Cool Green Science http://blog.nature.org/science Cool Green Science: The Science Blog of The Nature Conservancy Fri, 24 Oct 2014 10:00:10 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.2 Lek at This, Billboard Fins and Shrinking Goats http://blog.nature.org/science/2014/10/24/best-science-nature-web-lek-grouse-killfish-goats-climate/ http://blog.nature.org/science/2014/10/24/best-science-nature-web-lek-grouse-killfish-goats-climate/#comments Fri, 24 Oct 2014 10:00:10 +0000 http://blog.nature.org/science/?p=44676 Male sage grouse displaying in a lek. Photo by Flickr user Rob Crow through a Creative Commons licencse.

Male sage grouse displaying in a lek. Photo by Flickr user Rob Crow through a Creative Commons licencse.

By Bob Lalasz, Matt Miller, Lisa Feldkamp and Cara Byington of the TNC Science Communications team

We find tons of cool conservation and conservation science stuff on the Internets — and share the best of it with you every week in The Cooler:

Biodiversity & Wildlife

Lek at this: Sage grouse and oil drilling can co-exist, says new report. (Extinction Countdown)

Goats vs. invasives: A natural solution to invasive plants? (Yale E360)

Why don’t swordfish break their swords? (National Geographic)

Billboard fins: Bluefin killfish use fins to advertise social standing and health. (Science 360)

New Research

Scientists “bottle” the sun, using solar energy to split hydrogen from water. (The American Ceramic Society, Science)

10 conservation questions that could be answered with satellites. (Conservation Biology, Conservation Magazine)

Shrinking goats linked to warming climate. (Science Daily)

Climate Change

To no one’s surprise, winter bird communities in the eastern United States now have…more warm-weather-preferring birds in them. (Global Change Biology; HT Conservation Magazine)

How climate change will change fall foliage. (The Conversation US)

Shale gas: not making much of a dent on climate change thus far. (Nature)

Rick Piltz, whistleblower on White House tampering with climate scientist, dies. (Scientific American)

Claim the sky: Teens go to SCOTUS with climate lawsuit. (Grist)

California gears up to cope with a drier world. (NPR)

Nature News

Pesticide linked to honeybee deaths does not increase soybean yield, EPA finds. (Yale E360)

India’s largest dam: granted environmental clearance (but still faces huge local opposition). (The Guardian)

Pumpkins: California drought’s latest victim. (Grist)

Rhino horn demand drops 38% in Vietnam after advertising campaigns. (Mongabay)

Michael Nichols wins Wildlife Photographer of the Year. (The Guardian)

Conservation Tactics

It’s all good: Don’t ignore non-native forests in forest conservation, says the USDA’s Ariel Lugo. (Mongabay)

Energy efficient lighting isn’t the whole answer, but can we agree it’s a step forward? (Dot Earth)

The left might not be anti-growth. But environmentalism is, says Keith Kloor. (Discover)

Don’t plant any crops. Model warns farmers not to waste resources in bad years. (Sci Dev Net)

Science Communications

“O, Cana…”: Scientists call for Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper to restore free scientific collaboration and communication for Canada’s scientists. (CBC News)

This and That

The Wolf of Wall Street (aka The Great Gatsby) gives $2m for ocean conservation. (Nature World News)

Handle receipts with care. BPA in receipts could affect your health. (Futurity)

The future of urban planning: Life in a “quantified community.” (CityLab)

A sunny option for Georgia energy: Solar energy on the rise. (Forbes)


Have suggestions for next week’s Cooler? Send them to lfeldkamp[at]tnc.org. Opinions expressed on Cool Green Science and in any corresponding comments are the personal opinions of the original authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Nature Conservancy.

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New Study: Where Have All The Rangelands Gone? http://blog.nature.org/science/2014/10/23/new-study-where-have-all-the-rangelands-gone/ http://blog.nature.org/science/2014/10/23/new-study-where-have-all-the-rangelands-gone/#comments Thu, 23 Oct 2014 10:00:25 +0000 http://blog.nature.org/science/?p=44681 Cows on a California ranch. Photo by Matt Miller/TNC.

Cows on a California ranch. Photo by Matt Miller/TNC.

By Matt Miller, senior science writer, The Nature Conservancy

Across the western United States, it’s a familiar conservationist’s lament: rangelands are disappearing at an alarming rate, lost in a sea of “for sale” signs and subdivisions.

But what do the data really say? What are the long-term trends in rangeland conversion? Are conservation easements and other land protection tools making a difference?

A new paper in the journal PLOS ONE by Dick Cameron, a lead scientist for The Nature Conservancy in California, and coauthors presents a comprehensive view of rangeland conversion — and just as importantly, the drivers of this conversion — on a large scale.

The result is a comprehensive look at landscape change. And it’s true: rangelands really are disappearing at an alarming rate.

What are the Losses?

Cameron and his coauthors used a dataset of land-use types to map rangeland conversion in California between 1984 and 2008. They classified the resulting land-use changes with aerial imagery to determine whether it was developed into homes, planted with crops or dedicated to other land uses.

Then they compared this loss against ranchland protection achieved by various conservation measures. They found a loss of more than 20,000 acres of rangeland per year to other uses within California, for a total loss of more than 480,000 acres.

Of the remaining rangeland, only 24 percent was protected against future conversions by conservation easement or fee ownership. About 38 percent had no protection at all.

Is It Just Homes on the Range?

Conservationists often cite residential and commercial development as key threats to rangeland development.

