the meeting Press Room.  Press officers may request copies of all abstracts related to their institution. For registration, more information, or help finding your scientists in our meeting program, please contact Liza Lester at llester@esa.org or (202) 833-8773 x211.

Newsroom Operation

Members of the press are exempt from registration fees and may attend all meeting sessions (*field trip fee still apply). A staffed press room, including computers, a printer, telephones and an interview area, will be available.

  • Location:  room 102
  • Phone:      (916) 497-0638

The newsroom will be open on these dates:

  • Sunday, August 10: 1:00 p.m.-5:00 p.m.
  • Monday, August 11 – Thursday, August 14: 7:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m.
  • Friday, August 15: 7:30 a.m.-Noon

 


The Ecological Society of America is the world’s largest community of professional ecologists and a trusted source of ecological knowledge. ESA is committed to advancing the understanding of life on Earth. The 10,000 member Society publishes five journals, convenes an annual scientific conference, and broadly shares ecological information through policy and media outreach and education initiatives. Visit the ESA website at http://www.esa.org.

 

To subscribe to ESA press releases, please contact Liza Lester at llester@esa.org.

ESA announces 2014 Fellows

ESA LogoFor immediate release: 11 June 2014
Contact: Alison Mize, Alison@esa.org 202.833.8773, ext. 205

 

The Ecological Society of America (ESA) is pleased to announce its 2014 fellows. The Society’s fellows program recognizes the many ways in which our members contribute to ecological research and discovery, communication, education and pedagogy, and to management and policy.

ESA fellows and early career fellows are listed on the ESA Fellows page.

Fellows are members who have made outstanding contributions to a wide range of fields served by ESA, including, but not restricted to those that advance or apply ecological knowledge in academics, government, non-profit organizations and the broader society. They are elected for life.

Early career fellows are members typically within eight years of receiving their Ph.D. (or other terminal degree) who have begun making and show promise of continuing to make outstanding contributions to a wide range of fields served by ESA. They are elected for five years.

ESA established its fellows program in 2012.

Awards Committee Chair Alan Hastings says that the program’s goals are to honor its members and to support their competitiveness and advancement to leadership positions in the Society, at their institutions and in broader society.

Kudos to all this year’s ESA Fellows!

2014 Fellows:

  • Andrew Blaustein, Department of Zoology, Oregon State University
  • Hal Caswell, Biology Department, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
  • Jiquan Chen, Department of  Environmental Sciences,  The University of Toledo
  • Deborah Goldberg, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Michigan
  • James Grace, National Wetlands Research Center, United States Geological Survey
  • Mark Hunter, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology ,University of Michigan
  • Stephen Jackson, DOI Southwest Climate Science Center, United States Geological Survey
  • Jon Keeley, Western Ecological Research Center, United States Geological Survey
  • Robert Naiman, School of Aquatic Fishery Services, University of Washington
  • Richard Ostfeld, Cary Institute for Ecosystem Studies
  • Alan Townsend, Environmental Studies Program and  INSTARR ( Institute of  Artic and Alpine Research) ,University of Colorado
  • John Vandermeer, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology , University of Michigan

 

2014 Early Career Fellows:

  • Marc Cadotte, Department of Biological Sciences, University of Toronto-Scarborough
  • Daniel Donato, Washington State Department of Natural Resources
  • Heather Lynch, Department of Evolution and Ecology, Stony Brook University
  • Abraham Miller-Rushing, Acadia National Park, United States National Park Service
  • Laura Petes, White House Office of Science & Technology Policy, on detail from the Climate Program Office, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

 


 

The Ecological Society of America is the world’s largest community of professional ecologists and the trusted source of ecological knowledge.  ESA is committed to advancing the understanding of life on Earth.  The 10,000 member Society publishes five journals, convenes an annual scientific conference, and broadly shares ecological information through policy and media outreach and education initiatives. Visit the ESA website at http://www.esa.org

Slowing the insect invasion: wood packaging sanitation policy yields US $11.7 billion net benefit

Risk analysis finds savings for homeowners and local governments of excluding invasive pests like the emerald ash borer outweigh added cost to imported goods

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: May 23, 2014
Contact: Liza Lester (202) 833-8773 x 211; llester@esa.org

 

 

June 2014 cover for Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment featuring the emerald ash borer.

