Science news and reports: La Nada conditions persist, extreme weather events of 2012, Sacramento sucker, our relationship with invasive species, communicating at the human-environment interface, and more!

La NadaSea surface height conditions across the equatorial Pacific Ocean remain near-normal,meaning no El Nino for us. This neutral or “La Nada” pattern has stubbornly persisted since spring 2012, and is likely to continue through spring of 2014, according to the National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center.  “Without an El Niño or La Niña signal present, other less predictable climatic factors will govern fall, winter, and spring weather conditions,” said climatologist Bill Patzert of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. “Long-range forecasts are most successful during El Niño and La Niña episodes. The in-between ocean state, La Nada, is the dominant condition and it is frustrating for long-range forecasters. It’s like driving without a decent road map.”  Read more here:  Pacific Waters Remain Stubbornly Stable

Extreme weather events of 2012: Was climate change a factor?  18 research teams from around the world try to answer in this bulletin from the American Meteorological Society.  They looked as the causes of 12 extreme events that occurred on five continents and the Arctic during 2012.  ” …  The report shows that the effects of natural weather and climate fluctuations played a key role in the intensity and evolution of the 2012 extreme events. However, in some events, the analyses revealed compelling evidence that human-caused climate change, through the emission of heat-trapping gases, also contributed to the extreme event.  “This report adds to a growing ability of climate science to untangle the complexities of understanding natural and human-induced factors contributing to specific extreme weather and climate events,” said Thomas R. Karl, L.H.D, director of NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center (NCDC). “Nonetheless, determining the causes of extreme events remains challenging.” … ”  Read the press release from NOAA by clicking here; read the report by clicking here.

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The Sacramento sucker:  The FishBio blog takes a look at the Sacramento sucker, a fish that at one time contributed to the diet of Native Americans:  ” … The Sacramento sucker is a benthic species that occupies the stream bottom, and primarily feeds on detritus, algae, and macroinvertebrates. This long-lived fish can live up to 30 years; however, this is not uncommon for sucker species.  Additionally, this species is highly fecund and deposits approximately 5,000-32,000 eggs per spawning period. While we have seen declines in many fish populations that are attributable to anthropogenic activities (e.g., over- fishing, pollution, water diversion, and dams), the Sacramento sucker has continued to thrive. This may be due to their ability to tolerate a wide range of water temperatures and degraded water quality. Their phenotypic plasticity likely has allowed them to thrive in changing environments both historically and in the present.  … ”  Read more from the FishBio blog here:  Subsistence fishing for Sacramento sucker

Our complex relationship with invasive species:  It might be easy to fall into the thinking that all invasive species are bad and should be eradicated, but maybe it’s not that simple:  ” … There has been a growing body of literature that demonstrates our relationship with invasive species is anything but simple. There are papers suggesting that some invasive threats may be overstated. There are books that seem to revel in our often schizophrenic approaches to non-native wildlife, from Courtney Humphries’ celebration of city pigeons, Superdove, to Anders Halverson’s conservation history  of rainbow trout introductions, An Entirely Synthetic Fish.  There are foodie enthusiasts who believe if you can’t beat ‘em, eat ‘em. There’s even a thriller involving the quirky folks on both sides of feral pig eradication, T.C. Boyle’s When the Killing’s Done.   Conservation Magazine has been promoting one of those pieces on the leading edge of this thinking, “Confessions of a Hit Man,” by Lockwood and Latchininsky. It was published a number of years ago but it remains just as relevant today. Maybe you missed it the first time around. Don’t make the same mistake again. It quite simply probes our tour relationship with invasive species — perhaps with all species — better than anything I’ve read…. ”  Read more from the Cool Green Science Blog here:  The Cooler: Towards a Deeper Conversation on Invasive Species

Communicating at the human-environment interface:  Are scientists today working together well enough to solve the most pressing problems, or are institutional boundaries in place that keep them siloed?  A new study attempts to answer:  ” … Our greatest conservation challenges — from climate change to habitat loss for agriculture and other forms of development to pollution to overuse of water — all occur at the interface between humans and the environment. So solving such complex problems requires integrating natural and social sciences, from ecology to economics to political science to psychology.   Yet despite growing awareness of the need to break down disciplinary barriers — and despite the existence of funding programs, new graduate programs, and the like — truly interdisciplinary efforts remain elusive. In order to uncover the hidden barriers and identify solutions, this study conducted the first comprehensive analysis of the perspectives and experiences of human–environment researchers. … ”  Read more from the Cool Green Science blog here:  Quick Study: Why Conservation Science Needs to Get Interdisciplinary–and Why It Hasn’t

The role of internet in public policy deliberations:  Current mechanisms for public policy debate are failing to cope with the overwhelming amount of information and competing interpretations, and internet discourse supports neither broad participation or deep exploration of the issues. ” … What is needed is a framework that augments our collective intelligence, giving us the capacity to include the full range of stakeholders and perspectives, and to embrace the complexity of disagreement and controversy, rather than simplifying it away.  Wicked problems have no fixed or stable problem definition, so stakeholders do not often even agree what the relevant and important questions are, much less what the solution is.  We ugently need approaches that are designed from the start to illuminate the nature of disagreements, to broaden public understanding of of complex debates, make it easier for stakeholders to contribute productively, and to provide analysts and decision makers with cognitive support for exploring the full complexity of the situation.  This paper proposes a research program for an issue-based   hypermedia system for the deep structure of the issues, positions, and data on wicked problems such as global warming. … ”  Read more here:  Growing a Global Issue Base

Many – but not all – depleted fish populations showing signs of recovery under federal programs to reduce fishing pressure:  A new report from the National Research Council shows that federal efforts to reduce fishing pressure and reduce harvesting have contributed to recovery of many overfished stocks, but outcomes for other fisheries are mixed.  “Much of the variation in performance reflects a mismatch between the current prescriptions for rebuilding within a limited time frame and the uncertainties inherent in assessing and managing fisheries given data limitations and complex ecosystem dynamics where fishing is only one of many influences on fish populations, the report says. Because climate change and other ecological factors can also drive changes in fish stocks, rebuilding fish populations within a certain timeframe cannot be assured,” says the press release.  The report identifies strategies for promoting rebuilding of stocks while lessening it’s short-term economic and social impacts on the fishing industry and communities.  Read the report here: Many, But Not All, Depleted Fish Populations Show Signs of Recovery Under Rebuilding Plans That Reduce Fish Harvest  For an interactive chart that lets users see which fish species in the U.S. are being overfished and fished sustainably, click here.



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