And indeed, researchers found this as a significant factor, accounting for 49 percent of the conversion.

More surprisingly, 40 percent of rangelands were lost to agricultural intensification for a variety of crops. While the land was still in agriculture, a lot of the habitat value and low water usage offered by ranching was lost.

An agricultural tax incentive — designed to discourage conversion of agricultural lands to residential development — was successful in protecting 37 percent of the remaining rangeland.

But those tax incentives don’t protect those lands from being converted to other agriculture.

Why Should Conservationists Care?

Rangelands protect a lot of valuable wildlife habitat, but their value goes well beyond that. They often connect large blocks of public lands, providing room for migratory species as well as those that have large home ranges.

And new research is finding even more benefits of protecting rangelands, including storing carbon — helping to mitigate the effects of climate change.

Perhaps most significant of all is water savings, especially as Western states like California face severe droughts.

The rangeland that has been converted to intensified agriculture is estimated to use five times more water than all the households of San Francisco combined.

What’s Driving the Change?

Quite simply, economics. It’s not exactly a secret that it’s tough to make a living at ranching. As ranches pass to younger generations, many find that the difficulties are just too much, and choose to sell the property or plant a higher value crop, such as almonds or pistachios.

The authors advocate land-use planning that enables large areas of ranchland to remain intact and for increased incentives to make ranching more economically viable. They call conservation easements “underutilized” for ranchland protection and believe their study can help organizations focus on unprotected properties.

And policies that provide incentives for keeping working ranches working are also vital, they argue. In California, the Williamson Act — passed in 1965 — provided state money allowing local governments to provide tax incentives to protect land for agricultural land uses.

However, state funding of this program ceased in 2009 — and the study’s authors state that this will likely accelerate the rate of land conversion. They urge a return to funding this Act and other policies that provide financial incentives for landowners.

What’s This Paper’s Impact on Conservation?

This paper provides a comprehensive look at regional landscape change, but the tools used to measure that change can be applied beyond Central California.

“Fragmentation of rangelands isn’t just a story of California, it’s a story of the Western United States,” says Cameron. “By analyzing the data to pick up drivers of conversion, we are in a better position to prevent future losses. Knowing where land is protected by different tools can help us prioritize future public and private investments in habitat conservation.”

Cameron calls this approach of tracking loss and protection “conservation accounting.”

Just as the private sector uses profit-and-loss statements to measure the health of a company, this accounting allows conservationists to assess losses against protection.

“It’s an indicator of progress,” says Cameron. “Conservationists have protected key rangelands in California. But this analysis shows that rangeland is still being lost — and points us to the places where our investments can make the most difference.”

Opinions expressed on Cool Green Science and in any corresponding comments are the personal opinions of the original authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Nature Conservancy.  

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Protecting Sage Grouse Habitat: Does It Benefit Mule Deer Populations? http://blog.nature.org/science/2014/10/22/sage-grouse-habitat-conservation-mule-deer-wildlife/ http://blog.nature.org/science/2014/10/22/sage-grouse-habitat-conservation-mule-deer-wildlife/#comments Wed, 22 Oct 2014 10:49:29 +0000 http://blog.nature.org/science/?p=44661 Mule deer at Torrey Creek Trailhead. Photo © Scott Copeland.

Mule deer at Torrey Creek Trailhead. Photo © Scott Copeland.

By Holly Copeland

Scientists studying Greater sage grouse have recognized for years that these birds require large unfragmented landscapes to survive.

Many have also argued that Greater sage grouse are an “umbrella” species – if you protect them, you can also protect many other kinds of wildlife…such as mule deer.

But is that claim really true, at least for mule deer? That’s the focus of a new study in Ecosphere that I co-authored with other scientists and mule deer experts.

The Test Bed — A ‘Grand Experiment’ in Sage Grouse Conservation

With sage grouse populations in well-publicized decline, there is a grand experiment occurring in Wyoming aimed at conserving them.

The experiment was launched in 2008 with by executive order of Wyoming’s governor — an order now referred to as the Wyoming “core area policy,” which limits development in key breeding areas for grouse.

In addition to protections from the policy, federal, private and mitigation funds from oil and gas have also bolstered conservation easement activity specifically for sage grouse.

Mule deer are also declining throughout Wyoming and the West and use sagebrush habitats to winter and migrate to their summer range. So, the natural question arising from this overlap is whether or not mule deer will benefit from grouse-related conservation activities.

Understanding how single species conservation can benefit other species through “umbrella” based conservation is both a smart and practical form of conservation to work within the system that we have.

To test this idea, Nature Conservancy scientists Amy Pocewicz and I joined forces with NRCS Sage Grouse Initiative scientist David Naugle and a team of mule deer experts at University of Wyoming and WEST, Inc consulting. (Read the full study, published this month in Ecosphere.)

A Doubling of Previously Existing Conservation for Mule Deer Habitats

We synthesized data from two main sources for our study area in the upper Green River Basin in western Wyoming: 1) mule deer GPS collar data from a pre-existing research study and 2) data representing conservation activities for grouse.

Using this data, as well as data on thresholds for tolerance of mule deer to development (Sawyer et al. 2013), we were able to show that sage-grouse related conservation measures doubled previously existing conservation of mule deer habitats.

Mule deer buck at Torrey Creek Road. Photo © Scott Copeland.

Mule deer buck at Torrey Creek Road. Photo © Scott Copeland.

