An Earth Appreciation Reading List for #EarthDay2018

Each year, Earth Day is about both honoring the ongoing work of the environmental movement as well as appreciating the wonders of the planet that we live on. We’ve selected a few new titles below that showcase both calls to action and appreciation of the diversity of landscapes here on planet Earth. Happy #EarthDay2018!

Coasts in Crisis: A Global Challenge
Gary Griggs

Coastal regions around the world have become increasingly crowded, intensively developed, and severely exploited. Hundreds of millions of people living in these low-lying areas are subject to short-term coastal hazards such as cyclones, hurricanes, and destruction due to El Niño, and are also exposed to the long-term threat of global sea-level rise. Coasts in Crisis is a comprehensive assessment of the impacts that the human population is having on the coastal zone globally and the diverse ways in which coastal hazards impact human settlement and development.

 

Grand Canyon for Sale: Public Lands versus Private Interests in the Era of Climate Change
Stephen Nash

Grand Canyon For Sale is a carefully researched investigation of the precarious future of America’s public lands: our national parks, forests, wildlife refuges, monuments, and wildernesses. Taking the Grand Canyon as his key example, and using on-the-ground reporting as well as scientific research, Stephen Nash shows how accelerating climate change will dislocate wildlife populations and vegetation across hundreds of thousands of square miles of the national landscape.

 

The Myth of Silent Spring: Rethinking the Origins of American Environmentalism
Chad Montrie

Since its publication in 1962, Rachel Carson’s book Silent Spring has often been celebrated as the catalyst that sparked an American environmental movement. Yet environmental consciousness and environmental protest in some regions of the United States date back to the nineteenth century, with the advent of industrial manufacturing and the consequent growth of cities. As these changes transformed people’s lives, ordinary Americans came to recognize the connections between economic exploitation, social inequality, and environmental problems. As the modern age dawned, they turned to labor unions, sportsmen’s clubs, racial and ethnic organizations, and community groups to respond to such threats accordingly. The Myth of Silent Spring tells this story.

 

Cane Toad Wars
Rick Shine

Cane Toad Wars chronicles the work of intrepid scientist Rick Shine, who has been documenting the cane toad’s ecological impact in Australia and seeking to buffer it. Despite predictions of devastation in the wake of advancing toad hordes, the author’s research reveals a more complex and nuanced story. A firsthand account of a perplexing ecological problem and an important exploration of how we measure evolutionary change and ecological resilience, this book makes an effective case for the value of long-term natural history research in informing conservation practice.

 

The Mountains That Remade America: How Sierra Nevada Geology Impacts Modern Life
Craig H. Jones

From ski towns to national parks, fresh fruit to environmental lawsuits, the Sierra Nevada has changed the way Americans live. Whether and where there was gold to be mined redefined land, mineral, and water laws. Where rain falls (and where it doesn’t) determines whose fruit grows on trees and whose appears on slot machines. All this emerges from the geology of the range and how it changed history, and in so doing, changed the country.


Happy Earth Day 2018 from Case Studies in the Environment!

From Earth Day Network’s The History of Earth Day:

The idea for a national day to focus on the environment came to Earth Day founder Gaylord Nelson, then a U.S. Senator from Wisconsin, after witnessing the ravages of the 1969 massive oil spill in Santa Barbara, California. Inspired by the student anti-war movement, he realized that if he could infuse that energy with an emerging public consciousness about air and water pollution, it would force environmental protection onto the national political agenda. Senator Nelson announced the idea for a “national teach-in on the environment” to the national media; persuaded Pete McCloskey, a conservation-minded Republican Congressman, to serve as his co-chair; and recruited Denis Hayes from Harvard as national coordinator. Hayes built a national staff of 85 to promote events across the land. April 22, falling between Spring Break and Final Exams, was selected as the date.

While there may be some debate about the origins of the environmental movement as we know it, there can be no debate that we face many environmental challenges in the world today. Earth Day is a time to reflect on these challenges but also to be thankful for new understandings and solutions, and to continue to build towards a brighter environmental future for us all.

For Earth Day 2018, we at UC Press offer up stories of renewable energy, taking a night class in the forest, revitalizing our waterways and forests, and more—in fact all Case Studies in the Environment content is free for your reading pleasure, through the remainder of 2018.

