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While 99 percent of Earth’s land ice is locked up in the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets, the remaining ice in the world’s glaciers contributed just as much to sea rise as the two ice sheets combined from 2003 to 2009, says a new study led by Clark University and involving the University Colorado Boulder.
The new research found that all glacial regions lost mass from 2003 to 2009, with the biggest ice losses occurring in Arctic Canada, Alaska, coastal Greenland, the southern Andes and the Himalayas. The glaciers outside of the Greenland and Antarctic sheets lost an average of roughly 260 billion metric tons of ice annually during the study period, causing the oceans to rise 0.03 inches, or about 0.7 millimeters per year.
The study compared traditional ground measurements to satellite data from NASA’s Ice, Cloud and Land Elevation Satellite, or ICESat, and the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment, or GRACE, missions to estimate ice loss for glaciers in all regions of the planet.
“For the first time, we’ve been able to very precisely constrain how much these glaciers as a whole are contributing to sea rise,” said geography Assistant Professor Alex Gardner of Clark University in Worcester, Mass., lead study author. “These smaller ice bodies are currently losing about as much mass as the ice sheets.”
A paper on the subject is being published in the May 17 issue of the journal Science.
“Because the global glacier ice mass is relatively small in comparison with the huge ice sheets covering Greenland and Antarctica, people tend to not worry about it,” said CU-Boulder Professor Tad Pfeffer, a study co-author. “But it’s like a little bucket with a huge hole in the bottom: it may not last for very long, just a century or two, but while there’s ice in those glaciers, it’s a major contributor to sea level rise,” said Pfeffer, a glaciologist at CU-Boulder’s Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research
ICESat, which ceased operations in 2009, measured glacier changes using laser altimetry, which bounces laser pulses off the ice surface to determine changes in the height of ice cover. The GRACE satellite system, still operational, detects variations in Earth’s gravity field resulting from changes in the planet’s mass distribution, including ice displacements.
GRACE does not have a fine enough resolution and ICESat does not have sufficient sampling density to study small glaciers, but mass change estimates by the two satellite systems for large glaciated regions agree well, the scientists concluded.
“Because the two satellite techniques, ICESat and GRACE, are subject to completely different types of errors, the fact that their results are in such good agreement gives us increased confidence in those results,” said CU-Boulder physics Professor John Wahr, a study co-author and fellow at the university’s Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences.
Ground-based estimates of glacier mass changes include measurements along a line from a glacier’s summit to its edge, which are extrapolated over a glacier’s entire area. Such measurements, while fairly accurate for individual glaciers, tend to cause scientists to overestimate ice loss when extrapolated over larger regions, including individual mountain ranges, according to the team.
Current estimates predict if all the glaciers in the world were to melt, they would raise sea level by about two feet. In contrast, an entire Greenland ice sheet melt would raise sea levels by about 20 feet, while if Antarctica lost its ice cover, sea levels would rise nearly 200 feet.
The study involved 16 researchers from 10 countries. In addition to Clark University and CU-Boulder, major research contributions came from the University of Michigan, the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego, Trent University in Ontario, Canada, and the University of Alaska Fairbanks.
Built by Ball Aerospace & Technologies in Boulder, NASA’s ICESat satellite was successfully operated from the CU-Boulder campus by a team made up primarily of undergraduates from its launch in 2003 to its demise in 2009 when the science payload failed. The students participated in the unusual decommissioning of a functioning satellite in 2010, bringing the craft into Earth re-entry to burn up. ICESat’s successor, ICESat-2, is slated for launch in 2016 by NASA.
-CU media release-
On Monday, 05/13/13, at approximately 9am officers of the Lafayette Police Department were dispatched to Centaurus High School located at 10300 South Boulder Road on the report of a possible explosive device located on campus.
Centaurus High School was placed on lockdown. Students were safely evacuated and transferred to nearby Ryan Elementary School.
Upon arriving on scene the responding Lafayette officers recognized the device to possibly be a pipe bomb and requested assistance from the Boulder County Bomb Squad. The FBI was also contacted and responded to the scene to assist with the investigation. The Boulder County Bomb Squad was able to render the device safe and recovered valuable evidence.
Bomb dogs and their handlers from around the metro area responded to the scene and by 2100 hours had completed searches of the school and the parking lot, including student vehicles that had been left behind when the school was evacuated. No other devices were located, all evidence indicated there were no additional threats to Centaurus High School and the area was determined safe. Students can respond to the school and pick up their vehicles at their convenience.
Due to the response and assistance of the Boulder County Bomb Squad, the FBI, the ATF and all other metro agencies who responded to the scene, the Lafayette Police Department identified a male Centaurus student as a person of interest.
Investigators worked throughout the night and arrested a 16 year old male Centaurus student in conjunction with the explosive device found at Centaurus High School. The juvenile male was located at his residence in Boulder County. Investigators searched the residence and located additional evidence. There is no known motive at this time, however the investigation is on-going.