We found that areas identified as core grouse habitat in this region overlap with winter range, stopover areas and migration corridors used by deer — and that grouse core-area provisions are generally sufficient to limit impacts on deer as well as grouse.

Those provisions primarily include restrictions on surface disturbances for activities such as oil and gas drilling.

We also identified current gaps in mule deer conservation in the same study area, providing a road map of conservation opportunities for land trusts and others working on the ground.

Current Policies: Necessary But Not Sufficient for Sage Grouse and Mule Deer?

There is a concern, though, that Wyoming’s core area policy will push development out of sage grouse core areas and increase impacts to migrating mule deer where their migration, stopovers, and winter habitats fall outside of sage grouse protections.

Currently there is no formal statewide protection of mule deer migration corridors, which could be rectified through land management policy changes to reflect consideration of these areas.

Recently, the state of Montana followed in Wyoming’s footsteps and enacted their own sage grouse core area policy with very similar restrictions. The core area policy was designed to protect sage grouse with what was known at the time about their sensitivity to development.

Still, many in the scientific and conservation communities (including me) wonder if it will be enough to keep the populations from a long-term downward decline.

A sage grouse lek at Twin Creek. Photo © Scott Copeland.

A sage grouse lek at Twin Creek. Photo © Scott Copeland.

Last year we published a study in PLOS One examining benefits of these policies for grouse in Wyoming, and found that these efforts will not likely halt, but will significantly stem declines.

There are many nuances in the current conservation policy that depending on how faithfully it is carried out, could determine its long-term efficacy. Nonetheless, the policy represents a much needed step forward in reducing fragmentation of sagebrush.

The Conservancy and partners, in a study funded through the Wyoming legislature, are also now engaged in an effort in Wyoming to establish baseline metrics of sagebrush habitat quality at the time the policy was enacted in 2008, and methods to reliably track conditions over time and tied back to population health.

If we can confidently measure these trends, we will know whether these conservation actions are really working — or not.

It’s a key step to evaluating conservation progress in the unfolding sage grouse story.

References

Copeland, H. E., A. Pocewicz, D. E. Naugle, T. Griffiths, D. Keinath, J. S. Evans, and J. Platt. 2013. Quantifying the benefits of the core area policy and conservation easements to sage-grouse in Wyoming. PLoS ONE 8:1-14.

Sawyer, H., M. J. Kauffman, A. D. Middleton, T. A. Morrison, R. M. Nielson, and T. B. Wyckoff. 2013. A framework for understanding semi-permeable barrier effects on migratory ungulates. Journal of Applied Ecology 50:68-78.

Opinions expressed on Cool Green Science and in any corresponding comments are the personal opinions of the original authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Nature Conservancy. 

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Working With Loggers for Forest Conservation: New E&E News Series http://blog.nature.org/science/2014/10/22/logger-tropical-forest-conservation-ee-news-series/ http://blog.nature.org/science/2014/10/22/logger-tropical-forest-conservation-ee-news-series/#comments Wed, 22 Oct 2014 09:59:17 +0000 http://blog.nature.org/science/?p=44651 Logging road and impacts in East Kalimantan: logged forest on the left, virgin/primary forest on the right. Image credit: Wakx/Flickr through a Creative Commons license.

Logging road and impacts in East Kalimantan: logged forest on the left, virgin/primary forest on the right. Image credit: Wakx/Flickr through a Creative Commons license.

Conservationists working with loggers to produce better conservation results — a science-based vision of the future, or a pipe dream?

The online news service E&E News has just published a three-part series on how such efforts are playing out in Indonesia — the world’s third-largest emitter of greenhouse gases, in part because of deforestation there. And The Nature Conservancy’s forest science and conservation efforts there are a cornerstone of the coverage.

Links to each installment of the series below:

1) Can environmental groups and loggers work to limit the destruction of tropical forests?

Reduced-impact logging techniques could reduce CO2 emissions from deforestation by up to 30 percent, according to a Conservancy analysis. E&E News reporter Coco Liu goes into the forest with Conservancy scientist Peter Ellis to find out why the benefits of such a logging approach might often outweigh the costs.

2) The art of the deal: selling loggers on tree-saving practices that make money

How might conservation scientists convince loggers to adopt reduced-impact logging tactics? It’s not easy — but a variety of pitches helps, as the Conservancy’s Bambang Wahyudi and Peter Ellis demonstrate. 

3) Luring forest communities away from ‘slash-and-burn’ farming

Members of the Dayak community — an ethnic group in Indonesian Borneo who used to use blowguns to hunt their food — are now part of a Nature Conservancy program to entice them away from slash-and-burn agriculture toward more sustainable livelihoods.

Opinions expressed on Cool Green Science and in any corresponding comments are the personal opinions of the original authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Nature Conservancy. 

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Citizen Science Tuesday: Monarchs Journey North http://blog.nature.org/science/2014/10/21/citizen-science-monarchs-journey-north-conservation-nature-education/ http://blog.nature.org/science/2014/10/21/citizen-science-monarchs-journey-north-conservation-nature-education/#comments Tue, 21 Oct 2014 10:00:22 +0000 http://blog.nature.org/science/?p=44630 A Monarch butterfly in the Boston Public Garden. Photo by Flickr user Nietnagel through a Creative Commons license.

A Monarch butterfly in the Boston Public Garden. Photo by Flickr user Nietnagel through a Creative Commons license.

By Lisa Feldkamp, senior coordinator, new science audiences, The Nature Conservancy

What is Journey North and Why Should You Participate?