Happy Earth Day 2018!


6 Elementa Articles for World Water Day 2018

In honor of World Water Day 2018 on March 22, we are pleased to highlight 6 water-focused articles from our open access, trans-disciplinary journal Elementa: Science of the Anthropocene. With research on floods and droughts, oceans and rivers, agriculture and food-energy systems, these articles are among Elementa‘s many peer-reviewed scientific reports addressing water challenges and solutions in this era of human impact. #WorldWaterDay


Earth & Environmental Science, Sustainability Transitions

From Figure 7 in “Water depletion: An improved metric for incorporating seasonal and dry-year water scarcity into water risk assessments”

Water depletion: An improved metric for incorporating seasonal and dry-year water scarcity into water risk assessments
Brauman KA, Richter BD, Postel S, Malsy M, Flörke M. 2016.
18,296 views/downloads, 11 citations, Altmetric Score 105

Evolving deltas: Coevolution with engineered interventions
Welch AC, Nicholls RJ, Lázár AN. 2017.
367 views/downloads, Altmetric Score 7
Special Feature: Deltas in the Anthropocene

 

California’s drought as opportunity: Redesigning U.S. agriculture for a changing climate
Morris KS, Bucini G. 2016.
3,214 views/downloads, 1 citation, Altmetric Score 3
Forum: New Pathways to Sustainability in Agroecological Systems

Earth & Environmental Science, Ocean Science, Sustainability Transitions

Effective inundation of continental United States communities with 21st century sea level rise
Dahl KA, Spanger-Siegfried E, Caldas A, Udvardy S. 2017.
4,495 views/downloads, Altmetric Score 65

Sustainability Transitions

From Figure 2 in “River restoration by dam removal: Enhancing connectivity at watershed scales”

River restoration by dam removal: Enhancing connectivity at watershed scales
Magilligan FJ, Graber BE, Nislow KH, Chipman JW, Sneddon CS, Fox CA. 2016.
10,290 views/downloads, 4 citations, Altmetric Score 42

Leveraging agroecology for solutions in food, energy, and water
DeLonge M, Basche A. 2017.
1,129 views/downloads, 2 citations, Altmetric Score 44
Forum: Food-Energy-Water Systems: Opportunities at the Nexus


About Elementa: Elementa: Science of the Anthropocene is a trans-disciplinary, open-access journal committed to the facilitation of collaborative, peer-reviewed research. With the ultimate objective of accelerating scientific solutions to the challenges presented by this era of human impact, it is uniquely structured into six distinct knowledge domains, and gives authors the opportunity to publish in one or multiple domains, helping them to present their research and commentary to interested readers from disciplines related to their own.

To read more open access Elementa content, or to submit your own article, please visit us at elementascience.org.


Climate Day 2018: Books for #ClimateAction

Happy Climate Day 2018! 

Today, we stand in support of the movement to reverse climate change and to protect the Earth’s natural resources. For the occasion, we are pleased to highlight four books that address the changing natural landscape, as well as what actions we can take to support preservation and sustainability.

Check out #climateday2018 and the Climate Change tag on the UC Press Blog for more, and explore more Natural Sciences titles on our online catalogue.


Imagining the Future of Climate Change: World-Making through Science Fiction and Activism
Shelley Streeby (Author)

From the 1960s to the present, activists, artists, and science fiction writers have imagined the consequences of climate change and its impacts on our future. Authors such as Octavia Butler and Leslie Marmon Silko, movie directors such as Bong Joon-Ho, and creators of digital media such as the makers of the Maori web series Anamata Future News have all envisioned future worlds during and after environmental collapse, engaging audiences to think about the earth’s sustainability. As public awareness of climate change has grown, so has the popularity of works of climate fiction that connect science with activism.

Today, real-world social movements helmed by Indigenous people and people of color are leading the way against the greatest threat to our environment: the fossil fuel industry. Their stories and movements—in the real world and through science fiction—help us all better understand the relationship between activism and culture, and how both can be valuable tools in creating our future. Imagining the Future of Climate Change introduces readers to the history and most significant flashpoints in climate justice through speculative fictions and social movements, exploring post-disaster possibilities and the art of world-making.