The juvenile suspect has been arrested on the following charges:
1. Possession of Explosive/Incendiary Parts, 18-12-109(6), Class 4 Felony (for items found at the house), 2 Counts
2. Felony Menacing, 18-3-206, Class 5 Felony.
3. Interference of Educational Institution-Credible Threat w/Deadly Weapon, 18-9-109, Class 1 Misdemeanor.
Due to this being a juvenile suspect and an active investigation there will be no further information, press releases or interviews released by the Lafayette Police Department.
Lafayette PD news release
The Earth’s climate zones are shifting at an accelerating pace, says a new study led by a scientist at the CU’s Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences.
The acceleration of change means that the species inhabiting each zone have less time to adapt to the climatic changes, said lead author Irina Mahlstein, a CIRES scientist who works at NOAA’s Earth System Research Laboratory in Boulder, Colo. “The warmer the climate gets, the faster the climate zones are shifting. This could make it harder for plants and animals to adjust.”
The study is the first to look at the accelerating pace of the shifting of climate zones, which are areas of the Earth defined by annual and seasonal cycles of temperature and precipitation, as well as temperature and precipitation thresholds of plant species. Over 30 different climate zones are found on Earth; examples include the equatorial monsoonal zone, the polar tundra zone and cold arid desert zone.
“A shift in the climate zone is probably a better measure of ‘reality’ for living systems, more so than changing temperature by a degree or precipitation by a centimeter,” said Mahlstein.
The scientists used climate model simulations and a well-known ecosystem classification scheme to look at the shifts between climate zones over a two-century period, 1900 to 2098. The team found that for an initial 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit of warming, about 5 percent of Earth’s land area shifts to a new climate zone.
The models show that the pace of change quickens for the next 3.6 F of warming as an additional 10 percent of the land area shifts to a new climate zone. The paper was published online in the journal Nature Climate Change on April 21.
Certain regions of the globe, such as northern middle and high latitudes, will undergo more changes than other regions, such as the tropics, the scientists found. In the tropics, mountainous regions will experience bigger changes than low-altitude areas.
In the coming century, the findings suggest that frost climates — the coldest climate zone of the planet — will largely decrease. In general, dry regions in different areas of the globe will increase, and a large fraction of land area will change from cool summers to hot summers, according to the study.
The scientists also investigated whether temperature or precipitation had a greater impact on how much of the land area changed zones. “We found that temperature is the main factor, at least through the end of this century,” said Mahlstein.
John Daniel at the NOAA Earth System Research Laboratory and Susan Solomon at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology co-authored the study.
-CU press release
At around 11:30 p.m. on April 19, 2013, the University of Colorado Police Department was dispatched to the area of 30th Street and Baseline Road on the report of a possible hit-and-run accident. Officers found the suspect’s vehicle, an older-model van with heavy front-end damage, at the Bear Creek Apartments parking lot. Officers approached the van and saw Jayme Lee McCoy, 32, of Boulder, seated in the second row with his dog, described as a pit bull. McCoy ignored commands to show his hands, muttered incoherent statements and appeared to be under the influence of drugs.
An officer opened the side door of the van and repeatedly shouted at McCoy to show his hands. Officers saw that McCoy was holding a knife. Officers continued to talk to the suspect and ask for his cooperation, but McCoy remained in the vehicle for a few minutes. McCoy then kissed his dog on the head and unleashed it. McCoy emerged from the van with his right hand tucked behind his right leg as if he might be holding a weapon. The suspect came toward officers and continued to ignore commands to show his hands. An officer deployed a Taser stun gun on the suspect, but it proved ineffective. Two other officers deployed a Taser stun gun and multiple PepperBall projectiles. At the same time, the suspect’s dog ran toward officers in an aggressive manner. An officer fired a bean-bag shotgun round at the dog, but it does not appear the dog was struck. The animal quickly fled the scene. McCoy was placed under arrest and transported to Boulder Community Hospital with minor injuries. A knife was recovered near the location where McCoy was arrested.
McCoy was arrested on the following charges:
- Felony menacing
- Obstructing a peace officer
- Disorderly conduct
- Traffic charges: Driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs, failing to remain at the scene after damaging another vehicle, driving a vehicle without a driver’s license and recording a second DUI offense.
According to CU-Boulder databases, McCoy is not a CU student or employee. McCoy has an extensive criminal background in multiple states for charges related to resisting arrest, obstructing a peace officer, burglary, weapons violations and drugs.
The Boulder Police Department is investigating the hit-and-run accident near 30th Street and Baseline Road.
The Case Number is 13-1008. The case report will not be available until at least Monday, April 22.
-CU police press release-
A new look at conditions after a Manhattan-sized asteroid slammed into a region of Mexico in the dinosaur days indicates the event could have triggered a global firestorm that would have burned every twig, bush and tree on Earth and led to the extinction of 80 percent of all Earth’s species, says a new University of Colorado Boulder study.