The emerald ash borer (top circle) inflicts lethal damage on native North American ash trees (center) in its larval form (bottom).
Credits, tree, K Oten;  insects, D Cappaert; Michigan State University, Bugwood.org. Background pallets, USDA Forest Service, Bugwood.org.

The emerald ash borer (Agrilus plantipenis), a recent insect immigrant to North America carried in with the wooden packing material of imported goods, is projected to cause over a billion dollars in damages annually over the next decade. International standards now require expensive fumigation or heat treatment of wood pallets and crates to prevent the inadvertent import of new wood boring insect pests in shipping materials.

Preventative treatment is worthwhile when the cumulative damages of widening infestations are considered, report scientists in Ecological Society of America’s journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment. Their cover story in the June 2014 issue, published online ahead of print this week, is the first pathway-level risk assessment of the net benefits of current international phytosanitary policy.

The emerald ash borer is already established throughout much of Michigan and areas of Illinois Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Ontario, Canada. Some critics have argued that investments in pest management are not justified because prevention can only delay invasions, and, unlike the emerald ash borer, many introduced species do not cause substantial damages.  But there is an economic net benefit to preventing or delaying the introduction of the emerald ash borer to parts of the US that do not yet harbor it.

“Even when these factors are considered and incorporated along with the best available scientific data into our models, there is an expected economic net benefit to preventing or delaying the introduction of new pests, a few of which may be as bad or worse than the emerald ash borer,” said lead author Brian Leung, an ecologist at McGill University in Montreal, Canada. “Treatment reduces the risk of low probability, but highly damaging, events, much like an insurance policy, or mitigation of natural disasters.”

Global trade unintentionally moves living species around the world in packing materials, ballast water, and on live nursery plants. Most of these accidental immigrants are harmless, but a small number that prove problematic can have outsized costs. The emerald ash borer, a native of Southeast Asia and Eastern Russia, lacks predators in North America and has spread quickly, killing millions of ash trees since its discovery near Detroit, Mich.

Emerald ash borer larvae feed on the cells of the tree’s nutrient and water transport systems. Eventually, water and nutrients no longer flow to the tips of the branches, and the tree dies.

For their risk analysis, Leung and colleagues drew on a study of the “Effectiveness of the International Phytosanitary Standard ISPM No. 15 on reducing wood borer infestation rates in wood packaging material entering the United States,” published last week in the journal PLoS ONE by coauthor Robert Haack (press release), that found that implementation of ISPM15 treatment standards reduced wood borer infestation rates by up to 52%.

“Here we’re just talking about economic costs. These analyses have not incorporated the non-market, or ecological, values of the trees, so the benefits are even greater than our calculations,” said Leung.

Although preventative treatment is not 100% effective and the up-font cost is high, Leung and colleagues estimate that the economic benefits of slowing the introduction of wood boring insect pests will accumulate a net benefit of $11.7 billion, taking into account benefits minus costs through 2050. They project annual benefits to exceed costs by 2016, and cumulative net benefits to be in the black by 2024.

An adult emerald ash borer (Agrilus plantipenis). Credit, K Oten.

An adult emerald ash borer (Agrilus plantipenis). Credit, K Oten.

ISPM15, implemented in the United States beginning in 2005-6, requires that all wood packaging materials of greater than 6 millimeters thickness shipped between 70 signatory countries be debarked and then heated or fumigated with methyl bromide. A stamped seal on treated pallets and crates marks compliance. Treatment costs about $1.50 per pallet, amounting to an estimated $437 million in up-front costs (calculated in 2004 dollars). Treated pallets can be recycled, however, and have an average lifespan of six years.

Economists often focus on the costs of infestation for the forestry industry. But the expense of removing and replacing dead trees mostly falls on homeowners and local governments.

“The people who experience the majority of the damages of invasive pests are not generally the people who benefit the most from the imports,” said Leung. “The costs of invasive pests are very unevenly distributed.”