 

The Myth of Silent Spring: Rethinking the Origins of American Environmentalism
Chad Montrie (Author)

Since its publication in 1962, Rachel Carson’s book Silent Spring has often been celebrated as the catalyst that sparked an American environmental movement. Yet environmental consciousness and environmental protest in some regions of the United States date back to the nineteenth century, with the advent of industrial manufacturing and the consequent growth of cities. As these changes transformed people’s lives, ordinary Americans came to recognize the connections between economic exploitation, social inequality, and environmental problems. As the modern age dawned, they turned to labor unions, sportsmen’s clubs, racial and ethnic organizations, and community groups to respond to such threats accordingly. The Myth of Silent Spring tells this story. By challenging the canonical “songbirds and suburbs” interpretation associated with Carson and her work, the book gives readers a more accurate sense of the past and better prepares them for thinking and acting in the present.

 

Coasts in Crisis: A Global Challenge
Gary Griggs (Author)

Coastal regions around the world have become increasingly crowded, intensively developed, and severely exploited. Hundreds of millions of people living in these low-lying areas are subject to short-term coastal hazards such as cyclones, hurricanes, and destruction due to El Niño, and are also exposed to the long-term threat of global sea-level rise. These massive concentrations of people expose often-fragile coastal environments to the runoff and pollution from municipal, industrial, and agricultural sources as well as the impacts of resource exploitation and a wide range of other human impacts. Can environmental impacts be reduced or mitigated and can coastal regions adapt to natural hazards?

Coasts in Crisis is a comprehensive assessment of the impacts that the human population is having on the coastal zone globally and the diverse ways in which coastal hazards impact human settlement and development. Gary Griggs provides a concise overview of the individual hazards, risks, and issues threatening the coastal zone.

 

Grand Canyon For Sale: Public Lands versus Private Interests in the Era of Climate Change
Stephen Nash (Author)

Grand Canyon For Sale is a carefully researched investigation of the precarious future of America’s public lands: our national parks, forests, wildlife refuges, monuments, and wildernesses. Taking the Grand Canyon as his key example, and using on-the-ground reporting as well as scientific research, Stephen Nash shows how accelerating climate change will dislocate wildlife populations and vegetation across hundreds of thousands of square miles of the national landscape.

In addition, a growing political movement, well financed and occasionally violent, is fighting to break up these federal lands and return them to state, local, and private control. That scheme would foreclose the future for many wild species, which are part of our irreplaceable natural heritage, and also would devastate our national parks, forests, and other public lands.

To safeguard wildlife and their habitats, it is essential to consolidate protected areas and prioritize natural systems over mining, grazing, drilling, and logging. Grand Canyon For Sale provides an excellent overview of the physical and biological challenges facing public lands. The book also exposes and shows how to combat the political activity that threatens these places in the U.S. today.


Dive Deep into the Story of Jane Goodall in The Ghosts of Gombe

This brilliant narrative will haunt you. Dale Peterson has brought to life the Gombe of the late 1960’s, describing the entwined lives of the chimpanzees and the people studying them. It’s a true story of adventure, danger, and sudden death that makes compelling reading.”—Jane Goodall

Flying over the East African Rift and landing at the airstrip at Kigoma, Tanzania, you arrive in the thick of the Gombe forest. The forest has remained largely unaltered by human presence by its remoteness as well as its cutural traditions. The local people regard the forest as the “sacred lair of their formidable earth spirits.”

However, when Jane Goodall landed in the Gombe forest in 1960, the area was primarily labeled as a British mandate and Chimpanzee reserve. Over the next several decades, Goodall would establish her Gombe research camp and begin her groundbreaking chimpanzee research that would eventually win her numerous accolades and drastically alter the way that humans view the natural world.

The first decade was largely without incident until one day in July 1969. A week prior, Ruth Davis, a young American woman working as a volunteer at Goodall’s research site, wandered away from the camp to follow a chimpanzee and never returned. Several days later, her body was found in a pool at the base of a nearby high waterfall.

Rewinding several months, The Ghosts of Gombe follows the day-to-day experiences of those living in Goodall’s wilderness research camp in the months leading up to this tragic death. Dale Peterson explores the social dynamics and human-chimpanzee friendships and complex emotions flowing through the camp, while also posing questions about Ruth’s death. Was it an accident? Was she pushed, or did she fall to her death? Regardless of the specifics, it would go on to haunt two of the survivors for the rest of their lives.

