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Posts Tagged: Adina Merenlender

Bring the wild back into our farmlands to protect biodiversity, researchers say

Berkeley — With a body the size of a fist and wings that span more than a foot, the big brown bat must gorge on 6,000 to 8,000 bugs a night to maintain its stature. This mighty appetite can be a boon to farmers battling crop-eating pests.

But few types of bats live on American farms. That's because the current practice of monoculture – dedicating large swathes of land to a single crop – doesn't give the bats many places to land or to nest. 

Diversifying working lands – including farmland, rangeland and forests – may be key to preserving biodiversity in the face of climate change, says a new review paper published this week in Science by conservation biologists at the University of California, Berkeley.

The Benzinger Family Winery is a diversified vineyard in Sonoma County. (Photo: Corey Luthringer)

Diversification could be as simple as adding trees or hedgerows along the edges of fields, giving animals like birds, bats and insects places to live, or as complex as incorporating a patchwork of fields, orchards, pasture and flowers into a single working farm.

These changes could extend the habitat of critters like bats, but also much larger creatures like bears, elk and other wildlife, outside the boundaries of parks and other protected areas, while creating more sustainable, and potentially more productive, working lands.

“Protected areas are extremely important, but we can't rely on those on their own to prevent the pending sixth mass extinction,” said study co-author Adina Merenlender, a UC Cooperative Extension Specialist in the Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management at UC Berkeley. “This is even more true in the face of climate change, because species will need to move around to adapt to shifts in temperature and climate.”

Diversified farms could include crops, pastures, orchards and woodland. (Photo: Xerces)

A win-win for wildlife and for farms

Maintaining even small pieces of the original landscape – even a single tree– can help conserve the original diversity of species, Merenlender said. Clearing oak woodlands and shrublands to establish large vineyards hits many native species hard. Animals that are well adapted to urban and agricultural areas, such as mockingbirds, house finches and free-tail bats, continue to flourish, while animals that are more sensitive to disturbance, like acorn woodpeckers, orange-crowned warblers and big brown bats, begin to drop away. “If you can leave shrubs, trees and flowering plants, the habitat suitability -- not just for sensitive birds but also for other vertebrates – goes way up,” Merenlender said. This is true not only in California's vineyards, but on working lands around the world.

Incorporating natural vegetation makes the farm more hospitable to more creatures, while reducing the use of environmentally degrading chemicals like herbicides, pesticides and man-made fertilizer.

A vineyard in California's central coast is an example of industrialized agriculture. (Photo: Steve Zmak, https://stevezmak.com/)

The ideal farming landscape includes woodland pastures and vegetable plots bumping up against orchards and small fields, said Claire Kremen, a professor in the Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management. Integrating livestock produces manure which can fertilize the crops, while those same crops produce feed for livestock. Birds and bats provide pest control, and bees boost crop production by pollinating plants.

“It is possible for these working landscapes to support biodiversity but also be productive and profitable,” Kremen said. “And ultimately, this is where we have to go. We just can't keep mining our soils for their fertility and polluting our streams – in the end, this will diminish our capacity to continue producing the food that we need. Instead, we must pay attention to the species, from microbes to mammals, that supply us with critical services, like pollination, pest control and nutrient cycling”

“We have some amazing diversified farms, sustainably managed forests and species-rich rangelands here in California that exemplify working lands for conservation around the world,” Merenlender said. “We are calling for a scaling up of this approach around the world, and to do that we champion community-based action and more supportive polices” Kremen concludes.

RELATED INFORMATION

CONTACTS

Claire Kremen, ckremen@berkeley.edu, 510-367-2100 (cell)
Adina Merenlender, adinam@berkeley.edu, (707) 489-4362

Posted on Thursday, October 18, 2018 at 12:58 PM
  • Author: Kara Manke, kjmanke@berkeley.edu, (510) 643-7741
Focus Area Tags: Agriculture Environment

UC Cooperative Extension works in local communities to help Californians adapt to climate change

Californians received bleak news last month when the state released its fourth assessment of climate change in California. The report predicts severe wildfires, more frequent and longer droughts, rising sea levels, increased flooding, coastal erosion and extreme heat.

“It's great to be living in a state where science and facts around climate change are valued,” said UC Cooperative Extension specialist Adina Merenlender, “but the recent forecasts may make you want to devour a quart of ice cream in a pool of salty tears.”

Modern civilization has changed the world climate, and even dramatic reductions in global greenhouse gas emissions at this point won't turn back the clock. The warming now predicted by Cal-Adapt is likely already “baked in,” even with our best mitigation efforts, said Igor Lacan, UC Cooperative Extension advisor in the Bay Area of California.