Led by Douglas Robertson of the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, or CIRES, the team used models that show the collision would have vaporized huge amounts of rock that were then blown high above Earth’s atmosphere. The re-entering ejected material would have heated the upper atmosphere enough to glow red for several hours at roughly 2,700 degrees Fahrenheit — about the temperature of an oven broiler element — killing every living thing not sheltered underground or underwater.
The CU-led team developed an alternate explanation for the fact that there is little charcoal found at the Cretaceous-Paleogene, or K-Pg, boundary some 66 million years ago when the asteroid struck Earth and the cataclysmic fires are believed to have occurred. The CU researchers found that similar studies had corrected their data for changing sedimentation rates. When the charcoal data were corrected for the same changing sedimentation rates they show an excess of charcoal, not a deficiency, Robertson said.
“Our data show the conditions back then are consistent with widespread fires across the planet,” said Robertson, a research scientist at CIRES, which is a joint institute of CU-Boulder and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. “Those conditions resulted in 100 percent extinction rates for about 80 percent of all life on Earth.”
A paper on the subject was published online this week in the Journal of Geophysical Research-Biogeosciences, a publication of the American Geophysical Union. Co-authors on the study include CIRES Interim Director William Lewis, CU Professor Brian Toon of the atmospheric and oceanic sciences department and the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics and Peter Sheehan of the Milwaukee Public Museum in Wisconsin.
Geological evidence indicates the asteroid collided with Earth about 66 million years ago and carved the Chicxulub crater in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula that is more than 110 miles in diameter. In 2010, experts from 33 institutions worldwide issued a report that concluded the impact at Chicxulub triggered mass extinctions, including dinosaurs, at the K-Pg boundary.
The conditions leading to the global firestorm were set up by the vaporization of rock following the impact, which condensed into sand-grain-sized spheres as they rose above the atmosphere. As the ejected material re-entered Earth’s atmosphere, it dumped enough heat in the upper atmosphere to trigger an infrared “heat pulse” so hot it caused the sky to glow red for several hours, even though part of the radiation was blocked from Earth by the falling material, he said.
But there was enough infrared radiation from the upper atmosphere that reached Earth’s surface to create searing conditions that likely ignited tinder, including dead leaves and pine needles. If a person was on Earth back then, it would have been like sitting in a broiler oven for two or three hours, said Robertson.
The amount of energy created by the infrared radiation the day of the asteroid-Earth collision is mind-boggling, said Robertson. “It’s likely that the total amount of infrared heat was equal to a 1 megaton bomb exploding every four miles over the entire Earth.”
A 1-megaton hydrogen bomb has about the same explosive power as 80 Hiroshima-type nuclear bombs, he said. The asteroid-Earth collision is thought to have generated about 100 million megatons of energy, said Robertson.
Some researchers have suggested that a layer of soot found at the K-Pg boundary layer roughly 66 million years ago was created by the impact itself. But Robertson and his colleagues calculated that the amount of soot was too high to have been created during the massive impact event and was consistent with the amount that would be expected from global fires.
The City of Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks (OSMP) is temporarily closing areas in order to protect nesting and roosting burrowing owls and osprey. Properties where burrowing owls nest will be closed from March 15 through Oct 31. Properties closed for the protection of nesting osprey will be closed from March 15 through Sept. 10. Closures may be lifted early if monitoring indicates it is appropriate.
The following property will be closed for the protection of osprey:
Axelson (northwest of Boulder Reservoir; portions closed).
The following properties will be closed for the protection of burrowing owls:
- Damyanovich/Yunker (north of Marshall Drive, between Cherryvale Road and US 36);
- Jafay/Lynch (north of Lookout Road and east of 75th Street);
- Cosslett/Knaus (South of Lookout Road and east of 75th Street);
- Kelsall (north of High-Plains Trail, trail remains open);
- Mesa Sand and Gravel (east of 66th Street, south of Marshall Drive); and
- Superior Associates (north of High-Plains Trail, trail remains open).
These closures were established to protect sensitive species. Burrowing owls nest in prairie dog burrows and their populations are declining in Colorado. This bird is listed as threatened by the Colorado Division of Wildlife has been listed as endangered or as a species of “special concern” in 12 US states and in Canada. Staff will be monitoring these sites and others during the spring and summer to understand more about the distribution and breeding biology of this owl on city property.
City of Boulder relies heavily on the public to respect the closures, and the cooperation of visitors to avoid these areas is greatly appreciated. Trespass violations can result in a summons with penalties up to 90 days in jail and/or a $1,000 fine.
More detailed information and maps can be found on the Open Space and Mountain Parks’ website: www.osmp.org. or call 303-441-3440.