Click through to the UC Press website to learn more about this unique glimpse into the everyday of the Gombe Stream National Park research camp, and save 30% on all pre-orders with promo code 17W7196.

Dale Peterson is the author or editor of twenty books, including Jane Goodall: The Woman Who Redefined ManDemonic Males: Apes and the Origins of Human Violence (coauthored with Richard Wrangham), The Moral Lives of Animals, and Eating Apes. Learn more about Dale at his website.


Must-Read Journals for #AHA18

The American Historical Association is convening in Washington, DC for its 132nd annual meeting from January 4-7, 2018. The theme for this year’s conference is “Race, Ethnicity, and Nationalism in Global Perspective.” UC Press’s history journals are contributing to the conversation by making a selection of content speaking to this theme available for free for a limited time. Please follow the links below and share your comments on social media using #AHA18.


Pacific Historical Review Special Issue:
Alternative Wests: Rethinking Manifest Destiny
Guest Edited by Andrew C. Isenberg

The mid-nineteenth century territorial growth of the United States was complex and contradictory. Not only did Mexico, Britain, and Native Americans contest U.S. territorial objectives; so, too, did many within the United States and in some cases American western settlers themselves. The notion of manifest destiny reflects few of these complexities. Manifest destiny was a partisan idea that emerged in a context of division and uncertainty intended to overawe opponents of expansion. Only in the early twentieth century, as the United States had consolidated its hold on the North American West and was extending its power into the Caribbean and Pacific, did historians begin to describe manifest destiny as something that it never was in the nineteenth century: a consensus. To a significant extent, historians continue to rely on the idea to explain U.S. expansion. This Special Issue argues for returning a sense of context and contingency to the understanding of mid-nineteenth-century U.S. expansion. Read the special issue.

 

Historical Studies in the Natural Sciences offers the following articles on the #AHA18 theme for you to read for free for a limited time:

Instruments of Science or Conquest: Neocolonialism and Modern American Astronomy
Leandra Swanner

Fellow Travelers and Traveling Fellows: The Intercontinental Shaping of Modern Mathematics in Mid-Twentieth Century Latin America
Michael J. Barany

Darwin and the Ethnologists: Liberal Racialism and the Geological Analogy
Suman Seth

Retouching the Past with Living Things: Indigenous Species, Tradition, and Biological Research in Republican China, 1918-1937
Lijing Jiang

Bred for the Race: Thoroughbred Breeding and Racial Science in the United States, 1900-1940
Brian Terrell

Visualizing ‘Race’ in the Eighteenth Century
Snait B. Missis

Master of the Master Gland: Choh Hao Li, the University of California, and Science, Migration, and Race
Benjamin C. Zulueta

 

Boom California invites you to read its series of articles on “Undocumented California.”

Undocumented Californians and the Future of the Golden State
Manuel Pastor

Regarding the Documents: Scanning the Mythology of ‘Documented’ California
Jason S. Sexton

California Dreaming? The Integration of Immigrants into American Society
Kevin R. Johnson

The Américas: A Novel of California Begun
David Kipen

On the Road to Opportunity: Racial Disparities in Obtaining an AB 60 Driver Licenses
Laura E. Enriquez, Daisy Vazquez Vera, and S. Karthick Ramakrishnan

California’s Opportunities for Undocumented Students: Are They Enough?
Tanya Golash-Boza and Zulema Valdez

Undocumented Emotional Intelligence: Learning from the Intellectual Investments of California’s Undergraduates
Ana Elizabeth Rosas

Lines and Fences: Writing and Rewriting the California Fence/Wall
Marcel Brousseau

 

Southern California Quarterly Special Virtual Issue:
Home Strategies: Class, Race, and Empowerment in 20th Century Los Angeles

The Southern California Quarterly, published continuously (under this and earlier titles) since 1884 by the Historical Society of Southern California, has touched repeatedly on the themes of housing development, discrimination, and empowerment. In this virtual issue, we present a sampling of its contributions on these themes. Read the virtual issue.

