California: Taking Stock, Looking Ahead

by Erika Zavaleta

This guest post is published to coincide with the Ecological Society of America conference in Baltimore, MD. Come back for a new post every day through the end of the conference on Thursday, August 13th.

9780520278806 (1)Hal Mooney and I envisioned Ecosystems of California to tackle a simple question: what do we know about the trajectory of this globally significant region’s ecology, from the deep past into the next 100 years? To understand process and dynamism in what has long been a complex social-ecological system called for a close look at prehistory as well as scenarios for the future, and management and use as well as natural history. An ecology that includes society has roots in the peculiar way that science evolved in California from the late 19th century: rapidly, with strong integration across disciplines from geology to botany, and in the context of sweeping environmental changes that from the outset linked ecological science with conservation efforts here. A social take on ecology is not the same thing as a perspective that nature is dead. To the contrary, in the words of contributors Bernie Tershy and colleagues, it is an explicit look at the power we hold given California’s extraordinary intellectual, economic and cultural resources to “have both thriving human communities and thriving ecosystems with their full diversity of species.”

We live in exciting times. California, as the rest of the world, faces accelerating change on every front. The perspectives of many contributors to our book converged on climate change, invasive species, and continued land cover change as particularly acute challenges to the region. The happy news is that much of this ongoing change is also for good: leaving behind the long legacy of DDT and the nadir of our state’s air and water quality, discovering new restoration tools and conservation partnerships, innovating policy responses to climate change, recovering long-lost species, forging sustainable paths in forestry and fisheries management. With each passing year, any future possible becomes the one we have chosen. A crucial piece of choosing well, and realizing that vision, is to understand the dynamics and history of our ecological heritage and to embrace our roles in it.

Erika Zavaleta is Professor of Environmental Studies at University of California, Santa Cruz. Her research bridges ecological theory with conservation and management practice. She received the 2008 Sustainability Science Award from the Ecological Society of America and has published in Science, Nature, and the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

 

 


Gardens of the Queen, a Bygone Era for Coral Reefs, or a Future that Benefits from Bygone Eras?

by Keryn B. Gedan

This guest post is published to coincide with the Ecological Society of America conference in Baltimore, MD. Come back for a new post every day through the end of the conference on Thursday, August 13th.

9780520276949 (1)Cuba’s Jardines de la Reina (Gardens of the Queen) marine protected area, recently in the news due to the thawing of relations with the United States, is described as a time capsule of the Caribbean 50 to 100 years ago, before widespread degradation of coral reefs by disease, climate change, and overfishing. It teems with sharks and large fish, including the endangered goliath grouper (Pina-Amargós et al. 2014).

However, as marine biologist John Bruno underscores in an excellent blog piece, the reefs of the Gardens of the Queen are not immune to the regional decline in coral cover, given their low coral cover (18%) relative to a historical baseline for the region (50% coral cover), and low coral recruitment. Bruno’s finding that Cuba’s celebrated MPA is hardly “pristine” may shock many observers. However, his analysis will not surprise scientists with an appreciation of marine historical ecology, the study of past interactions between people and the marine environment. After all, scientists who value marine historical ecology are trained to look beyond discussions of how marine ecosystems “should look” at present to focus instead on how these ecosystems did look over past centuries or millennia. In that context, virtually no environment can be described as pristine.

Rather than merely describing past systems, today’s marine historical ecologists learn from the past to inform conservation efforts. Fishing bans led to the remarkable recovery of fish and shark populations over the past two decades in the Gardens of the Queen, demonstrating the resilience of some marine populations and the effectiveness of no-take MPAs for a diversity of fish species. But just how effective is protection over multiple generations of marine animals? A recent synthesis of population trajectories after the implementation of harvesting bans and other legislated protection shows that some species recover, while others do not; that species with more severe declines exhibit weaker recoveries; and that recoveries often take much longer than 20 years (Lotze 2015). There are countless useful historical examples of how human communities have managed marine environments. For instance, Kittinger et al. (2015) find that the native Hawaiians fished reefs sustainably for centuries prior to Western contact using customary management approaches that included time and area closures, gear restrictions, and social taboos on overharvest and waste.

