The Rim Fire one year later: a natural experiment in fire ecology and management

ESA2014 Sacramento logo

99th Annual Meeting
The Ecological Society of America

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Thursday, July 31, 2014
Contact:
Ecological Society of America: Liza Lester (202) 833-8773 x 211; llester@esa.org
U.S. Forest Service: Jon Heil (707) 562-9004, jheil@fs.fed.us

 

The enormous conflagration known as the Rim Fire was in full fury, raging swiftly from crown to crown among mature trees, when it entered the backcountry of Yosemite National Park in California’s Sierra Nevada in late August 2013. But inside the park, the battle began to turn, enacting a case study in the way management decisions and drought can combine to fuel large, severe fires.

“When the Rim Fire hit the park, it eventually encountered lands where fire had been used as a management tool, rather than immediately suppressed,” said Hugh Safford, a regional ecologist for the U.S. Forest Service based out of Vallejo, Cal. “When the Rim Fire hit these areas, the amount and continuity of forest fuel became a limiting factor,” he said. “There just wasn’t enough fuel in the system to keep it going.”

Safford will lead a group of visiting ecologists on a two-day excursion into the Rim Fire’s path this August during the Ecological Society of America’s 99th Annual Meeting  to view the effects of the fire on adjacent landscapes that have been managed very differently over the last century.

Fire ecology is a hot topic at this year’s meeting, which will bring 3,500 environmental scientists to Sacramento on August 10-15th to discuss the most recent advances in ecological research, education, and policy.

Day one of the field trip will take visitors to sites in the Stanislaus National Forest, and day two to the National Park.

“The minute you leave the park, you’re on lands that get used by a lot of people for a lot of things,” Safford said. “The Forest Service is dealing with places that have had a lot of human impact and occupants.”

The Rim Fire: a natural experiment

Rim Fire, California 2013. Mike McMillan, USFS.

Fire Line. The Rim Fire blazes in tree crowns of the Stanislaus National Forest, California, in late August, 2013. Credit, Mike McMillan/ U.S. Forest Service.

The Rim Fire is in a sense a natural experiment. Yosemite, set aside in 1864, is mostly old growth forest, in which lightning-ignited fires have often been allowed to burn since the 1970s. The National Forest is a working landscape that includes private lands, major highways, dams, power lines, and communities, which the Forest Service protects by suppressing wildfire.

“I’m not suggesting one’s right and one’s wrong, but it presents an interesting contrast,” Safford said, “It’s a good case study to look at the effects of large, severe fires on watersheds subject to different management regimes.”

The fir, cedar, and pine forests of the high Sierra are adapted to frequent fires ignited by lightning.  Fire scars on older trees, including the 2000-year-old giant sequoias record a history of low intensity fires recurring every 10 to 20 years. Fires that burned at low intensity through the understory tended to kill few of the mature trees, on the order of 5 to 10 percent. Recent studies have found that wildfires in the mixed conifer forests of the Sierra often run out of fuel and go out when they encounter sections of forest that have already burned within the last decade.

Though it smoldered on into October, by September 3rd, 2013, the Forest Service was reporting that the Rim Fire was 70 percent contained. Most of the acreage burned in the first week. The blaze that began as an alarming, out-of-control monster became just another big fire that managers were using to do ecological work.

Ignited by a hunter’s illegal campfire near the Rim of the World Vista in Stanislaus National Forest on August 17th, the fire ultimately burned for three months, consuming 257,314 acres of trees and $127 million taxpayer dollars. Smoke from the fire prompted air quality warnings from the Bay Area to Reno, Nev. It was the largest recorded fire in the Sierra Nevada.

A trend toward mega-fires

In the past few decades, ecologists have noted a trend toward intense “mega-fires” in the mountain forests of the western states. Recent record-breaking fires in Arizona and New Mexico join the  2013 Rim Fire, the 250,000-acre Carlton Complex fire currently burning in eastern Washington State, and the even larger Buzzard Complex fire in Oregon.

According to Safford, increased fuel on National Forest lands resulting from the long-term lack of fire is one of the principal drivers of recent increases in the size and severity of wildfires, trends which appear to be absent in the National Parks.

“The Rim Fire is not random occurrence. It’s part of a trend in big fires, and a real wake up call,” Scott Stephens agreed. Stephens, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, authored a recent review on the characteristics and challenges of mega-fires with fellow fire specialists from Australia, Canada, Spain, and China, as well as the western U.S. in the March 2014 issue of Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment.

Large fires are a problem facing many of the world’s temperate and boreal forests. As was the case with the Rim Fire, mega-fires are often driven by a combination of drought, heat, wind, fuel from fire suppression, budget cuts, and encroaching development, Stephens said.

These big fires are more expensive to contain and to recover from than the more frequent but less destructive fires that used to characterize the Sierra’s mixed conifer forests, and they are dangerous for firefighters. They char enormous swaths of land, leaving large areas of up to 30,000 acres with no mature trees to seed a new generation.

“Most of the trees died in the Rim Fire. Not just the little guys. We’re looking at multiple patches of high severity fire that are of thousands of acres in size,” said Safford. “Where are the seeds going to come from? The landscape will be dominated by brush for a long time.”

