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Citizen-Collected Evidence Compels Cleanup

Water Samples, 'Odor Log' Help Alabamans Win Case Against Neighboring Hog Factory

September/October Edition
Sierra Club: The Planet Newsletter
by Tom Valtin
After a 3-year fight, the Sierra Club and three private citizens won a major settlement in the first lawsuit filed under the Clean Water Act relying primarily on citizen-collected evidence--including jars of polluted creek water and a two-year "odor log."
Willard and Barbara Jones and Pearl Ivey of Henagar, Alabama, are neighbors of the Whitaker & Sons confined animal feeding operation, and a creek that drains the facility runs through the Jones' property. The Joneses and Ivey teamed up with the Sierra Club in 2003 to bring suit against Whitaker for polluting streams that flow into the Tennessee River.
The suit also claimed that the odor from the hog operation was damaging neighbors' property values and quality of life, and that the factory sprayed liquid waste not just on their own fields, but on neighboring property. Sierra Club v. Whittaker & Sons was filed after water samples collected by Willard Jones and other volunteer water monitors found high levels of E. coli and fecal coliform in steams flowing off the Whitaker property.
Don't Drink This Water: Willard Jones reaches into a creek near his home to gather samples of water polluted by the hog feeding operation just up the road. The Sierra Club joined Jones and two other plaintiffs in using citizen-gathered evidence to win a Clean Water Act court victory against the hog factory operator.
"I never imagined our retirement to be spent fighting a hog farm," says Jones, a 76-year-old former refinery manager. He and his wife had planned to build a retirement home on their property, but the stench from the hog factory and concerns over water pollution caused them to abandon that plan. "Our family property was made almost completely unusable because of the hog waste," he says.
As the lawsuit got underway, plaintiff Pearl Ivey began writing down every time she could smell the hog operation when she went outside her home. Over a two-year period, her log showed there was an offensive odor on more than 1,200 occasions. "Many days I can't go outside my home because of the stench from hog waste that ends up in my pond," she says. "I didn't ask for any money from this case; I just want clean air and water."
Sierra Club Alabama Chapter Conservation Chair Bryan Burgess, an adjunct professor of environmental science at Jacksonville State University, started the ball rolling on the case in 2002 when he applied to the Club's Water Sentinels Program for funds to monitor the Whittaker operation. He and Jacksonville State colleague Blake Otwell began monitoring streams near the factory, and they recruited Jones to help collect water samples because of his knowledge of local creeks and his proximity to the Whittaker facility.
Getting down on hands and knees and wading into creeks, the three collected samples from streams and wetlands bordering the Whittaker property and analyzed them in the Jacksonville State lab, where Burgess and Otwell trained Jones in water analysis. Jones and a group of neighbors presented their data to the state Department of Environmental Management and appealed for help. But when no action was forthcoming, they turned to the courts.
"Nobody likes to get into a lawsuit," says Alabama Sierra Club organizer Peggie Griffin. "You want to be good friends with your neighbors, but your neighbors have to be good friends with you." Griffin had been rallying citizens to fight back against factory farm pollution through the Club's Building Environmental Community program, which funded and produced a film, "The Scoop on the Poop," showing how hog factories destroy rural communities. Jones and Burgess are featured in the movie, which was shown throughout Alabama.
To represent the Sierra Club, Burgess and Griffin recruited attorney Mark Martin, a native Alabamian and avid kayaker. Martin met with several neighbors who were affected by the Whittaker operation and identified the plaintiffs. A decision was made early on to use an independent, outside laboratory in addition to Jacksonville State to analyze water samples.
Despite being matched up against a team of corporate attorneys, Martin successfully negotiated a settlement that calls for Whitaker & Sons to stop dumping hog waste into local waterways; replace the existing fecal "lagoon" with an above-ground tank system; plant barriers of fast-growing trees to help prevent the odor from spreading to nearby homes; build berms and plant grass strips to help stop or absorb runoff; conduct regular soil and water testing; repair spraying equipment used in applying hog waste to fields as fertilizer; and pay the plaintiffs $100,000 in damages.
The settlement was announced on August 14 by U.S. District Judge William Acker in Birmingham, Alabama.
Whittaker played hardball along the way. At a press event during the lawsuit, a photographer asked Willard Jones to accompany him to take a photo of the Whittaker facility. When the photographer turned into Whitaker's driveway, Jones immediately told him to stop. Nevertheless, the Whitakers claimed Jones and the photographer had pulled up into their yard, and Jones was arrested and convicted of trespassing.
"They had tried to intimidate Willard before by filing a trespassing claim when he was taking water samples," Griffin says. "That's one reason they got a conviction; it was the second complaint--even though both complaints were false." The conviction was subsequently challenged on appeal and thrown out.
"The outcome of this case serves the dual function of showing factory farms that they are not above the rules and showing citizens how powerful their activism can be," says Martin, who was named Sierra Club Legal Hero of the Month this August by the Club's Environmental Law Program.
Meanwhile, Jones and his neighbors continue their vigilance, collecting water samples to be sure that Whittaker keeps its word.
For more on the Sierra Club's efforts to fight water pollution and the spread of factory farms, see sierraclub.org/cleanwater.
Photo: Peggie Griffin
Sierra Club
85 Second St.
San Francisco, CA 94105
www.sierraclub.org