These lessons, collected in a new release from UC Press, Marine Historical Ecology in Conservation by Kittinger and colleagues, are timely for Cuba’s Gardens of the Queen MPA, where the relationship between people and place is on the brink of change, and where the future is likely to hold more intensive tourism, sport fishing, and marine research. Nor is Cuba alone in facing conservation challenges and environmental change that demand time-tested best practices of conservation and management.

Keryn B. Gedan, PhD, is Lecturer in the Sustainable Development and Conservation Biology Graduate Program at the University of Maryland.

References:

Kittinger, J.N., Cinner, J.E., Aswani, S., and A.T. White. 2015. Back to the future: Integrating customary practices and institutions into comanagement of small-scale fisheries. In Marine historical ecology in conservation: applying the past to manage for the future. Eds. Kittinger, J.N., McClenachan, L., Gedan, K.B., and Blight, L.K. UC Press.

Lotze, H. 2015. What recovery of exploited marine animals tells us about management and conservation. In Marine historical ecology in conservation: applying the past to manage for the future. Eds. Kittinger, J.N., McClenachan, L., Gedan, K.B., and L.K. Blight. UC Press.

Pina-Amargós, F., González-Sansón, G., Martín-Blanco, F., and A. Valdivia. 2014. Evidence for protection of targeted reef fish on the largest marine reserve in the Caribbean. PeerJ 2:e274. https://dx.doi.org/10.7717/peerj.274

 


Getting Ahead of the Endangered Species Act

by Josh Donlan

This guest post is published to coincide with the Ecological Society of America conference in Baltimore, MD. Come back for a new post every day through the end of the conference on Thursday, August 13th.

Donlan
Josh Donlan

While there are many views on the US Endangered Species Act (ESA), few would argue that it is efficient and cost-effective. Acting late to save something rare is usually slow and expensive. It also causes conflict—which is all too common with endangered species conservation. Thus, any policy that incentivizes conservation action for imperiled species prior to their listing under the ESA should be embraced wholeheartedly. Such proactive policies are especially needed in today’s world. Many, if not most, species are conservation-reliant: the threats they face cannot be entirely eliminated; rather, they must be constantly managed and minimized. Privately held land makes up the majority of land tenure in the United States, and a high percentage of at-risk species and their habitats are found on private lands.

The ESA is strongest at preventing additional harm from occurring. It is weak in promoting proactive measures to improve environmental conditions. Due out this summer, prelisting conservation does just that: provides incentives for landowners to conserve candidate species before they are listed.

In US Fish and Wildlife Service’s own words, the proposed policy “provides a mechanism for landowners, government agencies, and others to obtain credits for current conservation efforts benefitting declining species. These conservation credits can be redeemed later or sold to a third party to offset or mitigate detrimental actions to a species if it later gains ESA protection. Credits can be earned only before a species becomes listed and only for actions that are not mandated by federal, state, or local law.”

This is a big deal for several reasons.

First, it provides a policy pathway for anyone to invest in early species conservation, and get credit for that action if and when the species is listed. This means private entities and federal agencies. Those investment and actions must be voluntary and part of a state conservation program. Prelisting conservation is different from similar policy instruments in place, such as Conservation Agreements with Assurances (CCAA). These are only available to non-federal property owners. Providing a proactive tool to agencies like the Department of Defense could drastically improve voluntary species conservation on military lands (e.g., the US Marine Corp alone operates on 2.3 million acres). Further, CCAAs only provide assurances on the lack of further obligations if a species is listed. In contrast, prelisting conservation policy will provide credits that can be carried forward and used to mitigate the impacts of actions carried out subsequent to listing.