 

 

California History offers the following articles on the #AHA18 theme for you to read for free for a limited time:

Teaching Race in California History Beyond Domination and Diversity
Daniel Martinez HoSang

Victory Abroad, Disaster at Home: Environment, Race, and World War II Shipyard Production
Alistair W. Fortson

Language Education, Race, and the Remaking of American Citizenship in Los Angeles, 1900–1968
Zevi Gutfreund

But Why Glendale? A History of Armenian Immigration to Southern California
Daniel Fittante

Resisting Camelot: Race and Resistance to the San Fernando Valley Secession Movement
Jean-Paul R. deGuzman

 

The Public Historian Special Virtual Issue:
Monuments, Memory, Politics, and Our Publics

The Public Historian, the official journal of the National Council on Pubic History, shares a special virtual issue featuring dozen essays from the journal’s backlist, ranging across some twenty years, that illustrate the evolving historiography on the issue of monuments, memory, history, and heritage and broaden the discussion beyond the focus of the Civil War, Redemption, and resistance to the expansion of civil rights during the 1960s and 1970s.


Diving into Glass: Reflections on the Blaschka’s 150-year-old Glass Menagerie

by Drew Harvell, author of A Sea of Glass: Searching for the Blaschka’s Fragile Legacy in an Ocean at Risk

Becalmed in the North Atlantic on a dark May evening in 1853, Leopold Blaschka witnessed an other-worldly event. Beneath the glassy surface of the sea, a small green light appeared. Then a second. And a third. “A hundred of these suns light up at a certain distance,” Leopold wrote. “As if they wanted to lure the enchanted observer into a realm of fairies.” He describes a flotilla of bioluminescent jellyfish, drifting midway across the Atlantic. Leopold, a glassworker from Dresden, sketched the shifting colors, tentacles, and ghostly lights. Then he began to imagine the jellyfish forms as glass. Over the next forty years, Leopold and his son, Rudolf, would go on to spin almost 10,000 glass sculptures of 700 unique marine organisms that today populate universities and museums around the world.

Twenty-seven years ago, as Cornell’s new Curator of Invertebrates, I travelled to the Corning Museum of Glass to visit Cornell University’s Blaschka Collection. I entered the cavernous warehouse, filled with rows of shelves and cardboard boxes, and opened a box. Inside was a glass model of the common octopus (Figure 1). Though it was covered in dust, with a gaping hole in the thin glass mantle and a missing eye, I was captivated by the lifelike texture and posture of the sculpture. Inside another box, I found a model of a bright red, orange, and white striped sea slug. At the bottom of another was an Apolemia uvaria jellyfish. The multi-belled, fifteen-inch-high glass masterpiece depicts an animal that trails 30-foot-long tentacles in the Mediterranean (Figure 2). I uncovered hundreds of models, representing a vibrant tree of life, spanning eight phyla and nineteen classes. It was an unprecedented record of marine biodiversity from the nineteenth century.

The siphonophore, Apolonia uvaria CREDIT: Kent Loeffler photo

As a Marine Scientist, I have spent the past three decades studying ocean biodiversity and health in locations like Mexico, Hawai’i, Indonesia, Myanmar and, domestically, in the Pacific Northwest. Many of the reefs and shores that I work on are declining. For instance in 2016, rising ocean temperatures caused deadly coral bleaching and mass mortality of corals worldwide, but notably near Australia, Fiji, and Hawai’i. Bleaching occurs when symbiotic algae, relied on by corals to photosynthesize and transfer energy, abandon their hosts to starve or succumb to disease. The health of colder-water animals are also impacted. In 2013, off the West Coast of the United States, twenty different species of starfish died catastrophically from a lethal virus outbreak that continues to this day. The once-common sunflower starfish, a keystone species, is now endangered and still declining. This is just the damage that we know about. I worry about deaths of ocean critters and the possibility of unseen extinctions due to climate change, pollution and overfishing. The ocean contains many organisms that are difficult to record and monitor. In the midst of unprecedented marine mortality and ocean change, I began to realize that the Blaschka Glass Collection provided my team with a time capsule of biodiversity common in the 1860s. Were our Blaschka animals still in today’s oceans?

