“After more than three years of study, the Government Accountability Office,
an arm of Congress, harshly faulted the Bush administration for doing little
to deal with the far-reaching effects of climate change rapidly taking place
in national parks, forests, marine sanctuaries and other federal lands and
waters – almost 30 percent of the United States.
HOME PAGE FOR THE WORLD’S BUSINESS LEADERS
GAO Faults Agencies Over Global Warming
By JOHN HEILPRIN 09.06.07, Associated Press
Wildfires are flaring bigger and hotter in Alaska, the northern
Rockies and the Sierra Nevada. Bighorn sheep, mountain goats and
grizzly bears in Glacier National Park, along with deer and marsh
rabbits in the Florida Keys, face a housing crisis.
Glacier’s alpine meadows are disappearing, sea levels are rising in
the Keys and other federal lands are feeling the heat from global
warming – and the government is not doing much about it,
congressional investigators said in a report Thursday.
Climate change, however, does have things looking up for heat-loving
pests like beetles, grasshoppers and fungi. Spruce bark beetles are
chewing their way through 1,560 square miles of Alaska’s Kenai
Peninsula, including 620 square miles of spruce trees in Chugach
National Forest. Southern pine beetles are on the march in red spruce
forests of the Southeast.
Non-native grasses are fast replacing native shrubs in the Mojave
Desert, where the grasses also are fueling hotter and longer-lasting
wildfires. Even pinyon pines hundreds of years old that have survived
droughts before in the Southwest are dying off.
After more than three years of study, the Government Accountability
Office, an arm of Congress, harshly faulted the Bush administration
for doing little to deal with the far-reaching effects of climate
change rapidly taking place in national parks, forests, marine
sanctuaries and other federal lands and waters – almost 30 percent of
the United States.
The GAO said the Interior, Agriculture and Commerce departments have
failed to give their resource managers the guidance and tools they
need – computer models, temperature and precipitation data, climate
projects and detailed inventories of plant and animal species – to
cope with all the biological and physical effects from the warming.
“Without such guidance, their ability to address climate change and
effectively manage resources is constrained,” the report says.
The White House disagreed.
“President Bush is committed to addressing climate and providing the
agencies with the tools they need to address this important issue,”
said Kristen Hellmer, a spokeswoman for the White House Council on
Environmental Quality. “The president has provided unparalleled
financial investments for dozens of federal climate change programs,
many of which are directed at adaptation and developing and deploying
cleaner, more efficient energy technologies.”
The GAO investigators looked at four representative areas:
_The Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.
_Alaska’s Chugach National Forest.
_Montana’s Glacier National Park.
_Grasslands and shrubs managed by Interior’s Bureau of Land
Management in northwestern Arizona.
From those studies, investigators concluded: “Climate change has
already begun to adversely affect federal resources in a variety of
ways. Most experts with whom we spoke believe that these effects will
continue and likely intensify over the coming decades.”
What turned out to be a 184-page report was requested in March 2004
by Sens. John Kerry, D-Mass., and John McCain, R-Ariz, when Kerry was
running for the presidential nomination. He now wants legislation
requiring more climate change science.
“We waited a long time for this report to confirm the daunting
prospect that climate change is impacting our public lands from coast
to coast, and this administration is ill-equipped to respond,” Kerry
Jamie Rappaport Clark, who was director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service in the Clinton administration and is now executive vice
president of Defenders of Wildlife, called the report an urgently
needed wake-up call for the nation.
“Global warming is and will continue to contribute to species
extinctions, flooding of coastal refuges and massive movements of
wildlife populations in search of more hospitable habitat,” she said.
“Polar bears and other imperiled species, wildlife refuges, parks and
myriad natural resources are at risk and Congress clearly needs to
provide more legislative direction because the agencies have failed
to do so.”
The effects are widespread.
In Glacier National Park, the number of glaciers in the park has
dropped from 150 to 26 since 1850. Some project that none will be
left within 25 to 30 years. In south-central Alaska, many of the
ponds shown in 1950 maps and aerial photographs are now grassy basins
with spruce and hardwood trees.
On the Keys’ receding coastlines, the climate threat extends “not
only to wildlife, but also to humans who live on the islands,” the
Bleaching of coral reefs in the Florida Keys, too, is being caused by
the stress of warmer water – which causes the coral to eject
microscopic algae that live within its tissues. That could harm the
fishing and tourism industries, because they are needed by fish and
other marine species and are popular with snorkelers and scuba divers.
The GAO said the Interior Department has ignored an order signed by
former secretary Bruce Babbitt on the last full day of the Clinton
administration that requires it to “consider and analyze potential
climate change impacts” in all its major decisions, long-range
planning, management of resources and setting of scientific
In response, James Cason, an assistant interior secretary, told the
GAO that an agency task force with nearly 100 people began meeting in
April to study climate change, and the U.S. Geological Survey will
spend $27 million for climate research in 2008. He said Interior
“routinely takes actions to mitigate impacts of climate change.”