Prelude to a habitat regime change

Very large, intense fires can take out entire habitat ranges, and, in combination with the pressures of land use change and development, leave nowhere for animals to retreat and await regrowth (while at the same time benefitting species that thrive in snag fields). Forest is slow to return, topsoil erodes, and quick-spreading opportunistic exotics capitalize on the disturbance.

In concert with warming climate, which is increasing water stress on forest species, there is potential for a permanent change in habitat type, from forest to brush or to grassland.

“After severe fire, mixed conifer forests in the Sierra Nevada are replaced by chaparral stands. When chaparral burns, it burns hot, and with the increasing frequencies of severe fire that are predicted, we expect to see progressively more forest converting to brush and not returning. With continued high fire frequencies, brush can convert to grassland as well,” said Safford. “We’re seeing that type of thing happening in southern California already, mostly in chaparral lands that are turning to fields of exotic grass.”

Questions of forest management are really questions about our priorities for the function and appearance of our landscapes—juggling priorities to protect property and respiratory health, esthetics, habitat, carbon sequestration, and water availability.

Given the difficulty of managing fire in proximity to homes and businesses, the Forest Service is considering mechanically thinning forests where it can, but these initiatives remain small in proportion to the huge fuel reduction backlog, and are currently expensive compared to controlled burning. Safford thinks it is an effort that all stakeholders should prioritize.

“We need to think about our grandkids,” said Stephens. “When I think about climate change, I look at the opportunities to do more to change the structure of the forest before big fires hit, and create the conditions so that when it does burn, we can have a party.” In 50 years, he said, opportunities are going to get squashed between the management history of the forests and an increasingly warm, dry climate. “If we begin the transformation now, we give future managers options.”

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

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FT 18: The 2013 Rim Fire – Forest Management Influencing Fire Ecology
Friday, August 15, 2014: 7:00 AM-7:00 PM
Organizer: Hugh Safford, U.S. Forest Service, Region 5
Co-organizers: Eric Winford , Gus Smith , Jan van Wagtendonk , Kent van Wagtendonk , Becky L. Estes and Susan L. Ustin

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

 

Additional Resources:

Safford, Hugh D.; Van de Water, Kip M. (2014). Using Fire Return Interval Departure (FRID) Analysis to Map Spatial and Temporal Changes in Fire Frequency on National Forest Lands in California. Res. Pap. PSW-RP-266. Albany, CA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Southwest Research Station. 59 p. http://www.fs.fed.us/psw/publications/documents/psw_rp266/

Scott L Stephens, Neil Burrows, Alexander Buyantuyev, Robert W Gray, Robert E Keane, Rick Kubian, Shirong Liu, Francisco Seijo, Lifu Shu, Kevin G Tolhurst, and Jan W van Wagtendonk (2014). Temperate and boreal forest mega-fires: characteristics and challengesFrontiers in Ecology and the Environment 12: 115–122. http://dx.doi.org/10.1890/120332

Online Special Issue: Prescribed burning in fire-prone landscapes. (2014). Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 11 (August). http://www.esajournals.org/toc/fron/11/s1

 

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.

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 Lakes 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 Lakes 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.

California State Senator Darrell Steinberg named as ESA Regional Policy Award winner

ESA2014 Sacramento logo

99th Annual Meeting
The Ecological Society of America

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Tuesday, July 15, 2014
Contact: Alison Mize (703) 625-3628; alison@esa.org

 

On Sunday, August 10, 2014, the Ecological Society of America (ESA) will present its seventh annual Regional Policy Award to California Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg during the Society’s 99th Annual Meeting conference in Sacramento, CA. The ESA award recognizes an elected or appointed local policymaker who has an outstanding record of informing policy decisions with ecological science.

“Darrell Steinberg exemplifies leadership in promoting sustainability” said ESA President Jill Baron.  “As the California Senate President Pro Tem he championed bills to foster renewable energy, clean water and parks. He sets a high standard for policymakers everywhere.”

Elected to the California Assembly in 1998 and to the Senate in 2006, Steinberg ascended to Senate leader in late 2008. During his time in the state Senate, Steinberg authored SB 375, the Sustainable Communities and Climate Protection Act of 2008 (signed into law by Gov. Schwarzenegger), which aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from passenger vehicles through transit-oriented urban growth. This year, he spearheaded a framework of permanent funding for mass transit, sustainable community development and transit-oriented affordable housing using the state’s Cap and Trade revenue, and also formulated a drought relief bill that prioritizes projects focusing on water conservation. In addition, Steinberg successfully passed legislation to modernize the California Environmental Quality Act.

“Despite the deniers who bury their heads in the sand and ignore global warming, the crisis of climate change is a very real threat. It’s a threat we need to meet head-on by embracing new concepts of where we live and work, how we get there, and how we create sustainable industries and communities,” said Senate Leader . “I’m humbled by this honor, and confident that those who follow in our Legislature will continue to carry the mantle of California’s leadership in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.”

ESA President Baron will present the 2014 ESA Regional Policy Award at the start of theOpening Plenary on Sunday, August 10 at 5 PM in the Memorial Auditorium of the Sacramento Convention Center.Kip Lipper, Steinberg’s Chief Counsel for Energy and Environment, will accept the award on his behalf.

Learn more about the August 10 – 15, 2014 ESA Annual Meeting.


 

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.

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.