Ash trees (Fraxinus spp.) line city streets and fill agricultural windbreaks throughout much of North America — 38 million landscape trees in the 25 states surrounding Detroit, according to US Forest Service estimate. Ash species are important constituents of native forest ecosystems, particularly the hardwood forests of the east and ash wood is popular for bows, baseball bats, firewood, and electric guitar bodies.

“Sometimes you don’t have a choice to manage pests once they’re here. You can’t leave a dead tree to fall on someone’s house,” said Leung. “So even though preventative treatment is expensive and doesn’t keep out 100% of wood borers, when you incorporate all the data, this preventative policy is still worth it. ISPM15 could probably be more effective, but we should not underestimate the benefits of even delaying the arrival of new pests, which may avoid the cost of another emerald ash borer for a generation.”

 

 

Citation:

Brian Leung, Michael R. Springborn, James A. Turner, and Eckehard G. Brockerhoff 2014. Pathway-level risk analysis: the net present value of an invasive species policy in the USFrontiers in Ecology and the Environment (e-View) http://dx.doi.org/10.1890/130311

Journalists and public information officers can gain access to full texts of all ESA publications by contacting the public affairs office. Email Liza Lester, llester@esa.org.

 

Author contact:

Brian Leung
Department of Biology and the McGill School of Environment, Montreal, Canada
brian.leung2@mcgill.ca
514-398-6460

 

The Nature Conservancy, the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (under NSF grant #DEB-0553768), the University of California, Santa Barbara, and the State of California funded this study.

 


The Ecological Society of America is the world’s largest community of professional ecologists and a trusted source of ecological knowledge. ESA is committed to advancing the understanding of life on Earth. The 10,000 member Society publishes five journals, convenes an annual scientific conference, and broadly shares ecological information through policy and media outreach and education initiatives. Visit the ESA website at http://www.esa.org. 

To subscribe to ESA press releases, contact Liza Lester at llester@esa.org.

Third US National Climate Assessment reports our ecosystems are already changing

Natural resources can help us adapt to extreme climate events

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: May 6, 2014
Contact: Liza Lester (202) 833-8773 x 211; llester@esa.org

 

A male broad-tailed hummingbird sips nectar. The phenology of the early-season nectar plants the birds favor is changing more rapidly than the birds, leading to the potential for a mismatch that could affect both birds and their nectar resources. Credit, David Inouye.

A male broad-tailed hummingbird sips nectar. The phenology of the early-season nectar plants the birds favor is changing more rapidly than the birds, leading to the potential for a mismatch that could affect both birds and their nectar resources. Credit, David Inouye.

Today, the US Global Change Research Program released its Third National Climate Assessment (NCA) of the impacts of climate change on biodiversity and ecosystems. The NCA is the most comprehensive peer-reviewed analysis of climate change’s impacts in the United States, informing Americans about the effects of climate change in their backyards.

“As an ecologist, you can’t escape the effects of climate change on natural resources. We’re observing climate impacts in nearly all natural and managed ecosystems,” said Ecological Society of America President Jill Baron, an ecosystem scientist with the US Geological Survey in Fort Collins, Col., and a contributor to the NCA. “In order to protect biodiversity and the natural resources that we rely on, we need to be developing policy now. The National Climate Assessment provides guidelines for how to respond and adapt.”

Our planet is already changing. Current climate trends are bringing great disruption to ecosystems and the many species that share this planet—including people, because this is our environment, our home, our life support system. The economic costs of wildfire, drought, storms, fishery losses to ocean acidity, and the inundation of our coastal cities by sea level rise are clear.

We depend on ecosystems for the pollination of our crops, the support of our fisheries, the cleanliness of our water—and the integrity of beloved wild areas enjoyed by fishers, hunters, hikers, and boaters.

Intact ecosystems improve soil, filter water, store carbon, and cycle nutrients.  They buffer communities from urban heat waves, floods, erosion, and storm surge. Reefs, swamps, and coastal marshes, for example, help absorb the energy of big storms. Coastal development has denuded many of these protections, as was dramatically demonstrated in Superstorm Sandy’s collision with New York City and the New Jersey coast in 2012.

