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Animal Agriculture in a Changing Climate 
Western Region
April 26 2013
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Welcome to the Animal Agriculture in a Changing Climate Western Region Web Letter. Scroll down for current news and relevant information regarding climate change and agriculture that you might have missed. 

 

Do you have or know of any regional research efforts that should be highlight and shared? Please inform Liz Whitefield at e.whitefield@wsu.edu

  
Agriculture in a Changing Climate
(25x'25 Adaption Initiative report)

Media reports and public discourse often portray climate change as something that will happen well into the future. However, many farmers, foresters, and ranchers throughout the United States are already witnessing the effects of changing climatic conditions. Whether it is thriving pests like the mountain pine beetle in the West, increases in heavy rainfall events in the Midwest and Northeast, or record droughts and wildfires in the Southwest, changes in weather patterns are currently costing billions of dollars in economic losses.

 

Elevated CO2 alters root growth in ways that increase carbon sequestration in soil (Global Ecology and Biogeography)

Plant root traits regulate belowground C inputs, soil nutrient and water uptake, and play critical roles in determining sustainable plant production and consequences for ecosystem C storage. However, the effects of elevated CO2 on root morphology and function have not been well quantified. We reveal general patterns of root trait responses to elevated CO2 from field manipulative experiments.

 

Practices Improving Soil Health Also Reduce Erosion- Cover Crops Reduce Erosion During Heavy Rains (NRCS Iowa) From drought to flood conditions, it seems there is no longer a "normal" growing season for Iowa farmers. A year of drought in 2012 was followed by a cool, wet spring this year. These types of weather extremes can be very damaging to Iowa's soils, but conservationists are finding that farmers who apply soil health practices like cover crops are the least affected.

 

Feeding 9 Billion: What research do we prioritize to find solutions? (IFPRI) By 2050, global agricultural production will need to increase by at least 60 percent from 2006, according to the UN FAO. Both CGIAR and FAO are in the midst of priority setting efforts to identify how they can help accomplish this, in a global situation rife with challenges: high population growth at least until mid-century, substantially growing incomes of the poorest people (changing the pattern of food demand), and unprecedented stresses on agricultural productivity due to climate change.

Drought

Global warming not significant in 2012 drought (Climate Central)

The extreme 2012 Central Great Plains drought was more intense than the Dust Bowl era droughts of the 1930s, according to a new federal assessment of the origins and predictability of the drought, released on Thursday. The team of 19 atmospheric scientists, led by the NOAA, found that global warming may have played a relatively small contributing role by helping to make the drought slightly warmer, and hence drier, than it otherwise might have been.

 

Climate models fail to predict US droughts-Simulations identify past megadroughts, but at wrong times. (Nature article) 

Reliable forecasts of future 'megadroughts' would be a boon to farmers and water managers. But results presented last week at the annual assembly of the European Geosciences Union in Vienna suggest that such forecasts are still beyond the reach of current climate models. 

 

Drought Flood Drought- The New Normal? ( Weather Underground Blog Post) Dr Jeff Masters Wunder blog  

Tools

A tool developed by USDA scientists can help agribusiness model phosphorus loss in runoff and determine ways to reduce these losses.

Upcoming Webinar
April 30, 2013 3-4 PST
Stakeholder engagement is an essential element of climate adaptation. The Wisconsin Initiative on Climate Change Impacts (WICCI) has organized as a distributed network of stakeholder groups, bringing together regionally scaled climate projections with the resource managers most concerned about the impacts of climate change. Despite the management challenges of this organizational model, WICCI has had notable success in advancing climate change adaptation in Wisconsin and the upper Midwest. This webinar will provide discussion about: Organizing for stakeholder engagement, Challenges in managing the climate adaptation dialog, Successes in advancing regional adaptation. 
Western Region

CA Farmers Tackle Seawater Intrusion (Central Valley Business Times) 

After more than six decades of painstaking efforts, Salinas Valley farmers are on the verge of ending the advance of seawater intrusion into the groundwater they use to irrigate nearly $4 billion worth of crops. 

 

Alaska Republican Senator Lisa Murkoswski on Climate Change: It's Real, We Need to Fight It (CNN Money)

Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski on climate change, the Keystone pipeline, and how technology can make us energy independent.

Summer Range Grows Scarce in ID (Capital Ag Press)

Due to a combination of factors including drought in major cattle states driving competition for Idaho range, grassland lost to wildfires, conversion of range to cropland and ranchers seeking to grow herds to address a national beef shortage, Idaho cattlemen say summer range has become scarce and, when it can be found, much more expensive.