Forest Service Chief Abigail Kimbell said that studying one forest,
the Chugach, is not enough to draw conclusions about more than
300,000 square miles of national forests. Though Chugach’s management
plan does not address climate change, she said, 12 of the 155
national forests do.
David Sampson, deputy commerce secretary, said the National Oceanic
and Atmospheric Administration is “at the forefront of global
efforts” to improve the ability to observe and forecast climate
change through computer modeling.
Copyright 2007 Associated Press. All rights reserved.
>discussed here are only half the battle-& we need to push the other
>equally critical half of the debate!
Right on, although we gotta take care to define
the limits of restoration. If that means
restoration of roadlessness, it’s doable, and
necessary. But if we define it as a return to
historic conditions, forget it. The climate is
already committed to forcing a lot of change on
present conditions, let alone historic ones. Too
many of our friends and colleagues still imagine
that it’s possible to restore historic
conditions, but here are some excerpts from a
journal article that should help people do the
needed catching up.
Vol. 14, No. 2, pp. 170-176
Ecological Restoration and Global Climate Change
James A. Harris, Richard J. Hobbs, Eric Higgs,and James Aronson
There is an increasing consensus that global
climate change occurs and that potential changes
in climate are likely to have important regional
consequences for biota and ecosystems. Ã…Â . In
particular, the usefulness of historical
ecosystem conditions as targets and references
must be set against the likelihood that restoring
these historic ecosystems is unlikely to be easy,
or even possible, in the changed biophysical
conditions of the future. ….
Ã…Â . Ecological restoration, particularly in terms
of (re)afforestation and restoration of degraded
agricultural land, is often seen as one of the
important responses to climate change because
such activities help influence the planet’s
carbon budget in a positive way (e.g., Watson et
al. 2000; Munasinghe & Swart 2005). However,
climate change also has the potential to
significantly influence the practice and outcomes
of ecological restoration carried out for other
purposes because of the changed biophysical
settings that will be prevalent in the future.
Set against this is a tendency in much
restoration practice, and indeed in much of the
theoretical discussion on restoration, to respect
historical conditions either as the basis for
explicit objectives or to reset ecological
processes to defined predisturbance conditions
(e.g., White & Walker 1997; Swetnam et al. 1999;
Egan & Howell 2001). Ã…Â
Climate Change Impacts
It is increasingly likely that the next century
will be characterized by shifts in global weather
patterns and climate regimesÃ…Â The predictions,
although containing wide latitudes of potential
outcome, are all pointing the same way:
d Changes in weather patterns
d Increases in mean temperatures
d Changes in patterns of precipitation
d Increasing incidence of extreme climatic events
d Increasing sea level
These changes are likely to be sudden (in some
cases over periods of <5 years) and unpredictable as to timing and intensity.. Ã…Â There is mounting evidence that the impacts of climate change on plant and animal species and ecosystems can already be detected (Parmesan & Yohe 2003; Root et al. 2003). Can impact on the human species be any less? Even without the predicted changes in climate over 50 years, the direct impacts of increasing CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere would themselves have important implications for restoration practices. For instance, detailed studies of African savanna dynamics by Bond & Midgley (2000) and Bond et al. (2003) indicate that the balance between herbaceous and woody components of savannas is strongly linked to atmospheric CO2 concentrations. This suggests that historical tree-grass proportions are unlikely to be replicated under current or future elevated CO2 levels; hence, the restoration of savanna ecosystems to a previous state may not be possible in the future with reasonable effortÃ…Â . This leads to the question ''how appropriate are historical ecosystem types when faced with rapidly changing biophysical conditions?'' Is it appropriate to consider a temperate woodland restoration endpoint in an area likely to be flooded by rising sea level? Why establish wetland in an area likely to become semiarid? Static Conservation and Restoration Objectives The predicted climate change scenarios will thus be particularly challenging in the context of national legislative frameworks designed to protect habitat types and important species. Ã…Â in Canada, recent legislation to protect species at risk focuses primary attention on species instead of ecosystems at risk, which binds recovery and restoration efforts to targets that may become increasingly difficult and expensive to reach. As the biophysical envelope changes geographically, these sites will no longer support many of the species used in the notification and designation process, which must then bring their special status into question. End of excerpts. If you would like to get the complete article as pdf file, just ask. Lance Olsen firstname.lastname@example.org _______________________________________________________________ "The green porcelain crabs were observed in Florida during 1990s, but have since appeared in large numbers in coastal waters of Georgia and South Carolina. Researchers don't know if they hitched a ride northward in the ballast of ships, whether warming water temperatures encouraged a northerly migration - or both." --------------------------------------------------- EurekAlert! AAAS Georgia Institute of Technology Public release date: 4-Sep-2007 Contact: John Toon email@example.com 404-894-6986 Georgia Institute of Technology Research News Tropical crab invades Georgia oyster reefs -- but the long-term impact can't be predicted Invasive species? A dime-sized tropical crab that has invaded coastal waters in the Southeast United States is having both positive and negative effects on oyster reefs, leaving researchers unable to predict what the creature's long-term impact will be. Unlike native crabs that eat baby oysters, mussels and fish, the green porcelain crab Petrolisthes armatus is a filter feeder, extracting its food from the water much as oysters do. The fast-reproducing invader therefore isn't directly attacking oyster populations, though it may be competing with them for food - and may impact the predators that normally attack the oysters. Two green porcelain crabs are shown among oyster shells. The non-native crabs are filter feeders and may compete with oysters and mussels for food. Click here for more information. Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology have spent more than three years studying the effects of the crab, and are reporting their findings in the journal Biological Invasions. The research, believed to be the first to document effects of the crab on oyster and mussel populations off the Southeast coast, was supported by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the Harry and Linda Teasley Endowment to Georgia Tech. "We're seeing opposing effects from these crabs," said Mark Hay, a professor in Georgia Tech's School of Biology. "They are probably having more impact on the ecosystem by being prey than by being predators. Other members of the ecosystem are feeding on them, and that is changing the rate at which fish and other crabs are feeding on the native species." The impact of the crabs is important because oysters are a "foundation species" essential to the health of coastal ecosystems because their reefs provide homes to dozens of other creatures. "These non-native crabs slow the rate of growth for organisms like oysters that they compete with, but they enhance the ability of those same organisms to survive when young," Hay noted. "They are probably competing with the oysters for food, but the native crabs have switched to eating these green porcelain crabs rather than eating the baby oysters. Even though their growth is suppressed, the baby oysters are not being attacked as much now by the native consumers." Though the crabs aren't killing existing populations of oysters, their long-term impact could still be significant. For instance, Hay noted, their availability as food could potentially increase the population of native crabs, disrupting the delicate balance between those predators and the oysters. But assessing the long-term impact of the crabs has been difficult because the creatures reproduce and grow rapidly, flooding the shallow coastal waters with their young. In research conducted off Skidaway Island and Sapelo Island on the Georgia coast, the researchers found "extraordinarily high" populations of the crab - as many as 11,000 individuals per square meter. To assess the impacts of the non-native crab population, graduate student Amanda Hollebone placed oysters and mussels into large baskets and located them on mud flats away from existing oyster reefs. Some of the baskets contained only oysters and mussels and were intended to serve as controls, some had a community of oysters, mussels, oyster drills and native mud crabs, while others had the same community spiked with non-native crabs. The distance from the existing oyster reefs was expected to prevent adult green porcelain crabs from reaching the baskets. However, the researchers found that within a month, the control baskets also had large populations of the green porcelain crabs that had reached the containers as juveniles settling from the water column. Entry of the crabs to the control baskets interfered with the researchers' ability to compare the traits of communities with and without the non-native crabs. "You get a true understanding of the sheer densities of these crabs only when you actually pick up or dig through clumps of oysters and oyster shell hash," said Hollebone, who is now a temporary assistant professor at Georgia Southern University in Statesboro. "Particularly in the summer months, I was never able to find a patch of oysters in the Savannah area that did not have the green porcelain crab." Because the green porcelain crabs quickly took over the control baskets, the researchers only had valid comparison data for 4-6 weeks. However, information from their baskets supported the observations made under more controlled - but less natural - conditions at Georgia Tech's laboratory at the Skidaway Institute of Oceanography near Savannah. As in the lab experiments, the researchers found that the crabs slowed the growth of small oysters, but not small mussels -- another common filter-feeder. The long-term effects of the massive crab population are difficult to predict. Their large numbers could lead to population growth among the native crabs and fish that now prefer eating them instead of their normal diet. But if the predator population should grow large enough to control the non-native crabs, that could lead to a decline in their numbers - and force the predators back to their traditional prey of oysters and mussels. "We're not sure what's going to happen," Hay said. "We can't really raise the alarm because we don't have the data to say these crabs are doing something bad. It's possible that they will not have a huge effect at all." Long-term observation of the oyster reefs may ultimately provide answers. "We have observed both positive and negative impacts on oysters and oyster-related biota at small scales, but we cannot definitively answer our concerns about oyster reefs at larger scales," Hollebone added. "With continued monitoring of large expanses of reefs, we may begin to understand the long-term, large-scale effects." The green porcelain crabs were observed in Florida during 1990s, but have since appeared in large numbers in coastal waters of Georgia and South Carolina. Researchers don't know if they hitched a ride northward in the ballast of ships, whether warming water temperatures encouraged a northerly migration - or both. Though not much is known about them in their native habitat, Hay said the crabs appear to be thriving in their new home. Population densities observed in the South Atlantic Bight are as much as 37 times higher than the greatest densities reported in their native habitat. ### Technical contact: Mark Hay (404-894-8429); E-mail: (firstname.lastname@example.org). [ Back to EurekAlert! ] [ Print Article | E-mail Article | Close Window ] --