“We know that ecosystems provide these benefits, but climate and other global changes are overwhelming their capacities to protect us,” said Nancy Grimm, professor and Senior Sustainability Scientist at Arizona State University. “These ecosystems are threatened, not just from climate change, but from other changes that we have brought to them. We need to reverse that trend, understand these systems better, and think about how we can bolster their services to society.”

Grimm, a past president of the Ecological Society, contributed to the third NCA. She guest edited a condensed and illustrated version of the biodiversity, ecosystems, and ecosystem services input to the NCA for a special open access issue of the society’s journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment in November, 2013.

Find additional details and resources here.

 


Resources:

  • Third National Climate Assessment report, data, and tools (website)
  • Special Issue: Impacts of climate change on biodiversity, ecosystems, and ecosystem services. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 11(9) November, 2013 (open access). Summary.
  • SH Julius et al. Climate change and U.S. natural resources: advancing the nation’s capability to adapt. Issues in Ecology, Fall 2013. (pdf)

 

The Ecological Society of America is the world’s largest community of professional ecologists and a trusted source of ecological knowledge. ESA is committed to advancing the understanding of life on Earth. The 10,000 member Society publishes five journals, convenes an annual scientific conference, and broadly shares ecological information through policy and media outreach and education initiatives. Visit the ESA website at http://www.esa.org.

 Journalists and public information officers can gain access to full texts of all ESA publications by contacting the public affairs office To subscribe to ESA press releases, contact Liza Lester at llester@esa.org.

Crocodile tears please thirsty butterflies and bees

EMBARGOED until: 12:01 am EDT on Thursday, May 1, 2014
Contact: Liza Lester  (202) 83308773 x211; llester@esa.org

 

A Julia butterfly (Dryas iulia) and a solitary bee (Centris sp.) sip tears from the eyes of spectacled caiman (Caiman crocodilus) on Costa Rica’s Puerto Viejo River. Credit, Carlos de la Rosa

A Julia butterfly (Dryas iulia) and a solitary bee (Centris sp.) sip tears from the eyes of spectacled caiman (Caiman crocodilus) on Costa Rica’s Puerto Viejo River. Credit, Carlos de la Rosa

The butterfly (Dryas iulia) and the bee (Centris sp.) were most likely seeking scarce minerals and an extra boost of protein. On a beautiful December day in 2013, they found the precious nutrients in the tears of a spectacled caiman (Caiman crocodilus), relaxing on the banks of the Río Puerto Viejo in northeastern Costa Rica.

A boat carrying students, photographers, and aquatic ecologist Carlos de la Rosa was passing slowly and quietly by, and caught the moment on film. They watched and photographed in barely suppressed excitement for a quarter of an hour while the caiman basked placidly and the insects fluttered about the corners of its eyes.

De la Rosa reported the encounter in a peer-reviewed letter in the May 2014 issue of the Ecological Society of America’s journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment.

“It was one of those natural history moments that you long to see up close,” said de la Rosa, the director of the La Selva Biological Station for the Organization for Tropical Field Studies in San Pedro, Costa Rica. “But then the question becomes, what’s going on in here? Why are these insects tapping into this resource?”

Though bountiful in the ocean, salt is often a rare and valuable resource on land, especially for vegetarians. It is not uncommon to see butterflies sipping mineral-laden water from mud puddles. When minerals are rare in the soil, animals sometimes gather salt and other rare minerals and proteins from sweat, tears, urine, and even blood.

A solitary bee (Centris sp) drinking the tears of a yellow-spotted river turtle (Podocnemis unifilis). Olivier Dangles and Jérôme Casas 2012. The bee and the turtle: a fable from Yasuní National Park. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 10: 446–447.

A solitary bee (Centris sp) drinking the tears of a yellow-spotted river turtle (Podocnemis unifilis). Olivier Dangles and Jérôme Casas (2012). The bee and the turtle: a fable from Yasuní National Park. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 10: 446–447. [Download PDF]

De la Rosa had seen butterflies and moths in the Amazon feeding on the tears of turtles and a few caimans. Tear-drinking “lachryphagous” behavior in bees had only recently been observed by biologists. He remembered a 2012 report of a solitary bee sipping the tears of a yellow-spotted river turtle in Ecuador’s Yasuní National Park. But how common is this behavior?