 

Global

Agroecological practices boost ag resilence to climate change in Latin America (Agriculture Ecosystems and the Environment article)

Measuring farmers' agroecological resistance after Hurricane Mitch in Nicaragua: a case study in participatory, sustainable land management impact monitoring

 

Climate change responsible for global vegetation change (Climate Central)

Researchers attribute more than half the changes they detected to the effects of the warming climate, with people responsible for only around a third. Surprisingly, perhaps, they are at a loss to attribute about 10 percent of the changes unequivocally to either the climate or us. They say their work marks a scientific advance, because it has only recently become possible to quantify how far climate variability, human activity or a combination of the two are responsible for what is happening.

Climate justice and hunger top agenda for Dublin summit (The Guardian)

Famine, drought and food security will dominate the agenda of a climate change summit hosted by the Irish government. 

Politics

McCarthy called climate change "one of the greatest challenges of our generation and our great obligation to future generations."

 

U.S. Pledges Climate Deals with China and Japan (Scientific American)

Secretary of State John Kerry signed climate change agreements with China and Japan over the weekend, making the issue he championed in the U.S. Senate a centerpiece of his first Asia tour. 

Bioenergy

Soil Carbon Sequestration by Switchgrass and No-Till Maize Grown for Bioenergy (Bioenergy Research)

Net benefits of bioenergy crops, including maize and perennial grasses such as switchgrass, are a function of several factors including the soil organic carbon (SOC) sequestered by these crops. Life cycle assessments (LCA) for bioenergy crops have been conducted using models in which SOC information is usually from the top 30 to 40 cm. Information on the effects of crop management practices on SOC has been limited so LCA models have largely not included any management practice effects.

 

Despite Methane Emissions Upstream, Natural Gas Is Cleaner than Coal on a Life-Cycle Basis (Worldwatch Institute)

New study concludes that natural gas offers greenhouse gas advantages over coal despite higher EPA estimates of methane emissions from natural gas systems.

Popular Climate Change Headlines

New study indicates carbon may turn Great Barrier Reef into slime (ABC news)

 

What do the Birders Know? (NYT) The Audubon Society estimates that nearly 60 percent of 305 bird species found in North America in winter are  shifting northward and to higher elevations in response to climate change. For comparison, imagine the inhabitants of 30 states - using state residence as a proxy for species of American human - becoming disgruntled with forest fires and drought and severe weather events, and seeking out suitable new habitat.

  

Acceleration of Snow Melt in an Antarctic Peninsula Ice Core During the Twentieth Century  (Nature) Ice cores taken from two regions of the Antarctic give a mixed story on the impact of human-induced climate change on the icy continent. Summer ice melting on the Antarctic Peninsula is at its highest in 1000 years But an analysis of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet stretching back 2000 years indicates "rapid ice loss may not be all that unusual" in that area of the continent, report another group of scientists.

Earth Day/Week Appreciation

"An intimate portrait of the global community of researchers racing to understand climate change." From geologist, Simon Lamb.

 

Chasing Ice (Nat Geo Episode)

Of Interest

Discussion of the first paper demonstrating global warming (Quarterly Journal for the Royal Meteorological Society)

In 1938, Guy Stewart Callendar was the first to demonstrate that the Earth's land surface was warming. Callendar also suggested that the production of carbon dioxide by the combustion of fossil fuels was responsible for much of this modern change in climate. This short note marks the 75th anniversary of Callendar's landmark study and demonstrates that his global land temperature estimates agree remarkably well with more recent analyses.

 

Climate zones will shift faster as world warms (Nature)

"If these changes are happening faster and faster, it means that the ecosystems have less and less time to adapt," says Irina Mahlstein, a postdoctoral researcher at the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences at the University of Colorado Boulder, who led the study. She and her team sought to determine whether ecosystems might undergo "runaway climate-zone shifts" above a certain temperature threshold, says John Daniel, an atmospheric scientist with the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Boulder and a co-author of the study.

 

Ocean's Future Not So Bleak? Resilience Found in Shelled Plants Exposed to Ocean Acidification (Science Daily)

Marine scientists have long understood the detrimental effect of fossil fuel emissions on marine ecosystems. But a group led by a UC Santa Barbara professor has found a point of resilience in a microscopic shelled plant with a massive environmental impact, which suggests the future of ocean life may not be so bleak.

 

Can Evolution Beat Climate Change? (Scientific American) 

The purple sea urchin may be able to evolve to cope with ocean acidification, but that does not mean other species will be able to mimic the trick
Know of anyone who should receive this email? Please contact:
 
Liz Whitefield
Washington State University
Livestock Nutrient Management Program
e.whitefield@wsu.edu
253.445.4562