UCCE specialist Ted Grantham is the lead author of the Fourth Climate Assessment's North Coast Region Report.
Although the changes can't be reversed, people and communities can take several measures to prevent even greater warming – mostly by reducing the use of fossil fuels – and adapt to the changing environment. In fact, researchers are already helping California adapt to the warmer, more variable and extreme weather expected in the next 100 years.

California has been a leader in facing the future climate head on. The state's first comprehensive assessment on climate change was produced in 2006 under then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. The second assessment, released in 2009, concluded that adaptation could reduce economic impacts of loss and damage from a changing climate. The third assessment was shaped by a request for more information on the adaptation options in the 2009 report. The fourth assessment was the first effort to break down global climate predictions and their impacts onto specific regions of California.

Author of the North Coast Region Report of the Fourth Assessment, Ted Grantham, praised state leaders for pushing forward efforts to slow climate change and adapt to the new weather conditions expected in California.

“California is playing a unique role in filling the void of leadership on this issue that the federal government was beginning to address under the Obama administration,” Grantham, a UC Cooperative Extension specialist based at UC Berkeley, said.

Across California, UC Cooperative Extension specialists and advisors are working in their local communities to prepare for warming temperatures and adapt to the changing climate. Following are examples of the efforts now underway.

Following years of drought, millions of trees succumbed to bark beetles in the Sierra Nevada.

Managing forests to survive the future

Among the suggested adaptation strategies in the 81-page North Coast Region Report, written by Grantham and his colleagues, the authors encourage government agencies and private forest owners to use prescribed fires and active forest management to reduce an overgrowth of trees and shrubs that fuel the more frequent and intense fires expected in the future.

Although climate change will create conditions conducive to catastrophic wildfire, the reason for dangerous forest overgrowth is related to decades of fire suppression on the landscape.

“Our forests are much denser and have more fuel buildup than they would have under a natural fire regime,” Grantham said. “Mechanical thinning, removing wood from the landscape and prescribed fires can help limit the impacts of wildfire.”

Native American tribes are being tapped to share their traditional ecological knowledge to inform this practice.

“Native Americans have used fire since time immemorial to manage their landscapes,” Grantham said.

Plants and wildlife, like this mountain lion, will need to find natural corridors to migrate into areas with suitable climates. (Photo: National Park Service)

Connecting habitats to allow species movement

When climate changes, plant and animal species may find their current habitats no longer fit the environment where they evolved. The fourth assessment technical report, Climate-wise Landscape Connectivity: Why, How and What Next, written by UCCE specialist Adina Merenlender, documented potential techniques to erase barriers to plant and animal movement.

“When we talk about wildlife corridors today, we might view a road as a barrier,” Merenlender said. “With climate change, the movement is over a much longer range for species to find suitable habitat at the end of the century.”

The report says research is needed to compare different approaches to designing climate-wise connectivity, determining how wide corridors need to be, and quantifying the impact of natural and anthropogenic barriers on possible range shifts.

The Italian grape variety falanghina could be a sought-after white wine varietal in the future. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)
New varieties for California wine industry

California's wine industry is based on international varieties that come from Northern France, where the climate is cool, mild and consistent.

“They really require a cool to warm climate, not a hot climate,” said Glenn McGourty, UCCE viticulture advisor in Mendocino County.

There are many wine grape cultivars from Southern Europe – areas in Italy, Portugal and Spain – that are adapted to heat and make quality wines, but aren't well known. The varieties include Monepulciano, Sagrantino, Periquita and Graciano.

McGourty is studying how these cultivars perform in the warm interior of Mendocino County at the UC Hopland Research and Extension Center.

“We have many options as climates warm in the interior part of California to make wine that needs less amelioration in the winery compared to cultivars from Northern France,” McGourty said.

Recruiting and training climate stewards

The UC California Naturalist Program is moving full steam ahead with a new Climate Stewards Initiative to build engaged communities and functioning ecosystems that are resilient to changing climates.

California Naturalist, with trained volunteers across the state working with myriad conservation organizations, will be using its educational network to improve the public's understanding of climate change and engage the public in community action and local conservation.

“Climate stewards will offer in-person communication with your neighbors, tapping into science,” Merenlender said. “Improving climate literacy is an important outcome, but that won't happen through a website.”

Volunteer UC California Naturalists will be recruited to engage the public in climate change resilience.

Helping growers modify farming practices due to changing climate

USDA Climate Hub has awarded a grant to UC Cooperative Extension to support tools to assist growers in making strategic decisions in season and long term.