Migrating monarchs are one of nature’s wonders — they can travel up to 500 miles in just three days on their 2,500 mile journey from Mexico to Canada and back again over the course of a year.

And they’re also one of the few creatures that gains weight during migration — from 60mg of lipids (fat) when they start their southward migration to 140mg by the time they reach Mexico—because they glide on the wind instead of flapping.

“They’d never make it to Mexico otherwise,” explains Elizabeth Howard, founder and director of Journey North, which works to track monarch migrations. “In flapping flight, they would burn enough fat that they would starve in just 44 hours. Soaring and gliding they can go for 1,060 hours.”

But there’s a lot we still don’t know about monarchs. Which is Journey North is looking for your citizen science observations on the backyard behaviors of this iconic and threatened insect.

Why is Journey North Important?

Monarchs are currently completing their journey south to their overwintering grounds in Mexico. But the migrations get more difficult with each passing year.

The migration and the butterflies are in danger because of threats like climate change and changes in agriculture that have limited the amount of milkweed, a key plant for monarch conservation

In recent years, the population has declined dramatically.

Your observations can help scientists determine the abundance of monarchs and find out if they are overwintering in new locations. The data could help them answer questions like, how do monarchs know when to go to Mexico, how do they know where to fly, and why do monarchs migrate?

Answering questions about when butterflies travel, where they go, and whether or not the timing of their migrations has changed could help scientists to understand how climate change impacts their journey.

It could also help in advising when and where people should plant milkweed.

Monarch Butterfly Fall Migration MapMonarch Butterfly Migration Map Fall 2014. Courtesy of Journey North.

Journey North is also an excellent source of materials and facts for teachers and kids interested in the monarch migration. Even if they don’t pass by your area, you can track their progress on Journey North.

You can find out how to tell a male from a female or hear the story of a monarch that was blown off course all the way to England!

That’s not common, of course. In fact, migrating monarchs seem like they’re on a mission, according to Howard.

“It’s incredible the way they ‘beeline’ towards Mexico during fall migration,” she says. “When you see a migrating monarch, you know it. No matter how many times I see it I’m amazed. They fly overhead as if following an invisible roadway. One at a time, often a few minutes apart, they follow the same flight path.”

How Can You Get Involved in Journey North?

If you live where there are monarchs, just submit your sightings online.

If you aren’t sure where to find monarchs, here are two pro tips from Howard:

a. Find Nectar

If you want to see fall migration, find a large source of nectar. The best places are farm fields with blooming clover, alfalfa, sunflowers, etc. Stick around until sunset, watch the monarchs carefully, and you’re likely to see them gathering into an overnight roost.

b. Look for Little Butterflies

To find a field that’s rich with nectar you can drive around in your car. Watch for little butterflies — like sulphurs and cabbage whites — flitting above the flowers. They are much more numerous than monarchs and so are good clues that flowers are producing nectar and monarchs might be present.

Keep up with the monarch news or watch the maps to find out when monarchs come through your area.

There are many other things that you can do at home to help monarchs. For instance, plant milkweed, provide nectar plants, and avoid pesticide use.

Follow along with the migration online and get ready to record your observations for next year’s journey north!


Is there a citizen science project that you think deserves more attention? Contact Lisa Feldkamp, lfeldkamp[at]tnc.org or leave a comment below with a link to make a recommendation for Citizen Science Tuesday.

Opinions expressed on Cool Green Science and in any corresponding comments are the personal opinions of the original authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Nature Conservancy.

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Why Conservation Letters is Going 100% Open Access http://blog.nature.org/science/2014/10/20/conservation-letters-open-access-impact-factor-data-sharing/ http://blog.nature.org/science/2014/10/20/conservation-letters-open-access-impact-factor-data-sharing/#comments Mon, 20 Oct 2014 10:00:54 +0000 http://blog.nature.org/science/?p=44543 Photo courtesy of Eddie Game.

Photo courtesy of Eddie Game.

By Bob Lalasz, director of science communications for The Nature Conservancy

Conservation science: You’re finally about to get a little freer.

Conservation Letters, a research journal aimed at policy audiences, will go “gold standard open access” as of January 1 — making all of its content (including its archives) free to download and reuse.

Letters — which is associated with the Society for Conservation Biology — is the first high-impact applied conservation science journal to go completely open. Which might surprise some observers, since the field’s purpose is to influence conservation practice and how conservation is included in land-use planning and other societal decision-making.

Most insiders, however, know conservation is notorious for lagging behind other disciplines in terms of data- and knowledge sharing. In fact, a recent review in Conservation Biology of 20 journals aimed at conservation practitioners found that only 9 percent of their papers published since 2000 were freely downloadable — compared to 32 percent of journals in the field of evolutionary biology.

Making this development even stranger was that taking Letters gold standard open access was the idea of its publisher John C. Wiley & Sons — the same John C. Wiley & Sons whose science, technology and medical division made $106 million profit in 2011, and who (along with Elsevier and other big for-profit STM publishers) has been vilified by open access proponents.

What’s behind the move? And might it galvanize more openness for the rest of conservation science publishing? Eddie Game, associate editor for Letters and Nature Conservancy senior scientist, gave me his take.

 

What ‘Gold Standard Open Access’ Really Means

Eddie Game: Completely free to all readers, all material reproducible. When we discussed it, we decided: What’s the point of going open access if it’s not true open access?

