Environment
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Recent stories

Climate change puts ecosystems on the run
To keep up with global warming, the average ecosystem will need to shift about a quarter mile each year, says a new study by scientists at Stanford University and the University of California, Berkeley.
(23 December)

Sun and moon trigger deep tremors on San Andreas Fault
When the sun and moon are aligned with the San Andreas Fault they tug on it enough to increase the tremor rate deep underground. While these faint tremors have not been linked to earthquakes, the tremors are associated with increased stress on the fault and may up the risk for future quakes.
(23 December)

Study shows loss of 15-42 percent of mammals in North America
Many biologists warn that the planet's plants and animals are headed toward a mass extinction as a result of human-caused environmental damage, including global warming. A UC Berkeley/Penn State team has now analyzed the status of North American mammals, estimating that they may be one-fifth to one-half the way toward a mass extinction event like the "Big Five" the Earth has seen in the last 450 million years.
(18 December)

Paper is out, digital is in, when it comes to dissertations
The move to online publishing of will make the research of Berkeley's Ph.D.'s easily accessible from any computer in the world. The campus will save paper, shelf space, and staff time; students will save money and headaches.
(10 December)

CPUC taps Vial Center to study state's green jobs needs
The California Public Utilities Commission has chosen UC Berkeley’s Donald Vial Center on Employment in the Green Economy to lead a $1.1 million study to assess California’s workforce development needs as part of the state’s long-term strategic plan for energy efficiency.
(08 December)

Budget crisis prompts LAEP students to take a lesson from the Great Depression
Landscape architecture and environmental planning students respond to the ongoing budget crisis by putting their expertise — and muscles — to work at local schools, a park, and on the campus.
(04 December)

Climate change could boost incidence of civil war in Africa, study finds
Climate change could increase the likelihood of civil war in sub-Saharan Africa by over 50 percent within the next two decades, according to a new study led by a team of researchers at University of California, Berkeley, and published in today’s (Monday, Nov. 23) online issue of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).The study, conducted by researchers at UC Berkeley as well as at Stanford University, New York University and Harvard University, provides the first quantitative evidence linking climate change and the risk of civil conflict. It concludes by urging accelerated support by African governments and foreign aid donors for new and/or expanded policies to assist with African adaptation to climate change.
(23 November)

Climate treaty needed to limit soot & other greenhouse pollutants
UC Berkeley Ph.D. candidate Stacy Jackson argues in Science that policymakers should plan a summit now to look at short- and medium-lived greenhouse pollutants, which range from soot to ozone and methane, and their near term impact on climate.
(22 October)

Error in climate treaties could lead to more deforestation
A team of 13 prominent scientists and land-use experts has identified an important but fixable error in legal accounting rules for bioenergy that could, if uncorrected, undermine efforts to reduce greenhouse gases by encouraging deforestation.
(22 October)

Alfalfa sprouts key to discovering how meandering rivers form
Restoring rivers to their natural state is now hit-and-miss, primarily because scientists don't really know what makes a river meander. A scale model using alfalfa sprouts to represent vegetation now shows that strong banks and fine sediment are key.
(05 October)

Two UC Berkeley faculty among 10 recipients of $100,000 Heinz Awards
Two UC Berkeley researchers are being recognized for their environmental achievements with the 15th annual Heinz Awards, announced Sept. 15 by the Heinz Family Foundation. Ashok Gadgil, professor of civil engineering, and Kirk Smith, professor of environmental health sciences, will each receive $100,000 for the strides they have made toward a more sustainable and cleaner environment.
(15 September)

Sierra Nevada birds move in response to warmer, wetter climate
If the climate is not quite right, birds will up and move rather than stick around and sweat it out, according to a new study led by UC Berkeley biologists. The findings reveal that 48 out of 53 bird species studied in California's Sierra Nevada mountains have adjusted to climate change over the last century by moving to sites with the temperature and precipitation conditions they favored.
(14 September)