“We have many credible sources of weather and climate data, but often times we are challenged with translating it into decision support tools tailored to growers' needs,” said Tapan Pathak, UCCE specialist in climate change adaptation in agriculture. “It's too early to say which specific tools we will develop, but we are aiming to help farmers use weather and climate information in decision making processes.”

Pathak is also working with colleagues to analyze how generations of navel orangeworm, a significant almond pest, might shift for the entire Central Valley under climate change and how growers can adapt their practices to manage the higher pest pressure.

Identifying drought tolerance in sorghum may help scientists impart drought tolerance in other crops. (Photo: Peggy Lemaux)

Using epigenetics to impart drought tolerance

At the UC Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center in Parlier and the UC West Side Research and Extension Center in Five Points, sorghum nurseries are being grown under drought and well-watered conditions to compare the environmental impacts on the plants' gene expression.

“We hope to tease out the genetics of drought tolerance in sorghum,” said Jeff Dahlberg, UCCE specialist, who is managing the trials at Kearney. “Using sorghum as a model, we expect this research to help us understand drought tolerance in other crops as well.”

Historically, the genetic manipulation of crops, which has been critical to increasing agricultural productivity, has concentrated on altering the plant's genetic sequence, encoded in its DNA.

Recent studies have shown that environmental stresses – such as drought – can lead to epigenetic changes in a plant's genetic information. Because epigenetic changes occur without altering the underlying DNA sequence, they allow plants to respond to a changing environment more quickly.

Read more about the study.

 

Cities can plant street tree species suited to future climate

Many common street trees now growing in the interior of California are unlikely to persist in the warmer climate expected in 2099, according to research published in the July 2018 issue of the journal Urban Forestry & Urban Greening. (Read the research report here until Sept. 27, 2018)

“Urban foresters in inland cities of California should begin reconsidering their palettes of common street trees to prepare for warmer conditions expected in 2099 due to climate change,” said the study's co-author, Igor Lacan, UC Cooperative Extension environmental horticulture advisor in the Bay Area.

Common trees in Coastal California cities appear to be better suited to withstand the 2099 climate.

“Our research shows that some trees now lining the streets of cities like Fresno, Stockton and Ukiah are likely to perform poorly in 2099,” Lacan said. “Those cities need to look at the conditions – and trees – now found in El Centro, Barstow and Fresno respectively.”

Read more about the study and see a chart that shows cities in 16 California climate zones along with the corresponding cities that approximate their climates in 2099.

Cities in inland areas can begin planting street trees that are suited to their future climates.

Trees to shade California in a warmer future

The changing climate predicted for California – including less rain and higher day and nighttime temperatures – is expected to cause chronic stress on many street tree species that have shaded and beautified urban areas for decades.

Realizing that popular trees may not thrive under the changing conditions, UC Cooperative Extension scientists are partnering with the U.S. Forest Service in a 20-year research study to expand the palette of drought-adapted, climate-ready trees for several of the state's climate zones.

“The idea is to look at available but under-planted, drought-tolerant, structurally sound, pest resistant trees for Southern California that do well in even warmer climates,” said Janet Hartin, UCCE horticulture advisor in San Bernardino County.

Twelve tree species were selected for each climate zone in the comparative study, with several area parks used as control sites.

Read more about this study

Managing the forest for survival in warmer conditions

UC Cooperative Extension scientists are part of a collaborative research project with the University of Nevada, Reno, CAL FIRE and the U.S. Forest Service aimed at developing new strategies to adapt future forests to a range of possible climate change scenarios in the Sierra Nevada.

“It includes the idea that we may be struggling just to keep forests as forests, let alone having the species we value,” said Rob York, manager of UC Berkeley's Blodgett Forest Research Station near Georgetown.

Forests sequester a tremendous amount of carbon. As the climate changes, foresters will need to be proactive to reduce the risk of these massive carbon sinks becoming carbon sources.

“We're working to mitigate predicted impacts to forests, including regeneration failures, drought mortality and catastrophic wildfire,” Ricky Satomi, UCCE natural resources advisor in Shasta County.

At three separate study sites across the Sierra Nevada, novel approaches to forest management are being implemented to develop treatments that scientists believe will increase resilience, resistance and adaptability of Sierra Nevada mixed conifer forests.

The 2018-21 project is led by Sarah Bisbing, forest ecology professor at the University of Nevada, Reno, and funded with $2.7 million from CAL FIRE.

Climate change impacts on vulnerable communities

The latest climate assessment also reports on the serious nature of climate threats to vulnerable communities and tribal communities in California, with a focus on working collaboratively with these communities on research and solutions for resilience.