 

Could global warming dry up wine industry?
New report warns North Coast may get too hot in coming century

By TIM TESCONI
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
July 11, 2006

Rising temperatures could transform Wine Country's mild climate into one as sweltering as Tijuana, Mexico, eliminating Sonoma and Napa counties' competitive edge in producing world-class wines.

That's the conclusion of a study released Monday and published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Areas in California suitable for growing premium wine grapes could be reduced by 50 percent -- and possibly as much as 81 percent -- by the end of this century because of global warming.

The study, the second report in two years on global warming's impact on premium wine, indicates increasing weather woes for wine grapes in California if fossil fuel consumption continues unabated.

In 2004, the Union of Concerned Scientists released a report warning that within 80 years most of Sonoma and Napa counties could become too hot to grow premium wine grapes. If so, it would severely affect an industry that contributes more than $5 billion to the regional economy, defines the Wine Country lifestyle and anchors more than 100,000 acres of vineyards.

While growers and winemakers are concerned about global warming, they don't believe rising temperatures would necessarily destroy the state's $45 billion wine industry. They said adjustments in vineyard management, irrigation practices and varietal selection could keep grapes the leading crop in the North Coast and in California.

Nick Frey, executive director of the Sonoma County Grape Growers Association, said the Pacific Ocean and its cooling maritime influence are the most critical factors in producing Sonoma County's premium-quality grapes. He said even if there are more hot days in the future, the Pacific Ocean will still be there to cool things down at night, creating the sugar-acid balance essential for fine wine.

"It's the cooling nighttime temperatures and fog from the Pacific Ocean that make Sonoma County such a great wine region," said Frey.

The primary change in the weather will be an increase in the frequency of extremely hot days, said Noah Diffenbaugh, a co-author of Monday's report and a scientist in the Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at Purdue University.

Grapes used in premium wines need a consistent climate, he said.

When temperatures top 95 degrees, the vines have problems maintaining photosynthesis and the sugars in the grapes can break down, Diffenbaugh said.

"We have very long-term studies of how this biological system (of vineyards) responds to climate," said Diffenbaugh. He said that information gives the researchers confidence in their projections.

The issue of global warming and its impact on wine grape growing is one that certainly needs to be explored further, said Gladys Horiuchi of the Wine Institute, a trade association representing more than 800 of the state's wineries.

She said there are plans to discuss global warming at a major wine industry conference early next year.

Meanwhile, growers and winemakers, whose fortunes depend on the weather, wonder what the future will bring.

"It's on everyone's mind. A shift in temperatures could tilt everything," said David Cooper, winemaker at Yoakim Bridge Vineyards & Winery in Healdsburg. "I keep my fingers crossed."

Scientists and environmental experts have become increasingly alarmed in recent years by accumulating gasses such as carbon dioxide in the atmosphere as a result of the burning of fossil fuels.

A panel of climate scientists convened by the National Academy of Sciences reported last month that the Earth is heating up and "human activities are responsible for much of the recent warming."

The scientists said average global surface temperatures rose by about 1 degree in the 20th century.

That may not sound like much, but many blame it for melting glaciers, weather changes -- perhaps even more hurricanes -- and threats of spreading diseases.

While problems are foreseen for California's Wine Country, the researchers suggest grape-growing conditions might improve in parts of the Northwest and Northeast.

However, the Northeastern and Northwestern states have higher humidity levels than the current top wine regions.

High humidity is associated with fungus outbreaks and other potential growing problems, Diffenbaugh said, "so it could be very expensive to produce premium wines in those areas."

"Our simulations suggest that the area suitable for the production of premium wine grapes will both contract and shift over the next century," the researchers concluded.

The new study, funded by the National Science Foundation, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and Purdue University, involved five months of supercomputer calculations.