Back at the field station, he did a little research. He was surprised to find more evidence of tear-drinking than he expected in the collective online record of wilderness enthusiasts, casual tourists, professional photographers, and scientists. He now thinks the phenomenon may not be as rare as biologists had assumed—just hard to witness.

“I did a Google search for images and I found out that it is quite common! A lot of people have recorded butterflies, and some bees, doing this,” said de la Rosa.

A search of the scientific literature produced a detailed study of bees drinking human tears in Thailand, as well as the remembered October 2012 “Trails and Tribulations” story about the Ecuadorian bee and the river turtle by Olivier Dangles and Jérôme Casas in ESA’s Frontiers (pdf).

This experience reminds us that the world still has many surprises for ecologists, de la Rosa said. There so much still to be studied. De la Rosa is a specialist in the biology of non-biting midges, and a natural historian, with his eyes always open to new discoveries. Scientists at La Selva have discovered hundreds of species of aquatic insects that are still unnamed and undescribed.

A new species of dragonfly emerges. A species of Erythrodiplax, only the second dragonfly found that lays its eggs in the small pool of water caught in the cupped leaves of bromeliad plants. Credit, Carlos de la Rosa.

A new species of dragonfly emerges. A species of Erythrodiplax, it is only the second dragonfly found that lives in bromeliad plants. Credit, Carlos de la Rosa.

“I have over 450 undescribed species from Costa Rica in my laboratory. If I did nothing for the rest of my life but collaborate with taxonomists and try to describe those, I would never get done,” he said.

De la Rosa’s job as director of La Selva Biological Station brings him an unusual number of serendipitous encounters with wildlife. He lives on site in the lowland rainforest, and he never needs an alarm clock. Howler monkeys wake him every morning.

“I learned I have to carry a camera with me 24/7, because you never know what you’re going to find when you’re walking to the office or the dining hall,” he said. One day, he spied a new species of dragonfly on his way to breakfast. It had emerged from its larval form in the small pool of water caught in the cupped leaves of a bromeliad plant. He did a double-take. Dragonflies don’t live on bromeliads. Or do they?

 “Those are the kinds of things that, you know, you don’t plan for them, you can’t plan for them,” de la Rosa said. There was only one known species of dragonfly in the world that lives in bromeliads. Now there will be two. “You just keep your eyes open and have curiosity, and when you see something that doesn’t seem to fit, dig.”

###

 

 

 

 

 

 

Citation:
Carlos L de la Rosa (2014) Additional observations of lachryphagous butterflies and bees. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 12(4): 210 [PDF]

Author contact:
Carlos Luis de la Rosa
carlos.delarosa@ots.ac.cr
skype: carlos.delarosa_otsls
phone: +50.627.666.5659

Journalists and public information officers can gain access to full texts of all ESA publications by contacting the public affairs office. Email Liza Lester, llester@esa.org.


 

Carlos de la Rosa -- higher res image available on request.

Credit, Carlos de la Rosa. Higher res image available on request.

The Ecological Society of America is the world’s largest community of professional ecologists and a trusted source of ecological knowledge. ESA is committed to advancing the understanding of life on Earth. The 10,000 member Society publishes five journals, convenes an annual scientific conference, and broadly shares ecological information through policy and media outreach and education initiatives. Visit the ESA website at http://www.esa.org.

La Selva Biological Station and its parent institution, the Organization for Tropical Studies, manage a 1,600-hecter lowland rainforest preserve connected to large conservation areas in northeastern Costa Rica. The station is nearly 60 years old, and maintains some of the longest running tropical ecology datasets. Each year, it hosts 250 to 340 researchers from over 100 institutions, and many specialized courses in biology.

 

To subscribe to ESA press releases, contact Liza Lester at llester@esa.org. 

 

 

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Sage grouse losing habitat to fire as endangered species decision looms

Post-wildfire stabilization treatment has not aided habitat restoration for the imperiled Great Plains birds.

