Environmental Studies and Sciences News & Events
Friday, Jan. 24, 2014
On January 14, 2014, the San Jose Chapter of the American Society of Safety Engineers presented the Fall 2013 Scholarship Award to Kelsey Baker. The award included a $1500 check and one year paid membership. Kelsey is a senior at Santa Clara University, majoring in Environmental Science. Her main area of concentration is in Sustainability, and has led many related projects and organizations including "Think Outside the Bottle" and the OCEANS Club. Presenting the award to Kelsey is Steven Hochstadt, ASSE-SJ Scholarship Chair.
Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2014
A new study finds that even with very modest precipitation changes, water supplies in the upper Colorado River basin could significantly decline by 2100, with severe consequences for agriculture, urban supplies, and ecosystem health.
The Colorado River is widely considered the most important source of water in the western United States, providing water to 30 million people and large agricultural regions and generating 8 billion kilowatt hours of hydroelectric power annually.
Many previous studies have debated whether climate change will bring a wetter or drier future to the Colorado. In this paper, Researchers Darren Ficklin (now Indiana University), Iris Stewart (ESS) and Ed Maurer (CE) used the projections from established global climate models as input to a hydrologic model to forecast what is likely to happen to water flow and other hydrologic measures, such as evaporation and transpiration on a fine scale. Their findings show that the effects of highly likely warmer temperatures will be more important than either modest precipitation increases or decreases. Thus, even if the Colorado Basin will receive some more rain and snow in the future, warmer temperatures are forecast to lead to overall less water availability due to higher evaporation rates and a lot less snow that is melting earlier in the year. In addition, the higher evaporation could mean that soils in the basin will be dryer on average, such that the lower regions of the basin turn from semi-arid to arid conditions by the end of the century.
The full paper can be found at: Ficklin DL, Stewart IT, Maurer EP (2013) Climate Change Impacts on Streamflow and Subbasin-Scale Hydrology in the Upper Colorado River Basin. PLoS ONE 8(8): e71297. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0071297
Funding for this work was provided by the US EPA under a STAR (Science to Achieve Results) Grant.
Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2014
ESS faculty member Leslie Gray's (with co-author Brian Dowd) newly published paper examines how liberalization reforms in Burkina Faso’s cotton sector have led to socio-economic differentiation. This research helps us understand the differences among Africa farmers, particularly with respect to their access to land, inputs and broader social institutions and networks. In particular, new grower cooperatives have become a site for wealthier farmers to exert influence on how debts are repaid and inputs distributed, largely to the detriment of poorer producers.
The full article reference is:
Gray, Leslie and Brian Dowd-Uribe, 2013. A political ecology of socio-economic differentiation: debt, inputs and liberalization reforms in southwestern Burkina Faso. Journal of Peasant Studies, Vol. 40:3-8, pp. 683-702.
Friday, Jan. 17, 2014
Land managers have long fought plant invasions in wildlands because invaders can harm native biodiversity, choking out native species and reducing habitat quality for animal species. But a recent paper in Bioscience, co-authored by ESS assistant professor Virginia Matzek, argues that land managers should be focusing more on invaders that have impacts on ecosystem services, the natural benefits that intact, functioning ecosystems provide to humans. For instance, some plant invaders are water hogs, depleting water that could otherwise go to irrigation; others impede navigation in streams or decrease salmon runs.
The Bioscience paper proposes that broadening the focus of management efforts to include impacts on ecosystem services may also improve the funding situation for invasive plan management, which has suffered under the recent economic decline. Currently, innovative payment for ecosystem services schemes are being developed to link natural resource management with benefits to stakeholders and users, and weed management, if linked to ecosystem service provision, could fit well into these new approaches.
The full article reference is Funk, JL; Matzek, V; Bernhardt, M; and Johnson, D. 2014. Broadening the case for invasive species management to include impacts on ecosystem services. Bioscience 64(1): 58-63. A draft version is available here.