Keynote speaker Dr. Ian Stirling opens up Pole to Pole Campaign

Dr. Ian Stirling is a Research Scientist Emeritus with Environment Canada and an Adjunct Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences, University of Alberta, Edmonton. He has done research on polar bears and polar seals (Arctic and Antarctic) for 47 years. Particular areas of research interest include ecology, behaviour, evolution, relationships between polar bears and seals, the biological importance of polynyas, and the conservation and management of polar marine mammals and ecosystems.

Dr. Ian Stirling (Daniel J. Cox/Natural Exposures)

For his work, he has won several awards, including the Canadian Northern Science Award and the National Conservation Award in the Special Achievement Category of the US National Wildlife Federation. He was appointed as an Officer in the Order of Canada by the Governor General, and elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, the primary scientific body of that country. He participates in a number of national and international committees on polar bears and marine mammals and has authored or co-authored over 250 scientific and written 5 books on bears and their ecology for the general public.

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Climate change could kill off Andean cloud forests

One of the richest ecosystems on the planet may not survive a hotter climate without human help, according to a sobering new paper in the open source journal PLoS ONE. Although little-studied compared to lowland rainforests, the cloud forests of the Andes are known to harbor explosions of life, including thousands of species found nowhere else. Many of these species—from airy ferns to beautiful orchids to tiny frogs—thrive in small ranges that are temperature-dependent. But what happens when the climate heats up?

Cloud forest and valley in Andean Peru (Photo: Rhett A. Butler)

Cloud forest and valley in Andean Peru (Photo: Rhett A. Butler)

“Shifts in temperature will require upslope migration for most species to remain in equilibrium with climate and therefore potentially avoid extinction,” the scientists write in the paper. However looking at aerial photos and satellite imagery of Manu National Park from 1963 to 2005, the researchers found that Andean cloud forests may run into an insurmountable border as they attempt to migrate up mountain sides: puna grasslands. Although the temperature has warmed significantly since the 1960s, the researchers found that the treeline bordering the Andean cloud forests and high-altitude grasslands had hardly moved. In fact, according to the research, 80 percent of this border remained stable in the study area since 1963. This transition area between one ecosystem (cloud forest) and another (puna grasslands) is known to scientists as an ecotone.

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Human role in warming ‘more certain’ says UN climate chief

Scientists are more certain than ever that greenhouse gases from human activities are heating the planet, Rajendra Pachauri, the head of the UN’s climate panel, says. Rajendra Pachauri made the comments in an interview with BBC News.

The panel is due to deliver its latest report on the state of the climate later this week in Stockholm, Sweden. Its last report was criticised after an error on glaciers unveiled other flaws, but Prof Pachauri said procedures had been reformed and strengthened.

He also dismissed suggestions of a slowdown in global warming. “There’s definitely an increase in our belief that climate change is taking place and that human beings are responsible,” he told me.

“I don’t think there is a slowdown (in the rate of temperature increase). I would like to draw your attention to the World Meteorological Organization which clearly stated on the basis of observations that the first decade of this century has been the warmest in recorded history.

“And I think the rest will be brought out by the report itself when it’s released.”

Prof Pachauri’s insistence that warming has not slowed hints at a focus of debate this week in Stockholm: Global temperatures have not been increasing as fast as scientists predicted, and several governments insist that this puzzle is properly addressed in the final summary.

Have computer climate models overestimated the sensitivity of the planet to increasing CO2? Or has excess heat been stored up in oceans whence it will emerge to super-heat the planet in decades to come? Or both?

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Source: BBC News Science and Environment