It is the first study in which researchers have been able to calculate the daily temperature swings from various climate change scenarios in such detail.

The Los Angeles Times and the Associated Press contributed to this story.


A message from CCWI regarding Hurricane Katrina:

After such a large disaster, all of us are feeling a bit more vulnerable. Americans count on their government to be there in the worst of times – and it wasn’t during Katrina. Fear is one of the primary motivators to action. After 9/11, observers saw an increasing interest in volunteer interest in close-to-home programs. One person may not be able to control the weather or stop terrorists. But by working locally we can improve our community and quality of life by providing a chance to invest in an important need in our town or state (or watershed).

Scientists have predicted increasing number of natural disasters as a result of climate change. Even though you can’t say climate change was the overriding factor in causing the damage that Hurricane Katrina caused, scientists do say that these types of events are becoming more common, and that climate change plays some role in it. The citizen monitors in New Orleans and watershed protection groups have been dealt a huge setback in their efforts, and climate change has become much more real (and scary). These are troubling omens for the 21st Century.

CCWI is a member of River Network, which has established the Gulf Coast Watershed Recovery Fund to help the Gulf Coast conservation communities of New Orleans and rebound from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

Below are important articles analyzing Hurricane Katrina, and with lessons for energy policy, climate protection, and wetlands protection.

BusinessWeek: Let Katrina Be a Warning

Excerpt: …Activist Robert F. Kennedy Jr. blames the Bush Administration for failing to push…curbs on global warming. Says Kennedy: "Katrina is giving our nation a glimpse of the climate chaos we are bequeathing our children."

Bill McKibben: Hurricane Katrina brings a foretaste of environmental disasters to come

Excerpt: …Almost no one is addressing the much larger problems: the scandalous lack of planning that has kept us from even beginning to address climate change, and the sad fact that global warming means the future will be full of just this kind of horror… Take New Orleans as an example. It is currently pro forma for politicians to announce that the city will be rebuilt, and doubtless it will be. Once. But if hurricanes like Katrina go from once-in-a-century storms to once-in-a-decade-or-two storms, how many times will we rebuild it?

For the New Generation, the Apocalypse Is Now -- and It's Green

Hurricane Katrina is the wake-up call for a 23-year-old woman working in the environmental justice movement. The future will be filled with the wrath of climate change -- but a better society, she writes, is possible.


Sept. 16, 2005

HURRICANE STRENGTH
Study links global warming to stronger storms
Critics contend the conclusion is based on flawed weather data

By ERIC BERGER
Copyright 2005 Houston Chronicle

Katrina's blunt assault of the upper Gulf Coast has reignited one of the most controversial debates in science today - whether global warming is causing extreme weather like hurricanes to become even more violent.

And now, just days after Katrina struck, new evidence has emerged that supports the view that man-induced warming of the world's oceans may be spawning stronger storms.
After analyzing the strength of hurricanes around the globe between 1970 and 2005, U.S. climate scientists found a steady increase in the number of the most powerful storms, Category 4 and 5 hurricanes.

Katrina hit the coast as a Category 4 storm, but its size, with hurricane winds extending 120 miles from its center, made it the most destructive ever to strike the United States, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said Thursday.
In 1970, the scientists found, these most powerful storms only made up about one-sixth of all hurricanes. In recent years, they say, the proportion of major storms has risen to one-third of all hurricanes.

During the same time period the average temperature of the world's oceans has increased by about 1 degree Fahrenheit. "With some confidence, we can say these two things must be connected," said Judith Curry, a Georgia Institute of Technology researcher and author of the research paper, which appears today in the journal Science.
Warm seas are essential to tropical storms - they cannot form unless surface temperatures reach nearly 80 degrees. Warmer water causes more evaporation, which rises into the atmosphere and condenses, releasing the energy that drives hurricanes.

There are good theoretical reasons, then, to believe that if global warming continues, and seas' temperature rises, hurricanes might become more violent. What the new study provides is some evidence this may already be happening, evidence which hadn't existed until now.

"Of course it's difficult to attribute any particular hurricane or hurricane season to global warming," said Jim Lawrence, an associate professor of geosciences at the University of Houston who studies hurricanes. "But there's reason to believe there may be a trend here, and we ought to study it more."
Some scientists greeted the new study with skepticism. Chris Landsea, a meteorologist at the National Hurricane Center, said the study is based on flawed data.

He said methods for estimating storm intensity vary widely around the globe. In the Northern Atlantic Ocean planes fly into storms to take measurements. Forecasters in other areas rely on interpretations of satellite observations, a method not widely adopted until the mid 1970s - after the time period the Science paper's measurements began.