The study, to be published in the May issue of the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, found that participants given more powerful roles in two experiments attributed fewer uniquely human traits — characteristics that distinguish people from other animals — to their peers who were given less powerful roles.
“I think a lot of us have the intuition that some powerful people can be pretty dehumanizing,” said Jason Gwinn, a doctoral student in the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience and lead author of the study. “But our goal was to test if power, when randomly assigned to ordinary students, would have that effect. That would say something about power itself rather than about the sort of people who have the drive to take power.”
The researchers enlisted about 300 CU-Boulder students taking an introductory psychology course to participate in two experiments. In the first experiment, students were assigned to be either a manager or an assistant for a mock hiring task. The assistants were asked to review resumes for an open job and then list the strengths and weaknesses of each applicant. The managers then reviewed the list made by their assistants and made a final decision about whom to hire.
In the second experiment, participants were asked to play a game and were assigned to be either an allocator or a recipient. For the game, one allocator and one recipient were tasked with splitting a pot of money. The allocator, the higher-power role, made the first offer, suggesting how the money be split. If the recipient, the lower-power role, accepted the offer, both people received their share of the money. If the recipient declined the offer, neither person received any of the money.
At the end of each experiment, the participants were asked to rate each other on 40 traits. The result was that students in higher-power roles assigned fewer uniquely human traits to the students in lower-power roles than vice versa. Examples of traits considered to be more uniquely human, as defined and tested in a 2007 Australian study, include being ambitious, imaginative, frivolous and insecure. Examples of traits that are less uniquely human — those that could be used to describe a pet as well as a friend, for example — include being passive, timid, friendly and shy.
The question of whether power leads to dehumanization has part of its roots in the renowned Stanford Prison Experiment conducted in 1971. Twenty-four male students were randomly assigned to play the role of either inmate or guard in a mock prison in the basement of the Stanford psychology building. During the study, the guards were psychologically abusive to the prisoners, many of whom passively accepted the abuse, despite the fact that the participants knew that they were all students at the same elite university.
Though the guards were described as dehumanizing the prisoners, the term “dehumanization” was well defined at the time and the experiment was not designed to allow the researchers to confidently state that it was the increase in power that lead to the dehumanization. By contrast, Gwinn’s study, now available online, was designed specifically to test the relationship between power and dehumanization.
Gwinn cautions that the researchers cannot yet say whose perspective is being changed by the power differential imposed on participants in the CU study. It’s possible that being in a position of less power makes a person see those in power as more human rather than the other way around, or that both people are affected.
“We haven’t pinned down why this happens,” Gwinn said. “We don’t know whose perception is being affected.”
Charles Judd and Bernadette Park, both professors in CU-Boulder’s Department of Psychology and Neuroscience, co-authored the study.
At 8:28 p.m. today, the CU Police Department received a report of a death in Libby Hall, a campus residence hall that houses approximately 400 students. A deceased male was found in a residence hall room.
“The federal Clery Act requires us to alert CU affiliates when we believe there is an ongoing danger to the campus,” said CU-Boulder police spokesman Ryan Huff. “We don’t believe there’s a threat to campus.”
UCPD has not made any arrests related to this case.
The Boulder County Coroner’s Office and UCPD detectives are on scene and will continue to investigate. The identity of the deceased will be released by the County Coroner, pending notification of next of kin.
No further information will be available this evening.
Interdisciplinary thinking bolsters innovation. That’s the concept behind the University of Colorado Boulder’s new nLab, a mobile hub that allows students to develop their entrepreneurial ideas through peer and mentor-based collaboration, sustainability resources and other tools.
The free resource, launched last fall by CU-Boulder’s Deming Center for Entrepreneurship at the Leeds School of Business, is designed to help students campus wide tap into communities beyond their academic spheres. The CU Environmental Center, an nLab partner, offers specialized support to integrate sustainability into student ideas.
The nLab supports cross-campus entrepreneurship curricula, the CU New Venture Challenge business plan competition and individuals who want to explore ideas.
“You don’t have to be a business major to think like an entrepreneur,” said Costa Raptis, a junior in geography at CU-Boulder. “You just have to be driven and have a versatile mind and kind of know what you’re after.”
Raptis, who’s interested in cultural anthropology and marketing, is exploring his idea — a talent agency that operates without a traditional hierarchy — using the nLab. He’s been paired through nLab with an employee-owned solar company for mentorship.
Other student ideas that have been brought to the nLab are a cosmetic line and a job-search website called Startups 2 Students, which matches students with position openings at unique companies.
The nLab includes a website where users can post ideas and browse existing projects. It also hosts weekly co-working sessions on campus and provides a mobile kiosk intended to spark both planned and impromptu meetings, and to serve as a workspace. Faculty also can enlist nLab.