So it’ll be freely available for everyone with the same kind of license you have at PLoS journals, where you can take the figures and reuse them. And the entire back catalog of Letters will also be open access with that same licensing arrangement.

Why Go OA?

Wiley came to us with the idea. We thought we needed to be bundled with the standard Wiley package to institutions. And they came back to us and said, “We’ve got one other journal that we’re trialing on an open-access model out. How would you be interested in trying the same?”

Despite our high impact factor, we have a really low subscriber rate. Because of the timing of its release, Letters doesn’t get bundled with a lot of other journals, and hardly any libraries buy journals individually these days. So very few people actually have access to it. And our niche is policy-relevant science, and that relevance was being limited by the kind of circulation we had.

Conservation Letters is not a moneymaking journal for Wiley, and they’re not really depending on it for that.  They want to occupy the niche we fill as much as anything

Why the Impact Factor Might Go Up Under Open Access

The reason why quality often sucks for most open-access journals is that they’re online journals, so the incentive to put more papers out to generate revenue through authors’ fees without any real cost is very tempting.


“I expect the impact factor to increase with the greater exposure rather than decrease.”– Eddie Game


Letters is going to be a little bit different in the sense that, at least for the foreseeable future, we are going to keep the number of issues and the number of articles per issue the same.  We won’t be putting out more content, and we aren’t under any pressure from Wiley to do so.  They would prefer to see Conservation Letters continue to climb in terms of its status and impact rather than publishing more stuff to make money.

So we have to not only maintain our editorial standards but make them even clearer and more consistent.  I expect the impact factor to increase with the greater exposure rather than decrease.

Will Author Fees Be a Problem?

Some of the other editors were concerned authors from non-profits wouldn’t be able to afford the author fee to publish with us. My argument was that by the time non-profits have invested getting a piece of science or their work to the point of publication, they’ve already sunk a lot of money into it, and they want to get the maximum exposure for it.

So paying the extra $1,800 to have it published in a good open-access journal isn’t going to inhibit too many non-profit scientists.  And we are waiving the fee for scientists from developing nations. We pushed Wiley really hard on giving the associate editors and editor-in-chief the right to waive publication fees.

Why Hasn’t This Happened Before in Conservation Science?

I’m not really sure. The discipline is pretty young and still rapidly growing. I wonder partly whether we haven’t matured to the point of thinking: “Our content isn’t increasing—how do we get greater exposure for it?”

Beyond that, it seems kind of bizarrely ironic that this discipline that aims for applied relevance — and it talks about itself as a very applied discipline — hasn’t seen more open access. Maybe people running conservation projects are not well funded, but I just find it really hard to believe that that is any different than evolutionary biology.  Given my experience in the last 15 or 20 years, conservation science has done far better in terms of getting some government grants and resources than evolutionary biologists.  I would be surprised if that’s the case.

Why the New Hybrid Trend in Scholarly Publishing — Levying a Surcharge for Open Licensing — Won’t Work

The hybrid model won’t work for most journals. It might for journals that trade on exclusivity, but it’s been available for a while, and it just hasn’t been very well taken up by the others. With Conservation Letters, we would probably have only one issue in three where an author paid for our hybrid open access. Either you are going to become a journal whose content is available, probably open access available, or it’s just the same journal, essentially. The response just isn’t there.

How Will Letters’ New Approach Impact Other Conservation Journals?

Other senior editors of the other major journals in the field have been really enthusiastic about our move to OA, but none have indicated that they are likely to head down that road.

We can hope, but I can’t see it happening in a really rapid time frame. I think they will all be looking at Conservation Letters to see what happens to our impact factor.


“In 10 years, I suspect that open access will dominate publications…”– Eddie Game


That’s what many of them care about.  If we are able to be, say, like PLOS Biology and keep it high and keep it as a powerful journal, then I think many journals will be thinking seriously about it.

Journals don’t cost that much money to run. And Conservation Letters is online only. So even on the small distribution we have, at six issues a year and 10 papers an issue, Wiley will be covering their costs.

Is Gold Standard Open Access the Future of Science Publishing?

It won’t be too long before the vast majority of funders oblige scientists to put their research in open access.  Soon all government agencies and most private foundations will insist it.  In 10 years, I suspect that open access will dominate publications, just because it’s demanded by the funding sources, and the costs for doing that will come down.

One of the trends I think we’ll see is institutions getting together and agreeing to pay open-access charges, just as libraries pay for subscriptions.  For instance, Wiley has essentially a subscriber program where universities pay a set charge to Wiley, which covers the open access publication costs of their scientists.

For NGOs, the SCB membership discount is kind of a start in that direction, but perhaps we will get to a point where we have a similar institutional subscription. We’re currently exploring options with Wiley, so perhaps TNC will be a leader in this regard.

Opinions expressed on Cool Green Science and in any corresponding comments are the personal opinions of the original authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Nature Conservancy.

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I Am Dolphin, Vulture Restaurants and Climate-Smart Military http://blog.nature.org/science/2014/10/17/best-science-nature-web-dolphin-vulture-restaurants-climate-military/ http://blog.nature.org/science/2014/10/17/best-science-nature-web-dolphin-vulture-restaurants-climate-military/#comments Fri, 17 Oct 2014 10:00:05 +0000 http://blog.nature.org/science/?p=44601 Bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncates). Photo by Flickr user Willy Volk through a Creative Commons license.

Bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncates). Photo by Flickr user Willy Volk through a Creative Commons license.