Moreover, the researchers did not find any increase in the maximum wind speed of the strongest global storms, Landsea said. Climate models suggest warm seas should also increase the intensity of the very strongest storms.

Landsea said it's unlikely global warming would already be increasing hurricane intensity. Gregory Holland, a scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research and another author of the new study, defended his group's research. The data is reliable, he said. The research group studied storms on a worldwide scale because, in individual ocean basins, there are substantial, decades-long ups and down in the number of storms. The Atlantic has experienced such a trend since about 1995, when the number and intensity of storms has increased, following a widely accepted trend known as the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation. Between 1970 and 1994 there were an average of 0.8 major storms per year. The decade ending last year saw an average of 2.3 major storms a year
A researcher at Colorado State University's hurricane forecasting program, Phil Klotzbach, said these periodic oscillations may explain the data.
The AP contributed to this story.


CCWI in the News:

Climate Protection nudges government into action

by George Snyder - Sonoma West Staff Writer
Wednesday, July 5, 2006 5:17 PM PDT

GRATON - Graton's Ann Hancock was aware of the implications of global warming long before Al Gore and friends drew up the storyboards for "An Inconvenient Truth," the recent documentary outlining the perils of unchecked fossil fuel consumption.

Unlike most other concerned people, however, Hancock, executive director and co-founder of Sonoma County's homegrown Climate Protection Campaign, decided to do something about it.

Like starting her own non-profit.

"The campaign started out of my home in 2001," said Hancock, adding that she and others, including friend Michael Sandler, currently coordinator of the Community Clean Water Institute, had long been aware of the need to encourage local action in working for an environmentally sustainable world.

Sandler, Hancock said, had been involved with ICLEI -the International Conference For Local Environment Initiatives - an international network of 475 towns, cities, counties and other local governments founded in 1990 at the United Nations to encourage energy efficiency and sustainable development.

"We were inspired by ICLEI," said Hancock. "There were one hundred cities in the state that belonged to ICLEI but none were in Sonoma County. We thought that if all of those other communities could sign up to create a more sustainable world, why not in Sonoma County?"

Five years later, the campaign is an outfit with a $132,000-plus annual budget and has become a national model for its work with local government. For example the campaign laid the groundwork for Sonoma County in 2002 to become the first county in the nation to pledge - along with all of its cities - the reduction of municipal greenhouse emissions by a whopping 25 percent below 1990 levels by 2015.

The next year, 2003, in order for the local governments to take action on their pledge, the campaign inventoried emissions from municipal activities to create an emissions baseline as a place to start, itself another national precedent, said Hancock.

Meanwhile, a Climate Protection conference - "Climate Protection: Everybody Profits II" - is scheduled to be held from 8 a.m. until 1:30 p.m. Friday, July 14, at the Spreckels Performing Arts Center, 5409 Snyder Lane, Rohnert Park.

In additional to county and local city officials, Linda Adams, secretary of the California Environmental Protection Agency, is scheduled to be the conference's featured speaker.

According to Hancock and Dave Erickson, the group's technical analyst, efforts by local county and city governments to reduce municipal greenhouse gases include the acquisition of a super-efficient aerator by the city of Santa Rosa at its Laguna treatment plant, the 2003 construction in Windsor of an energy efficient corporation yard, more recently installed solar panels on some municipal buildings, and current efforts to upgrade municipal energy uses, including wastewater operations.

In Healdsburg, the city is working with the campaign to improve energy efficiency at the city swimming pool and is initiating a citizen's advisory committee for climate protection. The city owned municipal utility also produces about half of what other county power production units discharge as greenhouse emissions per kilowatt-hour produced, according to Hancock.

In Sebastopol, the acquisition of two police cars in 2004 under Police Chief Jeff Weaver - a Ford Escape Hybrid and a Toyota Prius - was a step toward helping the city meet its target of lowering its internal greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent by 2008, according to the CPC Web site.

Hancock said the acquisition of the more energy efficient police vehicles is a great example of city officials walking the energy efficiency walk and not just talking the talk.

"If we don't watch it, we're going to be toast," said Hancock. "The scientific imperative calls for a 60 percent reduction in greenhouse emissions. Even so, our local targets are the boldest in the nation and they are going to be tough to reach, but we have to do it."

If working for the future is the key in dealing with global warming, there is no better way than to involve youth, says Jessica Kellett, the campaign's Cool Schools coordinator.