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Wednesday, 2 April 2014
Contact: Liza Lester (202) 833-8773 x 211; llester@esa.org

 

A summer storm passes over sagebrush country near Hollister, Idaho. The area has not burned in the last 30 years and features mature sagebrush, but also non-native cheatgrass, mustard, and crested wheatgrass, and barbed-wire fencing, which provides perches for predatory birds. Non-native plants and human infrastructure diminish the quality of the habitat for sage grouse.

An early summer storm passes over sagebrush country near Hollister, Idaho. The area has not burned within the 20 year time frame of the study. It features mature sagebrush, but also non-native cheatgrass, mustard, and crested wheatgrass, and barbed-wire fencing, which provides perches for predatory birds. Non-native plants and human infrastructure diminish the quality of the habitat for sage grouse. Credit, Robert Arkle, June 2011.

As fires sweep more frequently across the American Great Basin, the US Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has been tasked with reseeding the burned landscapes to stabilize soils. BLM’s interventions have not helped to restore habitat for the greater sage grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) reported scientists from the US Geological Survey (USGS) and US Forest Service in the Ecological Society of America’s journal Ecosphere last week, but outlier project sites with good grouse habitat may yield clues to successful management scenarios.

Their report arrives in the shadow of a pending decision by the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to protect the sage grouse under the Endangered Species Act, and efforts by BLM and FWS to establish voluntary conservation and restoration management plans in lieu of endangered species listing mandates.

Protection of sage grouse under the Endangered Species Act could affect the management of 250,000 square miles of land in the western US. FWS must decide on the grouse’s protection status by the end of FY 2015.

Wildfire is the predominant cause of habitat loss in the Great Basin. The sagebrush ecosystem is not adapted to frequent fires like some forests in California and the central Rockies, and fires have increased in frequency and in size over the last half century.

“The most common species, big sagebrush, doesn’t re-sprout from the stump. After it burns, it’s dead and it has to reseed, and it’s not very good at dispersing seeds long distance,” said author Robert Arkle, a supervisory ecologist for the USGS Forest & Rangeland Ecosystem Science Center at the Snake River Field Station in Idaho. “Seeds aren’t viable very long. Some years they don’t reproduce at all, without the right spring conditions. Getting sage established out in the middle of these big burned areas is a difficult task.”

Arkle emphasized that recovery of sage grouse habitat is not part of BLM’s wildfire response directive. BLM’s Emergency Stabilization and Rehabilitation (ESR) program is designed to reestablish perennial plant cover following wildfire, preventing erosion and limiting the spread of non-native species.

“Accomplishing those goals certainly wouldn’t hurt sage grouse, but whether or not these treatments provide a benefit for sage grouse doesn’t have bearing on the success of the ESR program,” said Arkle. “It’s important to recognize the difficulty of what the land management community is trying to do.”

A sea of non-native crested wheatgrass (left) fills the path of the Poison Creek fire, which burned on Idaho’s remote Owyhee High Plateau in 1996. An abrupt transition to healthy sagebrush marks the edge of the fire. The Jarbidge Mountains sit on the horizon. Credit, Robert Arkle.

A sea of non-native crested wheatgrass (left) fills the path of the Poison Creek fire, which burned on the remote Owyhee High Plateau, tucked into the southwest corner of Idaho, in 1996. Nearly two decades later, an abrupt transition to healthy sagebrush marks the edge of the fire. The Jarbidge Mountains sit on the horizon. Credit, Robert Arkle, June 2011.

Historically, the Great Basin burned in smaller, patchier conflagrations, at intervals on the order of once per century. Managers are now seeing sagebrush country burn every 20 years in parts of the Great Basin, fueled by drought and vigorous non-natives like cheatgrass (Bromus tectorum).

 “Almost a million acres burn each year in the Great Basin and, since 1990, about 6% of the Great Basin has been treated with these ESR projects. Almost all treated acres occur in historic sage grouse habitat,” said Arkle. That’s why the team chose to look at ESR project sites. “We have this problem with non-native plants coming in, changing the fire cycle, and promoting more frequent fires. We wanted to know if ESR treatments had improved conditions for grouse in these vast burned areas.”

The average ESR project encompasses 4 square miles. In 2007, the Murphy Complex Fire burned 653,000 square miles in south-central Idaho. To cover such large areas, BLM spreads seed from aircraft or with tractor and rangeland drill seeders, usually in the fall or early winter. They customize a mix of forb, bunchgrass, and shrub seeds to the site. In recent years, BLM has moved to using native species when possible.