“I’m beginning to use nLab as an additional tool to give my students a safe, welcoming and helpful place to apply course material to ideas of their own and others,” said Eben Johnson, a CU-Boulder lecturer in the Lockheed Martin Engineering Management Program. “The value of nLab is that it’s for the whole campus. From music to biology, history and finance, great ideas for new products and services are found everywhere.”
Johnson teaches an undergraduate and graduate-level course called Marketing and High-Tech Ventures. Each semester, his students conceptualize new ideas from lithium ion batteries for cell phones to algae nutritional supplements, and nLab will be a resource for such projects, he said.
Other campus supporters of nLab are CU’s Technology Transfer Office; the Silicon Flatirons Center for Law, Technology and Entrepreneurship; the Alliance for Technology, Learning and Society, or ATLAS; and the Lockheed Martin Engineering Management Program.
CU-Boulder amphibian study shows how
biodiversity can protect against disease
The richer the assortment of amphibian species living in a pond, the more protection that community of frogs, toads and salamanders has against a parasitic infection that can cause severe deformities, including the growth of extra legs, according to a new study by the University of Colorado Boulder.
The findings, published Feb. 14 in the journal Nature, support the idea that greater biodiversity in larger-scale ecosystems, such as forests or grasslands, may also provide greater protection against diseases, including those that attack humans. For example, a larger number of mammal species in an area may curb cases of Lyme disease, while a larger number of bird species may slow the spread of West Nile virus.
“How biodiversity affects the risk of infectious diseases, including those of humans and wildlife, has become an increasingly important question,” said Pieter Johnson, an assistant professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and lead author of the study. “But as it turns out, solidly testing these linkages with realistic experiments has proven very challenging in most systems.”
Researchers have struggled to design comprehensive studies that could illuminate the possible connection between disease transmission and the number of species living in complex ecosystems. Part of the problem is simply the enormous number of organisms that may need to be sampled and the vast areas over which those organisms may roam.
The new CU-Boulder study overcomes that problem by studying smaller, easier-to-sample ecosystems. Johnson and his team visited hundreds of ponds in California, recording the types of amphibians living there as well as the number of snails infected by the pathogen Ribeiroia ondatrae. Snails are an intermediate host used by the parasite during part of its life cycle.
“One of the great challenges in studying the diversity-disease link has been collecting data from enough replicate systems to differentiate the influence of diversity from background ‘noise,’ ” Johnson said. “By collecting data from hundreds of ponds and thousands of amphibian hosts, our group was able to provide a rigorous test of this hypothesis, which has relevance to a wide range of disease systems.”
Johnson’s team buttressed its field observations both with laboratory tests designed to measure how prone to infection each amphibian species is and by creating pond replicas outside using large plastic tubs stocked with tadpoles that were exposed to a known number of parasites. All of the experiments told the same story, Johnson said. Greater biodiversity reduced the number of successful amphibian infections and the number of deformed frogs.
In all, the CU-Boulder researchers spent three years sampling 345 wetlands and recording malformations — which include missing, misshapen or extra sets of hind legs — caused by parasitic infections in 24,215 amphibians. They also cataloged 17,516 snails. The results showed that ponds with half a dozen amphibian species had a 78 percent reduction in parasite transmission compared to ponds with just one amphibian species. The research team also set up experiments in the lab and outdoors using 40 artificial ponds, each stocked with 60 amphibians and 5,000 parasites.
The reason for the decline in parasitic infections as biodiversity increases is likely related to the fact that ponds add amphibian species in a predictable pattern, with the first species to appear being the most prone to infection and the later species to appear being the least prone. For example, the research team found that in a pond with just one type of amphibian, that amphibian was almost always the Pacific chorus frog, a creature that is able to rapidly reproduce and quickly colonize wetland habitats, but which is also especially vulnerable to infection and parasite-induced deformities.
On the other hand, the California tiger salamander was typically one of the last species to be added to a pond community and also one of the most resistant to parasitic infection. Therefore, in a pond with greater biodiversity, parasites have a higher chance of encountering an amphibian that is resistant to infection, lowering the overall success rate of transmission between infected snails and amphibians.
This same pattern — of less diverse communities being made up of species that are more susceptible to disease infection — may well play out in more complex ecosystems as well, Johnson said. That’s because species that disperse quickly across ecosystems appear to trade off the ability to quickly reproduce with the ability to develop disease resistance.
“This research reaches the surprising conclusion that the entire set of species in a community affects the susceptibility to disease,” said Doug Levey, program director in the National Science Foundation’s Division of Environmental Biology, which helped fund the research. “Biodiversity matters.”
The sheer magnitude of the recent study also reinforces the connection between deformed frogs and parasitic infection, Johnson said. Beginning in the mid-1990s reports of frogs with extra, missing or misshapen legs skyrocketed, attracting widespread attention in the media and motivating scientists to try to figure out the cause. Johnson was among the researchers who found evidence of a link between infection with Ribeiroia and frog deformities, though the apparent rise in reports of deformations, and its underlying cause, remains controversial.