"The focus of Cool Schools is to engage young people in climate action today in order for them to protect their world tomorrow," Kellett said. "The big piece is the leadership roles we encourage in making young people part of the decision making process. Not only now but in the future when they are on city councils or buy energy efficient goods."

Kellett said the Cool Schools campaign, sponsored in large part by Cool Agents Alliance of area real estate agents, is working with three schools in Sonoma County, El Molino, Laguna and Analy high schools.

Analy, meanwhile, has been the site of an impressive Cool School project aimed at determining how much the 1,500-member student body contributes to greenhouse emissions.

The results, said Kellett, were an eye-opener.

The weeklong sampling of 250 students, extrapolated into a school year, showed that although most students lived within three miles of school, most drove an estimated 42,000 miles per week, enough to produce some 50,000 pounds of greenhouse gas emissions annually.

Following that revelation earlier in the year, the students conducted a three-week walk, bike or carpool campaign that in May showed a 20 percent reduction in student vehicle use.

Kellett said as a result, Analy High School officials are planning to involve parents and students this fall to not only conduct another survey, but continue to push for increased non-vehicle use by promoting travel on the district's expensive but underused school buses.

"There are a handful of schools in the nation addressing greenhouse emissions," said Kellett, "but this is the only one coming up with greenhouse emission statistics. When you think about it, it opens the door to other groups, classroom resources and increased learning."


Environmental groups band together
by Dawn Pillsbury - Sonoma West Staff Writer
http://www.sonomawest.com/articles/2004/12/09/sonomawest/news/nws-3.txt

SEBASTOPOL - What better place for an environmental activist to work: two blocks from Whole Foods and 20 steps from a coffee shop. Three environmental nonprofit groups, Northern California River Watch, the Town Hall Coalition and the Community Clean Water Institute have banded together in a new home, the Redwood Empire Environmental Center in Gravenstein Station at the east entrance to Sebastopol.

The groups will celebrate their new home with an office warming holiday party from 5 to 6 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 10 at the center. Mike Sandler, program director for the water institute and director of the center, said that while the 300-square-foot office is modest, it suits the needs of the nonprofits' four staffers, plus an intern. "The Town Hall Coalition was in Occidental for five years, where a lot of the founders lived," he said. "But recently we increasingly felt the need to be closer to more people, and Sebastopol is the hub of West County activism."

With the Redwood Center a block from the new GE-Free Sonoma campaign office at Highway 12 and Morris Street, "the northeast area is happening now," he said. "Sebastopol already has a lot of environmental action. Hopefully this will increase it." He said the center's location will let the groups extend their reach. "We're looking to reach out to all types of people, not just the environmentalist core," he said. "Since the election, we see that environmental values are mainstream values - every town should have an environmental center." Sandler said the new location, right across the parking lot from Coffee Catz, will be host to small events, though the groups will still have to find other locations for events that draw more than 20 people.

Sandler said it made sense to move, given that many of the coalition's fund-raisers are held in Sebastopol. He said the move will help the nonprofits' staffers to walk their talk.
"I can walk to work now," he said. "That's something I've been encouraging for a while."
Town Hall Coalition and Water Institute board member Lynn Hamilton, an Occidental resident and former Sebastopol mayor, said the location will make the groups' actions more accessible to people who want to participate in their missions. All three groups are supported by fund-raising and donations, she said. The Town Hall Coalition, which started in 1997 to oppose forest conversion to vineyards, formed the water institute in 2002. "It was the Town Hall Coalition water committee," said Hamilton. "We formed it as its own nonprofit because it got so big."

River Watch, formed in 1996, and its attorney, Jack Silver of Santa Rosa, have sued cities from Fort Bragg to Santa Rosa over illegal sewage discharges. The proceeds of the suits have gone to pay attorneys' fees and to fund grants for watershed groups. The group has archived its legal history at www.northerncaliforniariverwatch.org/archive/index.html.

Hamilton said the water institute is working on a first flush campaign for Humboldt Bay, giving scholarships to university students who study water quality issues, a water quality monitoring regime for the lower Russian River and on plans for an international conference on the effects of climate change on water for next year. The coalition has been involved in the Sonoma County General Plan update and is lobbying for a ban on conversion of forest to other uses. "It's so dangerous to every aspect of our lives," said Hamilton. "We're focussed on protecting the commons and the common good and part of that is respecting and protecting nature." The coalition is also focussed on elections, she said. "We/re working with other groups nationally for paper ballots and having every vote counted by hand," she said. "And doing away with electronic voting."