Campus environmental record earns top score in Princeton Review "Green Ratings"
UC Berkeley makes The Princeton Review's Green Honor Roll in recognition of the campus's environmentally friendly policies. UC Berkeley was one of only 15 colleges in the country to have earned the top score in a rating, announced July 27, by The Princeton Review, a provider of education services to help students get into college.
(27 July)

Lisa Bauer honored as UC's 2009 'sustainability champion'
Lisa Bauer has cast a long shadow as manager of Campus Recycling and Refuse Services at Berkeley for more than a decade. For her early vision — and for rolling up her sleeves for years to make it manifest — Bauer was recently named UC's 2009 Sustainability Champion.
(27 July)

Theory provides more precise estimates of large-area biodiversity
The Census Bureau is good at profiling the U.S. population by sampling small groups of people, but biologists lack a good way to estimate the richness of life in large areas based on small-area studies. Ecologist John Harte has developed a new theory that does a much better job predicting biodiversity in large biomes and could be a boon to conservation biologists.
(09 July)

Green Corridor Partnership picks up steam as UC, LBNL drive innovation
Representatives of UC Berkeley and other members of a public-private East Bay consortium designed to solve environmental challenges while creating jobs gathered in Oakland June 26 for the partnership's second annual summit.
(02 July)

Children susceptible to pesticides longer than expected, study finds
UC Berkeley researchers recommend that the U.S. EPA re-evaluate current standards for pesticide exposure in light of a new study finding that children's increased vulnerability to pesticides lasts much longer than expected.
(22 June)

Insect in hemlock forests causes loss of canopy, gain of invasive plants
An exotic pest is ravaging the shade-providing canopy of eastern hemlock forests, and in turn setting the stage for the successful invasion of non-native plants, according to new UC Berkeley research.
(26 May)

Summer haze has a cooling effect in southeastern United States, says new study
Global warming may include some periods of local cooling, according to a new UC Berkeley study. Results from satellite and ground-based sensor data show that sweltering summers can, paradoxically, lead to the temporary formation of a cooling haze in the southeastern United States.
(18 May)

Unprecedented use of DDT to combat malaria concerns experts
The current practice of spraying DDT indoors to fight malaria is leading to unprecedented – and insufficiently monitored – levels of exposure to the pesticide, say experts concerned about the risk to human health.
(04 May)

A must-see spot — if you're a Berkeley bee
A research garden near campus is devoted to discovering which common garden plants are attractive to local bee species — the better to ensure their survival.
(01 May)

Transplanted to a bare Wheeler stage, Botany of Desire blooms as a musical
Two guys walk into a bar. One says, "Let's do a musical based on that book about plants."
(01 May)

In face of global warming, can wilderness remain natural?
Preserving endangered species is going to get a whole lot harder with the advent of global warming, according to paleoecologist Anthony Barnosky, author of a new book called "Heatstroke: Nature in an Age of Global Warming." Climate change will force plants and animals to seek more hospitable habitats ouside preserves, or more likely, force humans to assist with their migration to preferred habitat.
(13 April)

Berkeley moves toward climate neutrality
A new report outlines the steps Berkeley has taken over the past two years to attain its goal of cutting back its greenhouse-gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2014.
(09 April)

Climate change to spur rapid shifts in fire hotspots, projects new analysis
Climate change will bring about major shifts in worldwide fire patterns, and those changes are coming fast, according to a new analysis led by UC Berkeley fire researchers.
(07 April)

Long, sexy tails not a drag on male hummingbirds
At last two dozen hummingbirds, not to mention hundreds of other birds, sport long tails to attract females. But don't these tails get in the way? A new UC Berkeley study shows that long-tailed male hummingbirds lose little in the way of energy to draw the attention of admiring females.
(11 March)