“The impacts of climate change will not be experienced equally among the population,” Grantham said. “The most significant public health and economic impacts – from flooding, extreme heat, air quality degradation, etc. – will be disproportionately experienced by vulnerable populations, including people of color, the poor and the elderly.”

The assessment includes a Climate Justice Report, which shares the idea that no group of people should disproportionately bear the burden of climate impacts or the costs of mitigation and adaptation. The report suggests collaborating with these communities on research and solutions for resilience.

Posted on Wednesday, September 12, 2018 at 1:33 PM

UC ANR scientists contribute to California’s Fourth Climate Change Assessment

The California Natural Resources Agency released California's Fourth Climate Change Assessment today (Monday, Aug. 27), at http://www.ClimateAssessment.ca.govUC Agriculture and Natural Resources scientists contributed substantially to the report.

The Fourth Assessment is broken down into nine technical reports on the following topics:

  • Agriculture 
  • Biodiversity and habitat 
  • Energy 
  • Forests and wildlife 
  • Governance 
  • Ocean and coast 
  • Projects, datasets and tools 
  • Public health 
  • Water 

The technical reports were distilled into nine regional reports and three community reports that support climate action by providing an overview of climate-related risks and adaptation strategies tailored to specific regions and themes.

The regional reports cover:

  • North Coast Region 
  • Sacramento Valley Region 
  • San Francisco Bay Area Region 
  • Sierra Nevada Region 
  • San Joaquin Valley Region 
  • Central Coast Region 
  • Los Angeles Region 
  • Inland South Region 
  • San Diego Region 

The community reports focus on:

  • The ocean and coast 
  • Tribal communities 
  • Climate justice 

All research contributing to the Fourth Assessment was peer-reviewed.

UC Cooperative Extension ecosystem sciences specialist Ted Grantham – who works in the Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management at UC Berkeley – is the lead author of the 80-page North Coast Region Report.  Among the public events surrounding the release of the Fourth Assessment is the California Adaptation Forum, Aug. 27-29 in Sacramento. For more information, see http://www.californiaadaptationforum.org/. Grantham is a speaker at the forum.

Other UC ANR authors of the North Coast Region Report are:

  • Lenya Quinn-Davidson, UC Cooperative Extension area fire advisor for Humboldt, Siskiyou, Trinity and Mendocino counties 
  • Glenn McGourty, UC Cooperative Extension viticulture and plant science advisor in Mendocino and Lake counties 
  • Jeff Stackhouse, UC Cooperative Extension livestock and natural resources advisor for Humboldt and Del Norte counties 
  • Yana Valachovic, UC Cooperative Extension forest advisor for Humboldt and Del Norte counties

UC Cooperative Extension fire specialist Max Moritz contributed to sections of the main report on Forest Health and Wildfire and to the San Francisco Bay Area Report

UC ANR lead authors of technical reports were:

  • Economic and Environmental Implications of California Crop and Livestock Adaptations to Climate ChangeDaniel Sumner, director of UC ANR's Agricultural Issues Center 

  • Climate-wise Landscape Connectivity: Why, How and What NextAdina Merenlander, UC Cooperative Extension specialist 

  • Visualizing Climate-Related Risks to the Natural Gas System Using Cal-AdaptMaggi Kelly, UC Cooperative Extension specialist 
Dan Stark, staff research associate  for Humboldt and Del Norte counties, contributed to the pest section of Fuel Treatment for Forest Resilience and Climate Mitigation: A Critical Review for Coniferous Forests of California.
Posted on Monday, August 27, 2018 at 3:23 PM
  • Author: Jeannette Warnert
Focus Area Tags: Environment

Enjoy nature, but don't love it to death

Spring is here and that means time to get outside and enjoy California's beauty. This year people are out in record numbers to see wildflowers and experience all the recreational opportunities that parks offer. CNN reported triple the usual number of visitors to Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. Numbers of recreational visits have surged at National Parks across the county with 330 million visitors recorded last year, during the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service.

Recreational bird watchers in Yosemite National Park. Photo courtesy of NPS.
Recently published research shows there are recreational impacts on wildlife, even from quiet recreation activities such as hiking and bird watching. Findings were based on 274 scientific articles published between 1981 and 2015 describing the effects of recreation on a variety of animal species across all geographic areas and recreational activities.

More than 93 percent of the articles reviewed indicated at least one impact of recreation on animals, the majority of which (59 percent) were negative. Hiking, for example, a common form of outdoor recreation in protected areas, can create a negative impact by causing animals to flee, taking time away from feeding and expending valuable energy. Among the negative impacts observed were decreased species diversity; decreased survival, reproduction, or abundance; and behavioral or physiological disturbance (such as decreased foraging or increased stress). These types of negative effects were documented most frequently for reptiles, amphibians, and invertebrates.