Hamilton said the center is mentoring upcoming environmentalists.
"We have trained and mentored people who went on to bigger things," she said.
The center will host The First Redwood Empire Environmental Center Extravaganza: Post-Election Political Comedy at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 29 at the Sebastopol Community Center.
The event will feature two members of the San Francisco Mime Troupe, Amos Glick and Ed Holmes.
"They'll portray Dubya and Cheney," explained Sandler. "They'll do a humorous interpretation of the inauguration and they agreed to do a question-and-answer."
For more information, call 824-4371.

Petaluma Argus-Courier "River testing will establish baseline quality levels"
Sonoma Valley Voice and North Bay Progressive "Waters Need Citizen Monitoring"


River News
Russian River gets bad rap
Most experts agree costly restoration efforts are paying off

6/30/02

By Tom Chorneau, staff writer
Santa Rosa Press Democrat

As a kid growing up in the mid-1960s, Don McEnhill spent many summer days playing in the slow-moving waters of the Russian River where it bends around Fitch Mountain east of Healdsburg.

In those days, few people worried about agricultural runoff, bacteria blooms or sediment control. Most people believed the river to be a pretty clean system, the perfect spot for a boy to swim, fish and play.

McEnhill, designated riverkeeper for the Russian Riverkeeper program sponsored by the Friends of the Russian River, says the river still is a clean place to play despite the ever-increasing demands placed on it. McEnhill and a cadre of volunteers patrol the river looking for problem spots and try to work with landowners on solutions.

"Based on what we're seeing, I'd have to say the water quality in the Russian River is still pretty darn good," he said. "There are some issues of runoff from storm drains and pasture land that we're aware of, but overall I think things are still good."

Many experts agree with McEnhill that the expenditure of millions of tax dollars on restoration plans -- including waste treatment facilities, erosion control programs and stream improvements -- is making a difference since the listing of coho salmon and steelhead trout as threatened species in 1996 and 1997.

While it remains far too early to say what effects the efforts will actually have on bringing back the fish, experts believe that the basic condition of water in the river remains good, even though there is no central testing of water condition on the river.

"I see major improvements with how landowners and some public agencies are responding to water quality issues," said Bill Cox, a biologist with the California Department of Fish and Game. "I think we've come a long way in a short period of time, but it's kind of like dealing with traffic congestion. You add an improvement to Highway 101 at Highway 12 and it makes things better at that spot, but congestion itself is still pretty bad overall because there are a lot of places that still need help."

J.J. Krug, the director of Sonoma County's environmental health division, agreed: "The water is good," he said. "I wouldn't hesitate to swim in it, although I think people should treat it differently than you would a pool. But overall it's not nearly as bad as some people suggest."

Officials at the Sonoma County Water Agency, which supplies drinking water to 500,000 people in Sonoma and Marin counties, say that the river water they draw from underground aquifers still meets all state and federal clean water requirements and little treatment is necessary.

Some officials, however, remain skeptical.

"One of the big indicators that we have is the health of the fish," said County Supervisor Mike Reilly. "What we've seen over the past 50 years is a steady decline in the population of three species. I don't think we've turned that around yet. We're working on it, but there's still a long way to go."

The National Marine Fisheries Service listed the two species in the Russian River as threatened in 1996 and 1997, stating that populations of the fish have declined as much as 97 percent over the past 35 years. Local chinook salmon were listed in 1999.

Cox and others point to new land-use regulations aimed at reducing riverbank erosion that hurts the fish.

In 1999 the state Fish and Game Department began requiring landowners working around streams to conduct an environmental analysis as a condition of getting permits. In addition to the hillside planting ordinance, which regulates where vineyards can be planted, Sonoma County supervisors are also considering requirements that growers perform environmental reviews before clearing land.

Stiffer standards for wastewater disposal have also been adopted in recent years, forcing many cities to find alternatives to discharging into streams and the river. A number of cities have undertaken new treatment projects, including Healdsburg and other river communities. And there's Santa Rosa's
$170 million plan to pipe its wastewater to The Geysers steam fields instead of to the river.

Also, more than $5 million in public funds has been invested in restoration projects, including the planting of tens of thousands of native trees and plants along local creeks, and the removal of scores of barriers that pose problems for migrating fish.

If there is general consensus that water quality in the river is good, there is little empirical data to support the conclusion.

Despite the fact that there are about a half-dozen state and federal agencies mandated with some oversight of conditions on the river, there is no comprehensive source of data on the water quality in the main stem of the river or its hundreds of tributaries.

State regulators at the Regional Water Quality Control Board say they test for specific contaminants at specific places. They agree that some positive steps have been taken, but without more comprehensive testing they are unwilling to make any characterization about the water quality as a whole.