Second, prelisting credits are transferable. This opens up the opportunity for regional prelisting species conservation markets. The Service is allowing for flexibility on the criteria of a credit, which will likely vary across species and situation. However, any credit must meet a net conservation benefit standard: “a credit must be greater than the detriment from the action for which the credit is later redeemed, providing an overall benefit to the species.” The ability to buy and sell credits is perhaps the most exciting aspect of prelisting conservation policy. Why? Because it potentially provides strong incentives for private landowners to engage in stewardship behaviors for imperiled species. A rancher in the West could receive an annual check from an oil and gas company to restore and maintain healthy Greater Sage-Grouse habitat. Instead of selling his land because of high property taxes, a retired Georgia forest landowner could improve his land for gopher tortoises via prescribed burning and invasive plant control, and get paid by the the US Army to do so. These are exciting prospects.

There is strong support for prelisting conservation policy, including from the Western Governor’s Association. The devil, of course, is in the execution. Practitioners should take special care in the design of prelisting conservation programs. That care should extend beyond the biology of the target species to include the potential buyers and sellers of credits. Understanding the needs and preference of the buyers and sellers will be essential in order to design programs that incentivize sufficient participation to achieve the desired landscape-level net conservation benefits. Program designers should remember that these programs are voluntary—and a program with few participants will do little for species conservation nor public support for the ESA.

Josh Donlan is the Director of Advanced Conservation Strategies, a Visiting Fellow at Cornell University, and editor of Proactive Strategies for Protecting Species: Pre-listing Conservation and US Endangered Species Act (March 2015, UC Press).


2015 Ecological Society of America

Cast your academic fishing nets into the Chesapeake Bay with University of California Press during the 2015 Ecological Society of America meeting! This year’s ESA meeting convenes August 9-14 in Baltimore, MD.

Visit us at Baltimore Convention Center booths 307 and 309 to purchase our latest ecology and environment publications for the following offers:

  • 30% off conference discount and free worldwide shipping
  • Request exam copy requests for course adoption for your upcoming classes
  • Win $100 worth of books! Join our eNews subscription list for contest eligibility.

This year’s ESA meeting theme is “Ecological Science at the Frontier.” Our booth will feature groundbreaking and award winning titles exploring topics within ecology, conservation, marine biology, and environmental history.

Please see our conference program ad for our latest offerings. Acquisitions and marketing staff will be available for your publishing questions.

Follow ESA’s Twitter @esa_org and hashtag #ESA2015 for current meeting news.


Sale Extended Through June 5 – Save 40%

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Our sale has been extended through June 5th!

Use discount code 15W8482 at checkout on our for 40% off your purchase. For orders shipped to the US and Canada use the “Shop Now” button below. For international orders please see our website for ordering instructions. This is your last chance!

This is the perfect opportunity to get some of our most anticipated Fall titles:

Parrots of the WildParrots of the Wild: A Natural History of the World’s Most Captivating Birds

Catherine A. Toft and Tim Wright

A synthetic account of the diversity and ecology of wild parrots, this book distills knowledge from the authors’ own research and from their review of more than 2,400 published scientific studies. The book is enhanced by an array of illustrations, including nearly ninety color photos of wild parrots represented in their natural habitats. Parrots of the Wild melds scientific exploration with features directed at the parrot enthusiast to inform and delight a broad audience.

 

Autobiography of Mark Twain, Volume 3The Autobiography of Mark Twain, Volume 3: The Complete and Authoritative Edition

Edited by Benjamin Griffin and Harriet E. Smith

The surprising final chapter of a great American life. Created from March 1907 to December 1909, these dictations present Mark Twain at the end of his life. Also included in this final volume of the Autobiography is the previously unpublished “Ashcroft-Lyon Manuscript.”