By Bob Lalasz, Matt Miller, Lisa Feldkamp and Cara Byington of the TNC Science Communications team We find tons of cool conservation and conservation science stuff on the Internets — and share the best of it with you every week in The Cooler:

Biodiversity & Wildlife

Fine dining for vultures: ‘Vulture restaurants’ could boost populations in Africa. (Conservation Magazine)

Ocelot crossings coming to Texas soon! (Strange Behaviors)

Who over-salted the fish? Whales can only taste salty. (Deep Sea News)

Return of the ‘river wolves’ (giant river otters) in Peru. (Mongabay)

A bank with something more precious than money? The Kew seed bank. (Ensia)

New Research

Dolphin ‘breathalyzer’ checks wildlife and ocean health, not blood alcohol. (Analytical Chemistry, Science Daily)

Clean energy benefits outweigh environmental impacts from solar, wind, and hydropower. (Nature)

Are invasives ‘superior’ to native species? (The Loom)

Wild pollinators are good for crop yields. (Frontiers in Ecology)

Climate Change

The Pentagon released a roadmap for a climate-smart military. (Los Angeles Times)

What’s the worst case scenario? Sea level rise of 1.8 m (5.9 ft) by 2100. (Environmental Research Letters, Science Daily)

Nature News

Whole Foods ups the ante on environmental impact labeling with its “Responsibly Grown” ratings. (New York Times)

No fuel needed: New industrial generator runs on waste heat. (MIT Technology Review)

Conservation Tactics

A reason to love power lines: They could make good wildlife corridors. (Yale E360)

Sustainable intensification of smallholder farms has promise to be climate-smart and good for conservation. (CCAFS)

Would legal ivory trade stop the slaughter of elephants or make things worse? (Yale E360)

Science Communications

Scientists share why they do science. (COMPASS Blogs)

The potential for building narrative with interactive sea level rise viewers. (Science Communication)

This and That

“I am dolphin”: New game combines nature and neuroscience. (Washington Post)

3D printing goes solar. (Michigan Tech)

 


Have suggestions for next week’s Cooler? Send them to lfeldkamp[at]tnc.org. Opinions expressed on Cool Green Science and in any corresponding comments are the personal opinions of the original authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Nature Conservancy.

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From Theory to Practice: Managing Coral Reefs for Resilience http://blog.nature.org/science/2014/10/16/theory-new-research-managing-coral-reefs-resilience/ http://blog.nature.org/science/2014/10/16/theory-new-research-managing-coral-reefs-resilience/#comments Thu, 16 Oct 2014 10:00:44 +0000 http://blog.nature.org/science/?p=44589 Marine researcher recording data on coral reefs on the east side of Palau. © Ian Shive

Marine researcher recording data on coral reefs on the east side of Palau. © Ian Shive

By Cara Byington, Science Communications Specialist

Scientists and reef managers agree: the key to successful reef management is resilience.

While that has been recognized for more than a decade, the challenge is understanding how to manage for resilience. Until now.

A new paper in Global Change Biology “fills a critical resilience-management gap,” says Conservancy climate scientist Elizabeth McLeod and one of the authors of the paper, “by presenting a clear framework and a set of guidelines for how managers can enhance resilience through prioritizing specific place-based management interventions.”

First, a definition: Resilient reefs are those that maintain their fundamental biological processes of recruitment, reproduction, regrowth and repair. A resilient reef is better able to recover from stress events like bleaching and storms.

Think of it like an immune system. A person with a healthy immune system can recover quickly from a cold or minor infection, whereas such a condition might be life threatening to someone with a suppressed immune system. A resilient reef is likewise better able to recover from stressors.

The authors show how the framework can be applied to Caribbean and Indo-Pacific reefs and discuss how the prioritization of management strategies to support resilience changes under different ecological and sociopolitical conditions. They highlight the need to address key stressors facing coral reefs: pollution, sedimentation, overfishing, ocean warming and acidification.

By shifting from a piecemeal strategy that focuses primarily on abating stress from individual (often acute) events to one that prioritizes abating chronic stressors, reef managers can enhance overall reef resilience.

The paper by world leaders in coral reef ecology and climate science, including several authors from The Nature Conservancy, provides a framework for managing for resilience.

“This Adaptive Resilience-Based Management Framework,” says McLeod, “also enables managers to identify knowledge gaps that are limiting their ability to implement the most effective strategies for reducing system vulnerability. Through application, testing and further development, we believe that this framework will support smarter management actions that in turn will support the resilience of coral reefs and the communities that depend upon them in a rapidly changing world.”

Opinions expressed on Cool Green Science and in any corresponding comments are the personal opinions of the original authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Nature Conservancy.

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Conservation and Food Security: The $115 Billion Question http://blog.nature.org/science/2014/10/15/conservation-and-food-security-the-115-billion-question/ http://blog.nature.org/science/2014/10/15/conservation-and-food-security-the-115-billion-question/#comments Wed, 15 Oct 2014 10:00:23 +0000 http://blog.nature.org/science/?p=44522 Allium pskemense B. Fedtsch, a wild perennial related to the common onion. Photo Credit: Crop Wild Relatives Global Portal.

Allium pskemense B. Fedtsch, a wild perennial related to the common onion. Photo Credit: Crop Wild Relatives Global Portal.

Eddie Game is a senior scientist for The Nature Conservancy

Conservationists love talking about the role we can play in food security. And with good reason – there is no more basic or universal need. Be it increased fish production in MPAs, water availability for household gardens, or grass cover during times of drought, conservation has a range of plausible ways to influence food security. But I often get the sense that when talking about food security we’re grasping a little bit, trying to fill a role for which we are not a perfect fit.