Park managers often struggle to balance the need to protect wildlife with the importance of accommodating visitors in support of the many essential benefits nature provides people and the importance of spreading conservation awareness. UC California Naturalists can often be found on the trail helping to interpret nature and focusing on leave no trace in an effort to ensure we don't love nature to death. When out enjoying nature please stay on the trail, respect seasonal closures, minimize noise, do not approach animals, and reduce your driving speed – all recommended steps to minimize the impacts of recreation on wildlife. A light touch now ensures wildlife viewing for many years to come.

Death Valley National Park visitors enjoy wildflowers from the road. Photo courtesy of the NPS.

Celebrating the 100th California Naturalist class

How did we get here and where shall we venture together?

This spring, the 100th California Naturalist class is being offered in Sonoma County – the very same county where we first piloted the curriculum. The UC Agriculture and Natural Resources California Naturalist Program is designed to introduce Californians to the wonders of our unique ecology and engage the public in study and stewardship of California's natural communities. The program mission is to foster a diverse community of naturalists and promote stewardship of California's natural resources through education and service. California Naturalist certification courses combine classroom and field experience in science, problem-solving, communication training and community service. Students are taught by an instructor and team of experts who are affiliated with the University of California, local nature-based centers, community colleges,  land trusts, or natural resource focused agencies such as California State Parks and cooperating “friends groups.”

A California Naturalist explores the creek.

What inspired the first California Naturalist class? Georgia, Florida, Texas and 22 other states have Master Naturalist-like programs, so why not California? After all, California is a global biodiversity hotspot filled with nature enthusiasts. It took a volunteer, Julia Fetherston, to get excited about the potential for a California program before our director Adina Merenlender was convinced to attend the 2005 National Master Naturalist Annual Conference in Estes Park, Colo. She was impressed with the impact these programs were having and decided to see what we could do in the Golden State. A good deal of effort followed to advance the cause within UC, secure grant funding, write the California Naturalist Handbook, develop ways to work with organizations across the state, and build a team to run California Naturalist. In 2012, we officially launched the program with five intrepid institutional partners (Santa Rosa Junior College/Pepperwood Foundation, Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History, UC Santa Cruz Arboretum, UC Berkeley Sagehen Creek Field Station, and Santa Barbara Botanical Garden). Four years later California Naturalist received Program of the Year from the national network, the Alliance of Natural Resource Outreach and Service Programs.

The 100th California Naturalist class is being offered at Stewards of the Coast and Redwood this spring. Stewards of the Coast and Redwoods is a non-profit, environmental and interpretive organization that works in partnership with California State Parks in the Russian River Sector of the Sonoma Mendocino Coast District to support volunteer, education and stewardship programs. Participants in this year's spring class have worked hard on a wide range of capstone projects, including multiple wildlife monitoring citizen science projects, improving fish habitat in the watershed, and creating educational materials on ticks, wetland birds, water quality and more. Co-instructors Meghan Walla-Murphy and David Berman have been teaching California Naturalist courses since 2013, first with Occidental Arts and Ecology Center and now with Stewards. Meghan is the author of Fishing on the Russian River and a well-respected wildlife tracker whose workshops are not to be missed. David is an extraordinary environmental educator, watershed expert, and Project Wild facilitator with the Sonoma County Water Agency.

 

2017 Stewards of the Coast & Redwoods class at their Bodega Dunes campout.

Now that we have 100 classes under our belt, oh, the places we can go! California Naturalist is a community of practice started deliberately with the goal of gaining natural history knowledge. We are working on releasing a citizen science challenge to provide an opportunity for California Naturalists to discover more about California's ecosystems - Discovery!

Surveys show that California Naturalists feel more empowered to address environmental challenges after their training and knowing they can lean on their fellow naturalists. We would like to know more about how California Naturalists are participating in civic engagement. With a new volunteer management system on the horizon, we plan to learn more about the many ways Naturalists are becoming involved in issues that affect their communities. - Action!

In particular, what activities are Naturalists doing that will help communities and natural ecosystems be more resilient to climate change – improving habitat connectivity, restoring riparian areas, or pre/post fire management?  We are looking for support to start an advanced training aimed at helping today's climate stewards learn more about climate science and adaptation to support their efforts on climate-wise - Stewardship!

Congratulations to the graduates of the 100th California Naturalist class and all those who went before you.

Naturalists from the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority's Bridge to Park Careers program.
Posted on Monday, April 17, 2017 at 8:55 AM

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