 

 

 

Islamic StateIslamic State: The Digital Caliphate

Abdel Bari Atwan

Islamic State stunned the world when it overran an area the size of Great Britain on both sides of the Iraq-Syria border in a matter of weeks and proclaimed the birth of a new Caliphate. In this timely and important book, Abdel Bari Atwan draws on his unrivaled knowledge of the global jihadi movement and Middle Eastern geopolitics to reveal the origins and modus operandi of Islamic State.

 

 

The Land of Open GravesThe Land of Open Graves: Living and Dying on the Migrant Trail

Jason De León with photographs by Michael Wells

In his gripping and provocative debut, anthropologist Jason De León sheds light on one of the most pressing political issues of our time—the human consequences of US immigration policy. The Land of Open Graves reveals the suffering and death that take place daily in the Sonoran Desert of Arizona as thousands of undocumented migrants attempt to cross from Mexico into the United States.

 

 


Save 40% on all UCPress titles, June 3-4, 2015

onlinesale2015_homepage

UC Press brings you innovative, thought-provoking books on a world of subjects. Explore thousands of titles in your areas of interest—from cultural history and social problems to wine guides and popular music.

Use discount code 15W8482 at checkout on our for 40% off your purchase. For orders shipped to the US and Canada use the “Shop Now” button below. For international orders please see our website for ordering instructions. Today and tomorrow (June 3 and 4) only.

This is also a great opportunity to pre-order some of our biggest titles coming out this fall.

Parrots of the WildParrots of the Wild: A Natural History of the World’s Most Captivating Birds

Catherine A. Toft and Tim Wright

A synthetic account of the diversity and ecology of wild parrots, this book distills knowledge from the authors’ own research and from their review of more than 2,400 published scientific studies. The book is enhanced by an array of illustrations, including nearly ninety color photos of wild parrots represented in their natural habitats. Parrots of the Wild melds scientific exploration with features directed at the parrot enthusiast to inform and delight a broad audience.

 

 

Autobiography of Mark Twain, Volume 3The Autobiography of Mark Twain, Volume 3: The Complete and Authoritative Edition

Edited by Benjamin Griffin and Harriet E. Smith

The surprising final chapter of a great American life. Created from March 1907 to December 1909, these dictations present Mark Twain at the end of his life. Also included in this final volume of the Autobiography is the previously unpublished “Ashcroft-Lyon Manuscript.”

 

 

 

Islamic StateIslamic State: The Digital Caliphate

Abdel Bari Atwan

Islamic State stunned the world when it overran an area the size of Great Britain on both sides of the Iraq-Syria border in a matter of weeks and proclaimed the birth of a new Caliphate. In this timely and important book, Abdel Bari Atwan draws on his unrivaled knowledge of the global jihadi movement and Middle Eastern geopolitics to reveal the origins and modus operandi of Islamic State.

 

 

The Land of Open Graves

The Land of Open Graves: Living and Dying on the Migrant Trail

Jason De León with photographs by Michael Wells

In his gripping and provocative debut, anthropologist Jason De León sheds light on one of the most pressing political issues of our time—the human consequences of US immigration policy. The Land of Open Graves reveals the suffering and death that take place daily in the Sonoran Desert of Arizona as thousands of undocumented migrants attempt to cross from Mexico into the United States.

 

 


Dry Land: Surprising Ways to Conserve Water in Our Current Drought

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Image via Pixabay.com

It’s no secret that California is currently in a water crisis. With the state enacting an emergency drought plan and some cities establishing strict drought rules, people are looking to conserve as much water as possible. In an effort to find some more creative ways to use less water, we turned to some of our sustainability-minded authors for ideas. Read on to find out some ways to reduce your water use that go beyond spending a little less time in the shower.

Continue reading “Dry Land: Surprising Ways to Conserve Water in Our Current Drought”


Have You Hugged Your Planet Today?