Well, there is a much overlooked role we can play, and one that conservation clearly possess the best tools and expertise to do the job: in situ conservation of crop wild relatives (CWRs).

A couple of years ago I was asked to help supervise a student who wanted to investigate how to prioritize conservation of CWRs. For those with as scant knowledge of CWRs as I had at the time, crop wild relatives are taxa that are closely related to domestic agricultural crops.

Typically CWRs are varieties of the same species as the domestic crop but they may also include subspecies or even sometimes congeneric species. Although modern GM technology means that many species are potential gene donors for crop improvement, CWRs remain the taxa with the greatest potential to contribute beneficial traits to their related crops, such as resistance to disease or tolerance to abiotic stresses such as temperature or salinity.

To give a sense of just how important the genetic material from CWRs is, over the past 30 years, at least 60 CWRs have contributed more than 100 beneficial traits to 13 major crops such as wheat, rice, tomato, and potato (Hajjar and Hodgkin 2007) and even 15 years ago it was estimated that the global increase in crop yield as a results of crossing with CWRs represents a value of $115 billion per year (Pimentel et al. 1997).

Many experts also see CWRs as one of the most promising avenues to address the challenges that climate change poses to global food security (Feuillet et al. 2008; Nevo and Chen 2010).


“Over the past 30 years, at least 60 CWRs have contributed more than 100 beneficial traits to 13 major crops such as wheat, rice, tomato, and potato.”


 

Just like many species that are the focus of conservation effort, there is anthropogenic pressure on CWRs in their native habitats (land conversion, degradation, overgrazing, competition from exotic species, etc.), threatening this global source of genetic diversity. Although plant resources can be safely conserved ex situ in seed banks, such as the one under the ice of Svalbard, Norway, in situ conservation is a critical compliment for at least two reasons.

First, the genetic diversity across a species wild range can never hope to be captured entirely in ex situ collections and the traits that are most beneficial for future crop improvement are often adaptations to particular local environmental conditions (e.g., drought tolerance or salt tolerance). Second, in situ conservation allows populations to continue natural adaptation to changing conditions. Conserving CWRs in situ will ensure that their future value for crop improvement is maximized.

Sustaining important species and their diversity in situ is what conservation does. It’s been our core business. It is perhaps a little surprising then that there has been such scant attention paid by conservation organizations to conserving CWRs, and that the subject is gravely under-represented in the main conservation literature. It is not as if it’s contested space – agricultural agencies generally have limited responsibility for wild species conservation.

It would, however, be grossly unfair to suggest that there is no awareness of this potential nexus between food security and classic conservation; reference to CWRs appears in the Convention on Biological Diversity’s Nagoya text, there is a CWR Specialist Group within the IUCN, and the FAO has a global initiative on CWR conservation.

Like most taxa, developing countries contain the lion’s share of CWR diversity (which has disproportionately benefited developed nations so far), but are also where the pressures on remaining habitat are greatest and the resources for conservation most inadequate. One could easily make the case that developed nations have both a strong interest and responsibility to help poorer nations conserve CWRs.

Yes, a weedy-looking wild cowpea vine will struggle to compete with a black rhino on charisma, but have we asked the tens of millions of people in sub-Saharan Africa who depend on cowpea, which they value the conservation of more? The key, however, is that it doesn’t have to be one or the other.

Existing protected areas and conservation projects are likely to contain a great many CWR resources and present an efficient option for the conservation. In the study I was involved in, we identified 182 existing protected areas across Africa likely to contain at least one important cowpea CWR (Moray et al. 2014).

I was recently with some donors in the Kimberley region of north-western Australia, and while I talked at length about the benefits of our work there for threatened and fauna and habitats, perhaps I should have made more of the fact that it’s also a hotspot of diversity for wild soy bean relatives (González-Orozco et al. 2012).

In many cases, I suspect it would not take much effort to incorporate CWRs into the management plans for existing conservation areas.

At the level of a single conservation area, conserving CWRs is neither a guaranteed nor rapid pathway to food security for local communities. However, the challenges of feeding an increasing global population in a changing climate mean that if we’re playing the long game, the potential impact of even a single CWR is staggering.

If we are serious about conservation helping people, CWRs present a role for us in food security that is more important and better aligned than most of us realize.

References

Feuillet, C., P. Langridge, and R. Waugh. 2008. Cereal breeding takes a walk on the wild side. Trends in Genetics 24:24-32.

González-Orozco, C. E., A. H. Brown, N. Knerr, J. T. Miller, and J. J. Doyle. 2012. Hotspots of diversity of wild Australian soybean relatives and their conservation in situ. Conservation Genetics 13:1269-1281.

Hajjar, R. and T. Hodgkin. 2007. The use of wild relatives in crop improvement: a survey of developments over the last 20 years. Euphytica 156:1-13.

Moray, C., E. T. Game, and N. Maxted. 2014. Prioritising in situ conservation of crop resources: A case study of African cowpea (Vigna unguiculata). Scientific Reports 4.

Nevo, E. and G. Chen. 2010. Drought and salt tolerances in wild relatives for wheat and barley improvement. Plant, Cell & Environment 33:670-685.

Pimentel, D., C. Wilson, C. McCullum, R. Huang, P. Dwen, J. Flack, Q. Tran, T. Saltman, and B. Cliff. 1997. Economic and environmental benefits of biodiversity. Bioscience:747-757.