"Water quality varies depending on where you sample," said John Short, a senior engineer at the water board. "Upper areas of the river are better than lower areas. We have some areas we know have poor water quality because of specific issues. But we don't test up and down the river. We need more data."

The county water agency is installing gauges at four points on the river to gather better information on such water quality elements as temperature, acidity and purity.

In the meantime, however, the state water board has identified a number of problem areas along the Russian River that demand attention, including naturally occurring mercury deposits in Lake Sonoma and Lake Mendocino and a variety of man-made contaminants in Santa Rosa Creek, the Laguna de Santa Rosa and the main stem of the Russian River itself.

Perhaps most vexing of the pollution problems are the high levels of coliform bacteria found at both Healdsburg Memorial and Monte Rio beaches.

Santa Rosa Creek has also been cited by the state as having a problem with coliform, E-coli and enterococcus -- forms of bacteria primarily found along with animal or human waste.

Testing last summer at 12 points along the creek raised questions about the effects of homeless encampments on the creek. Since then, most of them have been cleared out. The high levels of bacteria have not been found as frequently in testing this year, city officials said.

High levels of pesticides and fertilizers have been found in Santa Rosa Creek as well as in the Laguna de Santa Rosa, according to the state. The contaminants, both thought to come from urban storm drain runoff, are low and not considered to be a significant problem so far.

Sediment runoff and water temperature are also growing problems in the Russian River itself.

Temperature has increased as more native growth trees and shrubs have been removed over the years for agricultural and other developments.

Runoff from farms, timber operations and roads is considered the greatest cause of sediment buildup in the river, a problem that persists even with recent planting of native vegetation.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Help for the river- Russian River conservation efforts:

October 1996 -- Sonoma County supervisors approve new rules on timber harvests, including prohibitions on logging within 50 feet of streams.

October 1997 -- State Water Resources Control Board adopts new policy making it harder for landowners and public agencies to divert water from Russian River.

November 1997 -- New rules imposed on flood-control crews in Sonoma County, curtailing some activities in creeks and streams that support endangered salmon.

January 1998 -- The Santa Rosa City Council ends its decades-long reliance on wastewater discharge into the Russian River, voting to begin building a 40-mile, $170 million pipeline to The Geysers.

May 1999 -- Sonoma County supervisors approve vineyard planting ordinance, requiring farmers to register with the county before planting grapes and regulating runoff and erosion standards.

May 1999 -- State Fish and Game officials begin requiring environmental impact analysis of farming and development projects that affect streams and creeks.

November 1999 -- Congress approves $80 million in funding for salmon programs throughout the Pacific Northwest, the first of more than $2 million received so far from a new federal program.

June 2000 -- County and federal officials begin $3.4 million study of sediment problems in Laguna de Santa Rosa.

August 2000 -- A $1 million grant for fish restoration projects is delivered to Sonoma County as part of is share of a $1.9 billion clean water bond approved by voters.

August 2001 -- Construction begins on new $2.5 million fish ladder at Veterans Memorial Beach in Healdsburg.

January 2002 -- City of Healdsburg takes first steps toward upgrading its wastewater system, approving new $3 million plan.

March 2002 -- State imposes stricter controls over wastewater discharged from wineries.

Probe of contaminated wells expands
Test results reveal dangerous levels of toxic chemicals near Sebastopol

May 17, 2002

By SPENCER SOPER
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

State water officials are expanding their probe of contaminated wells south of Sebastopol after test results released this week found dangerous levels of toxic chemicals in eight wells in that area. The state early this year tested about 60 wells in a rural neighborhood west of Highway 116 near the intersection of Witter and Elphick roads. One of the contaminated wells is on the edge of the testing area, so the state will test several more wells to the south of it on Elphick Road to determine how widespread the problem is, said Jeff Lewin, a Sonoma County environmental health specialist involved in the probe.

The North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board, which is leading the investigation, has advised all property owners in the area to regularly test their well water because the contaminants can move around underground.
State water officials did not return phone calls about the investigation Wednesday or Thursday. Residents whose wells were found to be tainted with the chemicals said last week they were upset and concerned over the long-term health consequences of unknowingly using contaminated water for drinking, cooking and bathing. Test results show that at least eight private wells, more than 10 percent of those tested, had unsafe levels of tetrachloroethylene (PCE), trichloroethylene (TCE) or carbon tetrachloride.
The source of the contamination is still unknown. State officials have said it would take several months to conduct soil tests in the area to find the source. If a source is determined, the polluter or current property owner could be required to pay to clean it up, state officials have said.