While the new study has implications beyond parasitic infections in amphibians, it does not mean that an increase in biodiversity always results in a decrease in disease, Johnson cautioned. Other factors also affect rates of disease transmission. For example, a large number of mosquitoes hatching in a particular year will increase the risk of contracting West Nile virus, even if there has been an increase in the biodiversity of the bird population. Birds act as “reservoir hosts” for West Nile virus, harboring the pathogen indefinitely with no ill effects and passing the pathogen onto mosquitoes.
“Our results indicate that higher diversity reduces the success of pathogens in moving between hosts,” Johnson said. “Nonetheless, if infection pressure is high, for instance in a year with high abundance of vectors, there will still be a significant risk of disease; biodiversity will simply function to dampen transmission success.”
CU-Boulder graduate students Dan Preston and Katie Richgels co-authored the study along with Jason Hoverman, a former postdoctoral researcher in Johnson’s lab who is now an assistant professor at Purdue. The research was funded by NSF, the National Geographic Society and the David and Lucile Packard Foundation.
To view photos and a video about the research, visit http://freshwatersillustrated.org/link/AmphibianDeformities.
Creeping climate change in the Southwest appears to be having a negative effect on pinyon pine reproduction, a finding with implications for wildlife species sharing the same woodland ecosystems, says a University of Colorado Boulder-led study.
The new study showed that pinyon pine seed cone production declined by an average of about 40 percent at nine study sites in New Mexico and northwestern Oklahoma over the past four decades, said CU-Boulder doctoral student Miranda Redmond, who led the study. The biggest declines in pinyon pine seed cone reproduction were at the higher elevation research sites experiencing more dramatic warming relative to lower elevations, said Redmond of CU’s ecology and evolutionary biology department.
“We are finding significant declines in pinyon pine cone production at many of our study sites,” said Redmond. “The biggest declines in cone production we measured were in areas with greater increases in temperatures over the past several decades during the March to October growing season.”
The cones in which the pinyon seeds are produced are initiated two years prior to seed maturity, and research suggests the environmental stimulus for cone initiation is unseasonably low temperatures during the late summer, said Redmond. Between 1969 and 2009, unseasonably low temperatures in late summer decreased in the study areas, likely inhibiting cone initiation and development.
The study is one of the first to examine the impact of climate change on tree species like pinyon pines that, instead of reproducing annually, shed vast quantities of cones every few years during synchronous, episodic occurrences known as “masting” events. Redmond said such masting in the pinyon pine appears to occur every three to seven years, resulting in massive “bumper crops” of cones covering the ground.
In the new Ecosphere study, the researchers compared two 10-year sequences of time. In addition to showing that total pinyon pine cone production during the 2003-2012 decade had declined from the 1969-1978 decade in the study areas, the team found the production of cones during masting events also declined during that period.
Some scientists believe masting events evolved to produce a big surplus of nut-carrying cones — far too many for wildlife species to consume in a season — making it more likely the nuts eventually will sprout into pinyon pine seedlings, she said. Others have suggested masting events occur during favorable climate conditions and/or to increase pollination efficiency. “Right now we really don’t know what drives them,” Redmond said.
“Across a range of forested ecosystems we are observing widespread mortality events due to stressors such as changing climate, drought, insects and fire,” said CU’s Barger. “This study provides evidence that increasing air temperatures may be influencing the ability of a common and iconic western U.S. tree, pinyon pine, to reproduce. We would predict that declines in pinyon pine cone production may impact the long-term viability of these tree populations.”
Wildlife biologists say pinyon-juniper woodlands are popular with scores of bird and mammal species ranging from black-chinned hummingbirds to black bears. A 2007 study by researchers at the University of Northern Arizona estimated that 150 Clark’s Nutcrackers cached roughly 5 million pinyon pine nuts in a single season, benefiting not only the birds themselves but also the pines whose nuts were distributed more widely for possible germination.
For the new study, Redmond revisited nine pinyon pine study sites scattered throughout New Mexico and Oklahoma that had been studied previously in 1978 by Forcella. Both Forcella and Redmond were able to document pinyon pine masting years by counting small, concave blemishes known as “abscission scars” on individual tree branches that appeared after the cones have been dropped, she said.
Since each year in the life of a pinyon pine tree is marked by a “whorl” — a single circle of branches extending around a tree trunk — the researchers were able to bracket pinyon pine reproductive activity in the nine study areas for the 1969-1978 decade and 2003-2012 decade, which were then compared.
Pinyon pines take three growing seasons, or about 26 months, to produce mature cones from the time of cone initiation. Low elevation conifers including pinyon pines grow in water-limited environments and have been shown to have higher cone output during cool and/or wet summers, said Redmond. In addition to the climate-warming trend under way in the Southwest, the 2002-03 drought caused significant mortality in pinyon pine forests, Redmond said.