Opinions expressed on Cool Green Science and in any corresponding comments are the personal opinions of the original authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Nature Conservancy.

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Citizen Science Tuesday: Wildlife CSI http://blog.nature.org/science/2014/10/14/citizen-science-tuesday-wildlife-csi/ http://blog.nature.org/science/2014/10/14/citizen-science-tuesday-wildlife-csi/#comments Tue, 14 Oct 2014 10:00:29 +0000 http://blog.nature.org/science/?p=44550 A coyote approaches a compost pile. Photo by Flickr user circulating through a Creative Commons license.

A coyote approaches a compost pile. Photo by Flickr user circulating through a Creative Commons license.

By Lisa Feldkamp, senior coordinator, new science audiences, The Nature Conservancy

What is Wildlife CSI?

Residential composting has become a popular, and environmentally friendly, method of disposing of food waste. But that food also serves as a critter buffet.

How does the local wildlife behave around the compost heap?

Wildlife CSI (Compost Scene Investigation) is on the case, and you could be one of their investigators, joining a crack team of sleuths that includes crowbots

Yes, crowbots.

The project uses camera traps to catch pictures of birds and mammals that visit the compost piles, and they need citizen science help to identify animals in the images.

“As an ecologist with projects that generate innumerable wildlife monitoring camera images, my research relies on the curiosity and generosity of citizen scientists who contribute to our efforts by identifying and counting animals in crowd-sourced images,” says Scott Smedley an ecologist at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut, and lead researcher for Wildlife CSI.

Why is Wildlife CSI Important?

By classifying the images caught on camera, Wildlife CSI is working to better understand how composting impacts the foraging ecology of wild birds and mammals.

“Even though residential composting is becoming an increasingly popular, as an environmentally friendly practice, we know surprisingly little about how it influences wildlife ecology,” says Smedley.

“One weird thing that we have discovered is that red-shouldered hawks, a species that you might not typically think as a compost scavenger, are frequent pile visitors, even eating vegetable matter,” Smedley reports. “It turns out that these hawks show an interesting association with crows.”

And that’s where the crowbots come in.

“Most red-shouldered hawk encounters at the compost piles take place with crows, our leading avian visitor.  With crowbots (robotic crows), we hope to investigate whether crow presence actually draws the hawks to the piles,” Smedley explains.

Learning about ecology is not the only goal for Wildlife CSI; they are also exploring many ways that citizen science can benefit people.

The project can also benefit conservation by reminding people of their connection to nature.

“While clearly not a substitute for getting out directly into nature, virtual excursions such as Wildlife CSI may nonetheless have benefits,” Smedley notes. “Participants find viewing our wildlife images to be entertaining, relaxing, and perhaps at times even a bit too engaging (sometimes it’s hard to step away from the computer!).”

Through Wildlife CSI, Dr. Smedley is collaborating with Prof. Lisa Nisbet, an environmental psychologist at Trent University in Ontario on cross-disciplinary research to better understand how connecting to nature affects human well-being.

A turkey vulture (Cathartes aura) and some crows (Corvus brachyrhynchos) gather at the compost pile. Image courtesy of Wildlife CSI.

A turkey vulture (Cathartes aura) and some crows (Corvus brachyrhynchos) gather at the compost pile. Image courtesy of Wildlife CSI.

And Wildlife CSI is engaging students in citizen science.

“Since a little friendly competition is always enjoyable, we thought that would be fun to introduce an element of team-play to Wildlife CSI,” says Smedley. “Working with my colleagues in IT, we added the ability to have contests where the outcome is based on the number of images teams categorize and their accuracy in identifying and counting the animals.”

Many of the competitions have been between undergraduate students at Trinity. Last year the students of an introductory biology course provided over 110,000 image categorizations (an average over 750 per student)!

“Their citizen science experience is woven into the classroom to deepen the students’ engagement with ecological concepts that they are learning about,” Smedley explains.

And high school classes can get in on the fun too. Teachers from across the United States and Canada can sign-up their classrooms to compete in a Wildlife CSI contest.

Follow them on Facebook or check their blog for updates on new opportunities, updates on team standings, coverage of related ecological stories, and research reports.

That’s not all. Wildlife CSI has a pilot project, currently available in Connecticut only, to study how participating in citizen science can benefit veterans. 

How Can You Get Involved in Wildlife CSI?

It’s easy and free to get started.

Just visit their website and get started by watching the Instructional Video. Do not skip this – there are some handy tips!

Then check out the Field Guide to familiarize yourself with the scavenging wildlife of Connecticut. You’ll be able to come back to this as you need it. The tips for differentiating similar wildlife (like turkey vultures and wild turkeys) are essential.

Then you can get started by clicking Image Database. There is a quick registration (only name and email required) and a 20 image quiz to make sure that you have learned to identify the relevant wildlife. Then you’re ready to start!

If you run into any trouble you can visit the Wildlife CSI Blog or their Facebook page to discuss.

Contribute to a project that’s investigating wildlife, benefiting people, and bringing crowbots into the world!


Is there a citizen science project that you think deserves more attention? Contact Lisa Feldkamp, lfeldkamp[at]tnc.org or leave a comment below with a link to make a recommendation for Citizen Science Tuesday.

Opinions expressed on Cool Green Science and in any corresponding comments are the personal opinions of the original authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Nature Conservancy.

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