 

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Image via Pixabay.com

On April 22, 1970, the inaugural Earth Day celebration helped galvanize the environmental movement in America and forged a new zeitgeist that put the health of the planet front and center for the next decade. Forty-five years later, Earth Day is celebrated by more than a billion people worldwide and has blossomed into a weeklong event. That’s a lot of love for our Pale Blue Dot! And while we’ve seen many successes since its first observance in 1970—including the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency, and the passage of The Endangered Species Act and the Clean Air and Water acts—we’ve also experienced significant setbacks to the health of our planet due to climate change, ocean acidification, deforestation, habitat loss, species extinction, and war.

Continue reading “Have You Hugged Your Planet Today?”


Earth Day Special: What Do You Believe?

This guest post by author Linda Weintraub, To Life!: Eco Art in Pursuit of a Sustainable Planet, considers personal beliefs around environmental issues and art for Earth Day.

A planet in peril has convinced many environmentalists to call for a complete overhaul of humanity’s current means for acquiring, using, and discarding resources. They share a widespread conviction that that the seeds of environmental reform are not tangible or technological; they are conceptual and subjective. While our material interactions with the planet originate in attitudes and assumptions, no authority exists to define and enforce the cultural values that generate sustainable actions.

Photo of vapor emissions from the Salmisaari coal burning power plant illuminated with a high power green laser animation.
HeHe: Nuage Vert

Nonetheless, environmental reform depends as much upon each individual’s subjective opinions as upon industry’s technologies and the government’s ordinances. Often we are not aware of our own attitudes and outlooks until someone asks for our opinion.

The concepts and choices in this personal survey (see link below) are designed to help you construct a blueprint of your individual environmental beliefs. It is hoped that this blueprint may encourage you to reflect upon your material interactions and consider integrating these insights into your creative art practices.

Thus, let us honor the Earth on Earth Day by reflecting upon its current state and the choices we might make on its behalf.

Download the Personal Environmental Survey, and find additional classroom exercises here.

 

Cover image of Linda Weintraub's To Life!: Eco-Art in Pursuit of a Sustainable Planet, ISBN 9780520273627

Linda Weintraub is author of To Life!: Eco Art in Pursuit of a Sustainable Planet, Art on the Edge and Over: Searching for Art’s Meaning in Contemporary SocietyIn the Making: Creative Options for Contemporary Art and Avant-Guardians: Textlets in Art and Ecology. She is a contributor to the Women Environmental Artists Directory (WEAD) magazine Issue 6 on ‘Dirty Water’, and her upcoming appearances include Evergreen College, Washington (April 22-23) and BBOX radio interview (April 29).

 

 


Proactive Strategies for Protecting Species

Beyond the obvious scholarship that goes into any UC Press book—research, writing, and editing—are challenges that even sophisticated readers and reviewers may remain happily unaware of. In this multi-part Behind the Scenes series, we throw light on the hurdles UC Press authors face in bringing their work to the public. From field work logistics in foreign countries, to the regulatory snags of evolving public policy, to the unique concerns that scholars of human subjects face, learn about the lengths to which authors go to present their scholarship to the public.

Fixing the ESA

The US Endangered Species Act protects over 2,000 species. Only 10 species have gone extinct after they were listed. On the other hand, only 25 species have been “de-listed” (meaning they’ve recovered enough to be considered safe from extinction).

Between those two statistics lie myriad perspectives on how well the ESA has performed since its ground-breaking inception over 40 years ago.

Josh Donlan
Josh Donlan

Josh Donlan, editor of the just-published Proactive Strategies for Protecting Species, has corralled unlikely bedfellows—private landowners, conservationists, government agencies, NGOs, scientists, academics, and developers—into sharing divergent viewpoints on how best to improve the ESA—that it’s outdated is the one point on which they all agree. (The ESA hasn’t been updated in 25 years, and litigation robs resources earmarked for species conservation.) He also debuts a pragmatic new approach to best conserve species headed toward extinction … helping as they speed toward the falls, rather than triaging after they’ve plunged over.

Read more