Six years ago, with videographer David O. Brown, I began the search for Blaschka matches around the world. In Italy, we dove at the Porto Fino Marine Preserve and located seventeen living matches. One, was the mauve stinger jellyfish speckled in purple dots. Another jellyfish, the tiny by-the-wind-sailor, relied on a raised, iridescent membrane to sail the Mediterranean. In Indonesia, we found vibrantly colored nudibranchs and tiny octopus relatives. In Hawai’i, David and I filmed by night shape-shifting octopi, watching us from coral heads and crevices, reminiscent of the first sculpture that I uncovered in the Corning Museum of Glass. Those stories of our underwater searches are now a book, A Sea of Glass, focusing on the successes and the failures of our global exploration and detailing the fragile existence of those matches still living in our oceans today.

The common octopus, Octopus vulgaris. CREDIT: Gary Hodges photo.

Early in our quest, I dangled nervously on a tether below fifty feet of pitch-black water a mile off the coast of Hawai’i Island. We had come for the bioluminescent jellyfish of the night. We watched a ribbon-like comb jelly, a kaleidoscopic Blashka match, undulating against the current. Another point of light was drifting towards me in the current. A two-lobed jellyfish trolling tentacles that might match our Praya dubia glass sculpture. It was hunting with long, gossamer strands outstretched to capture plankton, but it spooked in our lights. Giant axons in the bell fired powerful contractile muscles that zipped up the tentacles and propelled the jellyfish away. Shivering in the cold and dark, it was time for us to surface. With a final look at the waters, we began to rise with our exhaled bubbles, nervous about our conservation efforts, and regretfully leaving this latest glimpse of the ever changing ocean.

A Sea of Glass won the National Outdoor Book Award, was a top Smithsonian Art-Science Book in 2016, and honorable mention Rachel Carson Award. Fragile Legacy is an award-winning film.


Drew Harvell is Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Cornell University and Curator of the Blaschka Marine Invertebrate Collection. Her research on the sustainability of marine ecosystems has taken her from the reefs of Mexico, Indonesia, and Hawaii to the cold waters of the Pacific Northwest. She is a Fellow of the Ecological Society of America and the Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future, a winner of the Society of American Naturalist Jasper Loftus-Hills Award, and a lead author of the oceans chapter in the recent U.S. Climate Change Assessment. She has published over 120 articles in journals such as ScienceNature, and Ecology and is coeditor of The Ecology and Evolution of Inducible Defenses.


#ResearchRoundup: 8 New Articles from Elementa: Science of the Anthropocene

In this environmental science #ResearchRoundup, we are pleased to highlight 8 new articles—including select articles trending on Altmetric—published across Elementa: Science of the Anthropocene‘s comprehensive, interdisciplinary Knowledge Domains. All Elementa articles are published #OpenAccess, so be sure to visit us at elementascience.org to read more of the latest articles.

Want more information about Elementa? Join Elementa‘s mailing list and follow the journal on Facebook and Twitter for news and updates.


Atmospheric Science

Regional trend analysis of surface ozone observations from monitoring networks in eastern North America, Europe and East Asia
Kai-Lan Chang,  Irina Petropavlovskikh,  Owen R. Cooper,  Martin G. Schultz,  Tao Wang
07 Sept 2017
Special Feature: Tropospheric Ozone Assessment Report (TOAR): Global metrics for climate change, human health and crop/ecosystem research

Earth & Environmental Science

Biogeochemical characterization of municipal compost to support urban agriculture and limit childhood lead exposure from resuspended urban soils
Maia G. Fitzstevens,  Rosalie M. Sharp,  Daniel J. Brabander
11 Sept 2017

Trending article

Evolving deltas: Coevolution with engineered interventions
A. C. Welch,  R. J. Nicholls,  A. N. Lázár
25 Aug 2017
Special Feature: Deltas in the Anthropocene

 

Ocean Science

Using mineralogy and higher-level taxonomy as indicators of species sensitivity to pH: A case-study of Puget Sound
Shallin Busch,  Paul McElhany
12 Sept 2017
Special Feature: Advances in ocean acidification research

Trending article

Seasonal trends and phenology shifts in sea surface temperature on the North American northeastern continental shelf
Andrew C. Thomas,  Andrew J. Pershing,  Kevin D. Friedland,  Janet A. Nye,  Katherine E. Mills,  Michael A. Alexander,  Nicholas R. Record,  Ryan Weatherbee,  M. Elisabeth Henderson
23 Aug 2017
Special Feature: Climate change impacts: Fish, fisheries and fisheries management