Arkle and colleagues examined 101 sites that burned once between 1990 and 2003. To select their sites, they compiled a database of fires and ESR projects from which they randomly chose a set of project sites with a gradient of precipitation and annual temperatures but similar soil types.

“Treated plots were not much more likely to be used by sage grouse than the burned and untreated, on average, but there were outliers. Those are important, because they are sites where the treatments were more effective, in terms of sage grouse habitat,” said Arkle.

Sage grouse prefer land that has not burned at all in recent decades. Arkle and his colleagues found little sagebrush cover at burned sites, whether treated or not.

“I think that’s the most important finding, because some sites burned 20 years ago and still haven’t recovered,” said Arkle. “We did not see a trend of increasing sagebrush cover with time, so time is not the limiting factor in this 20 year window.” If not time, then what does sagebrush need to recover? The limiting factor could be related to climate, or prevalence of non-native plants. It is a question the researchers hope to address in the future.

Robert Arkle collected data at Clover Creek in 2009, near perimeter of a fire that burned on Idaho’s Owyhee High Plateau in 1994. Credit (co-author) David Pilliod.

Robert Arkle collected data at Clover Creek in 2009, near the perimeter of a fire that burned on Idaho’s Owyhee High Plateau in 1994. Credit (co-author) David Pilliod, July 2009.

Sage grouse are picky birds, Arkle and colleagues found, preferring a sagebrush steppe environment featuring very little human development and dwarf sagebrush (Artemisia arbuscula, A. nova, or A. tripartita) but not cheatgrass or other non-native plants. Even in otherwise primo landscapes, if just 2.5% of the land is developed within five kilometers of a site, the birds will be half as likely to use it. If any development, including paved roads, can be seen, they don’t want be there. Seemingly low impact structures like fences and livestock watering stations provide predatory ravens with high perches from which to spy sage grouse nests.

The outlier ESR sites preferred by sage grouse had healthier sagebrush and shared common climate and post-treatment weather conditions. Sagebrush recovery fared better in more northerly, higher elevation sites, with relatively cool, moist springs. Spring weather has big role in successful germination and growth of sagebrush during the crucial first growing season. Sagebrush biology and physiology can be the biggest hurdle for restoration managers.

To Arkle’s mind, the study results argue for maintaining and protecting existing expanses of intact, high quality habitat, and only secondarily trying to fix what’s broken.

Experimental techniques have some promise, and include multiple seedings when the first try fails, out-planting pods of seedlings, and using different types of drill seeding equipment. Reseeding burns with local varietals or close genetic matches could improve recruitment. Controlling non-native plants with herbicides and fungal infections has been tried, with mixed results.

But the factors that ultimately determine the survival of the sagebrush ecosystem may be out of managers’ control. The study, and another tracking the recovery of mountain big sagebrush (A. tridentata subsp. vaseyana) at high elevation, suggest that climate may play a role in the failure of big sage germination and establishment in hotter locations. Managers can try to work with and around climate and weather constraints, but impending climate changes will likely make this task more difficult. Some sites are more resilient than others. It’s possible that parts of the Great Basin will cross a tipping point of climate and species representation, from which they cannot return.

“There is potential for sites to move into a new plant community state,” said Arkle. “It’s possible that some have gone past a threshold. We could have a really difficult time trying to move them back to plant communities that existed historically.”

 

Robert S. Arkle, David S. Pilliod, Steven E. Hanser, Matthew L. Brooks, Jeanne C. Chambers, James B. Grace, Kevin C. Knutson, David A. Pyke, Justin L. Welty, and Troy A. Wirth 2014. Quantifying restoration effectiveness using multi-scale habitat models: implications for sage-grouse in the Great Basin. Ecosphere 5:art31.

This open access report was funded by the US Geological Survey, the Bureau of Land Management, and the US Forest Service.

USGS press release: Post-Fire Stabilization Seedings Have Not Developed Into Sage-grouse Habitat. Released: 3/24/2014 9:34:33 AM