“Miranda’s ideas and accompanying results will be of value to ecologists and land managers in the deserts of the Southwest and beyond,” said Forcella, now a research agronomist in the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service. “The work is evidence that the University of Colorado continues to cultivate a cadre of high-caliber graduate students for which it rightfully can take tremendous pride.”
Pinyon nuts, the Southwest’s only commercial source of edible pine seeds today, were dietary staples of indigenous Americans going back millennia.
For more information on CU-Boulder’s ecology and evolutionary biology department visit http://ebio.colorado.edu.
On Sunday, February 9, 2013 at 11:28 pm, the Boulder County Regional Communications received a report of an explosion and fire at 5479 Jay Road, just outside the City of Boulder. At 11:31 pm, Boulder County Sheriff’s Deputy Jeff George was first on scene, to find the home on fire. A neighbor advised Deputy George that an elderly woman lived alone in the residence. Deputy George forced entry into the home and found 83 year old, Marvyl Holder on the floor in her bedroom.
The neighbor, John Walpole, followed Deputy George into the residence and assisted in removing Marvyl out of the residence. Boulder Police Officer Ed Burke, the second responder, assisted George in carrying Marvyl away from the residence just moments before a second explosion in the residence.
Fire personnel from Boulder Rural Fire, City of Boulder Fire, Rocky Mountain Fire, Lafayette Fire and Mountain View Fire responded and extinguished the fire. The Boulder County Multi-Agency Fire Investigation Team (MAFIT) will investigate first thing this morning, but preliminary indications are pointing towards a gas leak. The home is considered to be a total loss.
Marvyl Holder and Deputy Jeff George were both evaluated by paramedics from AMR Ambulance and found to be alright, suffering from only minor smoke inhalation.
State to provide substantial assistance for county’s preventive approach to child welfare
Boulder County, Colo. – Boulder County will soon join in an expansion of a visionary approach to child welfare that stabilizes families and helps keep children safe. The Colorado Department of Human Services (CDHS) sent notification this week that in spring 2013 the state will begin providing assistance to the county in the form of training, coaching, technical assistance, and meetings to enhance the quality of the county’s Differential Response (DR) initiative.
Differential Response is an evidence-based approach to child welfare that involves identifying cases that are lower risk and partnering with the families to get them the help they need, rather than treating all cases in the same way. Boulder County has been using a more collaborative approach with families since 2009, and has seen tremendous success in its child welfare outcomes as a result.
“Children do best with their families when appropriate safety exists,” said Kit Thompson, director of the Family and Children Services Division of the Boulder County Department of Housing and Human Services. “What we’ve found is that by strengthening families, we give them the best chance to provide a safe, stable home for their children.”
Research indicates the Differential Response approach leads to families receiving more help sooner, which results in sustained child safety and improved family engagement. DR also helps ensure that families who need much closer attention in cases of abuse or neglect have those resources available to them.
The Colorado Consortium on Differential Response, a group of five counties in partnership with CDHS, has been working to implement DR across the state since 2010.
“Studying and implementing Differential Response allowed us to redefine the values and mission of our child protection work and challenged us to alter our daily thinking about how to collaborate with families, our community, and one another,” said Angela Lytle, Children Youth and Family Services division manager for the Arapahoe County Department of Human Services. Arapahoe County has seen tremendous success with Differential Response, and Lytle has been a strong advocate for expanding the practice statewide. “Congratulations to Colorado for demonstrating the courage to take this innovative work and expand it with diligence and fidelity to best meet the needs of Colorado families,” she said.
Boulder County will develop its own implementation plan for the DR expansion in partnership with the state and other counties currently involved in the pilot. Other counties in the expansion include Adams, Chaffee, Denver, La Plata, San Juan, Lincoln, Mesa, and Otero. A second round of counties will join the expansion in fall 2013.
Boulder police are looking for a 35-to-40 year old white male in connection with two separate burglaries of neighboring businesses on Feb. 4, 2013. Surveillance photos of the suspect are attached.
The first incident took place at the Lazy Dog, located at 1346 Pearl St., at about 2:00 p.m. The manager told police he had found the suspect standing in a lower-level office that was not open to the public. The suspect pretended to be waiting for someone and left when the manager told him that no one by that name worked there. It appears the suspect stole cash from the office before leaving the business.
The case number is 13-1525.
The second incident took place at approximately 2:23 p.m. It occurred at Pizza Colore, located at 1336 Pearl St., a few doors from the Lazy Dog.
The owner of Pizza Colore told police that he saw the suspect in a rear hallway. The owner remembered seeing the same suspect walk past his office several days before, and confronted the suspect about his reason for being in the business.
The suspect told the owner that he was looking for a friend. The owner informed the suspect there was no one working at the restaurant with that name and escorted the suspect from the business. The suspect had managed to steal a “silver certificate” from a wall in an office before being escorted out.