Sustainable Engineering

Shipping and the environment: Smokestack emissions, scrubbers and unregulated oceanic consequences
David R. Turner,  Ida-Maja Hassellöv,  Erik Ytreberg,  Anna Rutgersson
11 Aug 2017
Special Feature: Investigating marine transport processes in the 21st century

Sustainability Transitions

Trending article

Effective inundation of continental United States communities with 21st century sea level rise
12 July 2017
Kristina A. Dahl,  Erika Spanger-Siegfried,  Astrid Caldas,  Shana Udvardy

 

Building student capacity to lead sustainability transitions in the food system through farm-based authentic research modules in sustainability sciences (FARMS)
Selena Ahmed,  Alexandra Sclafani,  Estephanie Aquino,  Shashwat Kala,  Louise Barias, Jaime Eeg
Forum: New Pathways to Sustainability in Agroecological Systems


A Fresh View of Floodplain Ecology and Management

by Jeff Opperman and Peter Moyle, co-authors of Floodplains: Processes and Management for Ecosystem Services

Last week, we saw tragic images of floods across the world, from Houston to Niger to south Asia, with more than 1,300 deaths from floods in India, Nepal and Bangladesh.

Floods are among the most costly natural disasters worldwide and the loss of life and property, from Houston to Mumbai, gave a very human face to the impersonal statistics: in recent years, global damages have ranged between $30 and 60 billion and more than 100 million people have been displaced by flooding.

These events are also warnings about a likely future: in a warming world, many regions will experience more frequent and intense flooding.

It is hard to imagine a flood-management system that could have effectively contained the historic amount of rain that fell on southeast Texas—several feet in just a few days. However, even if all floods can’t be contained, governments must still invest in measures to improve safety for people and reduce damages. The key is to move beyond a primary focus on the structural measures—dams and levees—that strive to contain floods, and toward a “diversified portfolio” approach. Nonstructural measures—such as zoning, building codes and insurance—are key to keeping people out of harm’s way. Another critical strategy is to integrate green infrastructure—natural features such as wetlands and floodplains—into flood-management systems.

In river basins around the world, from the Mississippi to the Sacramento to the Rhine, managers have moved away from a strict reliance on engineered levees, which confine rivers and attempt to contain floods. Instead, they have moved towards reconnecting rivers to parts of their historic floodplains. On these reconnected floodplains, floodwaters can spread out and reduce risks to communities and farmland in other areas.

We have documented this trend, and reasons why green infrastructure can be so effective, in our book, Floodplains: Processes and Management for Ecosystem Services.

The book is based on our many years of studying floodplains in California, a leader in using floodplains for flood management. But we also explore other regions, especially Europe, Australia, and Asia, for new insights.

Our focus is reconciliation ecology, the science of integrating functioning ecosystems into landscapes dominated by people. This framework is key to understanding the full potential of green infrastructure: by reducing flood risk, wetlands and floodplains function as infrastructure. But they are also “green”—they are ecosystems that are influenced by complex and intertwined biophysical processes. The first part of our book reviews these processes—encompassing hydrology, geomorphology, biogeochemistry, and ecology—and how they respond to management interventions.

A hallmark of green infrastructure is that these ecosystem processes can provide multiple benefits beyond flood-risk reduction. For floodplains, these benefits include habitat for fish and wildlife, groundwater recharge, carbon sequestration, and open space and recreation. Thus, realizing the full potential of green infrastructure will come from an integrated approach, one in which engineers, scientists and planners collaborate on management to provide multiple benefits. The second part of the book includes a number of case studies of these new management approaches.

To be clear, we are not suggesting that floodplains and wetlands are the answer to reducing current and future flood risk. Rather, we think that a flood-management system that relies on green infrastructure in addition to engineered infrastructure and sound nonstructural policies, will increase safety for people and provide a broad range of other benefits.