Long-term ozone exposure linked to higher risk of death, finds nationwide study
A study analyzing two decades of data for 450,000 people across the nation found that long-term exposure to ground-level ozone, a major component of smog, raises the risk of death from respiratory ailments. It is the first major study connecting chronic exposure to ozone to elevated mortality rates, and could be used in future evaluations of federal standards for acceptable ozone levels.
(11 March)

Law schools at UC Berkeley and UCLA launch new environment blog
The law schools at UC Berkeley and UCLA today announced the launch of a new blog, Legal Planet, which provides insight and analysis on climate change, energy, and environmental law and policy. This collaborative blog draws upon the individual research strengths and vast expertise of the law schools' think tanks and legal scholars.
(11 March)

The pluses and (mostly) minuses of biofuels
A new generation of biofuels, made from non-food plants, will eventually reduce the impact that today's corn-and soy-based fuels are having on the global environment. But for now, says a campus expert, ethanol and its kin will remain part of the nation's multi-source energy portfolio
(04 March)

Speaker series to address California's climate-change challenges
Starting March 17, a new speaker series will explore the state's landmark climate-control legislation and its critical connections to sustainable development and land-use planning.
(04 March)

Speaker series on California climate change challenges
A new UC Berkeley speaker series will explore the state's landmark climate control legislation's critical connections to sustainable development and land-use planning. The series, "Growing Sustainability in a Low-Carbon World," is sponsored by UC Berkeley's Institute for Urban and Regional Development (IURD) and starts on March 17. It will bring together local, regional and state decision-makers, scholars, researchers, environmentalists, non-governmental organizations and other public sector stakeholders.
(26 February)

Why California should consider Australia's "Prepare, stay and defend" wildfire policy
Even as debate rages over the safety of the Australian policy of encouraging willing and able residents to stay and defend their property from wildfires, fire researchers at UC Berkeley and in Australia say that the strategy is worth consideration in California and other regions in the United States.
(26 February)

Energy symposium weighs perils and opportunities on climate change
While the average Californian now uses about 40 percent less electricity than the average American, we cannot rest on our laurels, Mary Nichols, chair of the California Air Resources Board, said Monday at the third annual UC Berkeley Energy Symposium. To meet the challenges of global warming — and the state's goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020 — each Californian needs to cut his or her carbon footprint from the current average, 14 tons per year, to 10, she said.
(24 February)

The pluses and (mostly) minuses of biofuels
Speakers at last week’s AAAS meeting presented abundant evidence that tropical rainforest destruction has accelerated in recent years, at least in part because of the worldwide push to produce more biofuels.
(20 February)

The sun is a star when it comes to sustainable energy
At a national scientific meeting last week where biofuels – principally ethanol – were uniformly trashed as an environmental train wreck, one bright, carbon-free light gleamed in our energy future: the sun.
(20 February)

Scientists document salamander decline in Central America
Amphibian populations have dropped worldwide, but most studies have detailed the impact on frogs only. A new UC Berkeley study now shows that salamander populations are plummeting in Central America, primarily in the cloud forests.
(09 February)

Predicting diversity within hotspots to enhance conservation
Hotspots of threatened biodiversity comprise a huge chunk of the Earth and present a daunting challenge to governments and scientists who want to study them, let alone protect them from development. A new strategy developed by UC Berkeley researchers can help identify the hotspots within hotspots critical for study and conservation.
(05 February)

Fixing our climate — no handwringing required
It would require the same number of workers to install rooftop solar panels on every house in the U.S., helping to mitigate the effects of global warming, as we currently have military personnel deployed in Iraq. That's just one eye-opening stat from a new book, co-authored by Berkeley faculty expert John Harte, on practical ways to solve the climate crisis.
(28 January)

Summer peak, winter low temperatures now arrive 2 days earlier
Biologists have long noticed that global warming is causing springtime flowering and ice melting to arrive earlier, but a new study shows that the seasonal cycle has also shifted, causing summer's peak temperature and winter's lowest temperature to arrive nearly two days earlier than wastrue 50 years ago.
(21 January)