The case number is 13-1523.
Police believe the same suspect is responsible for both burglaries.
The suspect is described as:
· White male
· 5’10” to 6’0” tall
· Thin build
· 35 to 40 years old
· Wearing blue jeans, a red plaid, short-sleeved shirt and a tan-colored baseball cap
Anyone with information about these burglaries or who may recognize the suspect is asked to contact Detective Steve Faber at 303-441-3384. Those who have information but wish to remain anonymous may contact the Northern Colorado Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or 1-800-444-3776. Tips can also be submitted through the Crime Stoppers website at www.crimeshurt.com. Those submitting tips through Crime Stoppers that lead to the arrest and filing of charges on a suspect(s) may be eligible for a cash reward of up to $1,000 from Crime Stoppers.
CU-led study shows pine beetle outbreak
buffers watersheds from nitrate pollution
A research team involving several scientists from the University of Colorado Boulder has found an unexpected silver lining in the devastating pine beetle outbreaks ravaging the West: Such events do not harm water quality in adjacent streams as scientists had previously believed.
According to CU-Boulder team member Professor William Lewis, the new study shows that smaller trees and other vegetation that survive pine beetle invasions along waterways increase their uptake of nitrate, a common disturbance-related pollutant. While logging or damaging storms can drive stream nitrate concentrations up by 400 percent for multiple years, the team found no significant increase in the nitrate concentrations following extensive pine beetle tree mortality in a number of Colorado study areas.
“We found that the beetles do not disturb watersheds in the same way as logging and severe storms,” said Lewis, interim director of CU’s Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences. “They leave behind smaller trees and other understory vegetation, which compensate for the loss of larger pine trees by taking up additional nitrate from the system. Beetle-kill conditions are a good benchmark for the protection of sub-canopy vegetation to preserve water quality during forest management activities.”
A paper on the subject was published in the Jan. 14 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
“The U.S. Forest Service and other agencies have established harvesting practices that greatly mitigate damage to forests caused by logging, and they deserve credit for that,” said Lewis. “But this study shows just how important the survival of smaller trees and understory vegetation can be to stream water quality.”
In waterways adjacent to healthy pine forests, concentrations of nitrate is generally far lower than in rivers on the plains in the West like the South Platte, said Lewis. Nitrate pollution is caused by agricultural runoff from populated areas and by permitted discharges of treated effluent from water treatment facilities.
“In Colorado, many watersheds have lost 80 to 90 percent of their tree canopy as a result of the beetle epidemic,” said Lewis, also a faculty member in CU-Boulder’s ecology and evolutionary biology department. “We began to wonder whether the loss of the trees was reducing water quality in the streams. We knew that forestry and water managers were expecting big changes in water quality as a result of the pine beetle outbreak, so we decided to pool our university and federal agency resources in order to come up with an answer.”
Study co-author and CU-Boulder Research Associate James McCutchan of CIRES said the new results should help forest managers develop more effective ways to harvest timber while having the smallest effect possible on downstream ecosystems. “This study shows that at least in some areas, it is possible to remove a large part of the tree biomass from a watershed with a very minimal effect on the stream ecosystem,” he said.
Understory vegetation left intact after beetle outbreaks gains an ecological advantage in terms of survival and growth, since small trees no longer have to compete with large trees and have more access to light, water and nutrients, said McCutchan. Research by study co-author and former CU undergraduate Rachel Ertz showed concentrations of nitrate in the needles of small pines that survived beetle infestations were higher than those in healthy trees outside beetle-killed areas, another indication of how understory vegetation compensates for environmental conditions in beetle kill areas.
The researchers used computer modeling to show that in western forests, such a “compensatory response” provides potent water quality protection against the adverse effects of nitrates only if roughly half of the vegetation survives “overstory” mortality from beetle kill events, which is what occurs normally in such areas, said Lewis.
Other study co-authors included Leigh Cooper, Thomas Detmer and Thomas Veblen from CU-Boulder, John Stednick from Colorado State University, Charles Rhoades from the U.S. Forest Service, Jennifer Briggs and David Clow from the U.S. Geological Survey and Gene Likens of the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies in Millbrook, N.Y.
The severe pine beetle epidemic in Colorado and Wyoming forests is part of an unprecedented beetle outbreak that ranges from Mexico to Canada. A November 2012 study by CU-Boulder doctoral student Teresa Chapman showed the 2001-02 drought greatly accelerated the development of the mountain pine beetle epidemic.
The researchers measured stream nitrate concentrations at more than 100 sites in western Colorado containing lodgepole pines with a range of beetle-induced tree damage. The study area included measurements from the Fraser Experimental Forest near Granby, Colo., a 23,000-acre study area established by the USFS in 1937.
The new study was funded by the USFS, the USGS, the National Science Foundation, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the National Park Service. CIRES is a joint research institute between CU-Boulder and NOAA.