The book’s closing paragraph articulates this optimism that integrated management can improve safety for people while promoting a range or natural services:

“Our time spent on rivers and floodplains has certainly shown us that much has changed and been lost over time. But we have seen more than just glimmers of hope in reconciled floodplains that are diverse and productive. We take heart from the huge flocks of migratory white geese and black ibis that congregate annually on California floodplains and from knowing that, beneath the floodwaters, juvenile salmon are swimming, feeding, and growing among cottonwoods and rice stalks, before heading out to sea. We can envision greatly expanded floodplains that are centerpieces of many regions, protecting people but also featuring wildlands, wildlife, and floodplain-friendly agriculture. Connectivity among floodplains, people and wild creatures is within reach, as is a future in which people work with natural processes rather than continually fighting them.”


Jeffrey J. Opperman is the global lead freshwater scientist for WWF and a research associate at the University of California, Davis.

Peter B. Moyle is Distinguished Professor Emeritus in the Department of Wildlife, Fish, and Conservation Biology and Associate Director of the Center for Watershed Sciences at the University of California, Davis.


On the Road to ESA: A Q&A with Case Studies in the Environment Section Editor Cynthia Wei

Cynthia Wei is a Section Editor for the Ecology and Biodiversity Conservation section of UC Press’s new peer-reviewed journal, Case Studies in the Environment, as well as Associate Director of Education at the National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center (SESYNC), based in Annapolis, Maryland.

We caught up with Cynthia as she made her way to the annual meeting of the Ecological Society of America (ESA), held this year in Portland, Oregon.

Cynthia Wei, Ecology and Biodiversity Conservation Section Editor

Cynthia, not only are you a Section Editor for an environmental journal which takes a case study approach, but you also developed and lead SESYNC’s short course, Teaching Socio-Environmental Synthesis with Case Studies. What is your background and how did that lead to an interest in case studies?

Cynthia: My background is in animal behavior, and when I used to tell people about my research on honeybees and birds, I found it easy to engage with non-scientists about what I did. But inevitably, the conversation would circle around to the question: “So how does your work help humans?” With some degree of exasperation, I’d often shrug and say: “Why does everything have to be about humans?!” I would have a different response now as I’ve come to realize that the human dimension is inescapable; we are hard-pressed to think of an environmental issue, ecosystem, or species that is not influenced by humans in some substantive way. These days, my work focuses more on helping students to learn about the relationships between humans and nature, particularly through the use of environmental case studies in the classroom. For me, case studies are a natural fit for teaching in the environmental arena. Understanding and addressing environmental problems involves many complex, abstract theories and concepts, and case studies help students to learn these by providing detailed examples that tangibly illustrate these difficult ideas. Furthermore, the problems presented in cases are often very compelling to students.

Why are case studies important for ecology?

Cynthia: As an experimental biologist, as many ecologists are, the concept of publishing a case study was somewhat foreign to me, and the idea of publishing a single example of a phenomenon ran counter to my trained instincts (i.e. that’s an anecdote!) However, like natural history monographs, I think there is great value in publishing research-based, detailed descriptions of a single subject, event, or issue. Because environmental problems are often deeply complex and require a systems perspective, case studies illuminate the roles and relationships between various factors in a socio-environmental system or problem in a detailed, nuanced way. Thus, case studies that can illustrate the roles of ecological factors and their relationship to other factors in a system are important for helping us understand and address a particular environmental problem involving that system.

Would you encourage ecologists to submit their own case studies to Case Studies in the Environment?

Cynthia: Absolutely! In the section that I am responsible for (along with Martha Groom, University of Washington, and Tuyeni Mwampamba, UNAM) we have already published some interesting case studies, including material on Bosque Protector Cerro Blanco, a dry tropical forest reserve in Ecuador; on an Australian woodland rehabilitation project; and an analysis of a massive data set on human-bear conflicts in New Jersey; with additional case studies coming soon on an eco-hotel in Costa Rica and on environmental justice, indigenous peoples, and development in British Columbia. I would encourage any colleagues at ESA to talk with me about case studies (you can likely find me at the SESYNC booth in the exhibit hall), or to get in touch via the journal at cse@ucpress.edu.

 

Case Studies in the Environment is a journal of peer-reviewed case study articles, case study pedagogy articles, and a repository for editor-reviewed case study slides. The journal aims to inform faculty, students, educators, professionals, and policymakers on case studies and best practices in the environmental sciences and studies.

Through December 31, 2017, all Case Studies in the Environment content is available free. To learn more about the journal, including guidelines for prospective authors, please visit cse.ucpress.edu.