The chemicals are usually found in solvents and degreasers such as those used by dry cleaners and machine shops. The chemicals have been shown to cause cancer and liver problems in laboratory animals that have been exposed to high concentrations for prolonged periods of time. Little is known about the health risks associated with prolonged exposure to low levels of the chemicals, Lewin said. Carbon tetrachloride and tetrachloroethylene "may reasonably be anticipated to be carcinogens," according to an advisory sent to well owners in the area. Water that contains more than 5 parts per billion of tetrachloroethylene or trichloroethylene or .5 parts per billion of carbon tetrachloride is considered unsafe, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

The state investigation found wells with tetrachloroethylene and trichloroethylene levels of 10 or more parts per billion, 100 percent higher than the maximum level considered safe. It also found carbon tetrachloride levels of 5.3 parts per billion, which is more than 10 times higher than the .5 parts per billion deemed safe for that chemical. But those levels are fairly low concentrations, Lewin said. Still, residents with contaminated wells were advised by the county to use bottled water for drinking, brushing teeth and cooking. If they have to shower or do dishes in the contaminated water, they should open their windows for ventilation, Lewin said. When the chemicals are combined with warm or hot water, the vapor can be harmful when inhaled, Lewin said. Residents whose wells are contaminated should either dig new ones to find clean water or try to connect to the city of Sebastopol's water system, Lewin said.

Sue Kelly, Sebastopol's engineering director, said city water is not available in that area, and the only way residents could get city water would be to form a utility assessment district to pay the cost of extending water lines to their homes. Charlie Judson, vice president of Weeks Drilling and Pump of Sebastopol, said carbon water filters can remove enough of the contaminants that they can no longer be detected. Such filters have worked on wells in that area, he said. The filters cost about $4,000 to install and about $400 a year to maintain, depending on household water usage, he said. The state first learned of the contamination near Sebastopol more than three years ago, but officials began investigating this year when the chemicals were found in a fourth well on Lynch Road. A lack of funding prevented earlier investigation, according to officials with the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board.
Contact Staff Writer Spencer Soper at 521-5257 or ssoper@pressdemocrat.com.

Roseland groundwater toxics worse than feared

April 26, 2002

By MARY CALLAHAN
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

A 2 1/2 -year investigation into groundwater contamination in Roseland turned up unexpected levels of fuel additives and other chemicals, county and state water quality officials said Thursday. And the study found so much commingling of contaminants that cleanup efforts probably will be delayed while experts determine how best to approach the toxic soup, officials said. Many homes in the area already have been connected to the city's water delivery system because of the potential for contaminated wells. Chemical levels exceeding standards for drinking water have been found in only three wells that are still in use. Two of those wells serve businesses and do not provide drinking water, said Stephen Bargsten of the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board. The other serves a duplex whose well is fitted with a filter, he said.

Groundwater testing found concentrations of perchloethylene, a carcinogen, and related compounds five to 10 times greater than the maximum level allowed in drinking water. Fuel hydrocarbon levels were 1,000 to 5,000 times the state standard, according to sampling done during the study, which was funded by Sonoma County.

Problems in the area along Sebastopol Road were first discovered in 1981, and largely blamed on dry cleaners. But sampling has turned up leakage from old gas stations, wrecking yards, underground fuel tanks and dry cleaners. Regulators traced one large plume to the site of a former dry cleaner on Sebastopol Road at West Avenue, where it's believed chemicals leaked through cracks in the sewer system into ground water. The owners of the business are believed deceased, but the county is deemed liable because it is responsible for the sewer system and the road.

Nick Pogoncheff, a consultant with PES Environmental Inc., said his study shows up to eight other dry cleaners contributed to the contamination. Chemicals from other sources were found too.

State to trace Russian River bacteria
Water samples to be monitored year-round in effort to track down coliform


4/9/02

Santa Rosa Press Democrat
By Carol Benfell, staff writer

The Russian River is still polluted at Monte Rio and Healdsburg beaches, and state officials said they are redoubling their efforts to find out the cause.
For six consecutive years, summer water samples at Healdsburg Memorial Beach have contained excessive levels of coliform bacteria -- a product of human or animal waste -- despite a decade of effort to clean up the river, according to a report by the state North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board.

Coliform counts at Monte Rio beach exceeded state standards for three of the past six years. Last year's counts were the highest of the six-year period, the report said. The beaches have remained open because coliform itself doesn't cause disease, and there has been no increase in reports of swimmers and beach-goers getting sick, said J. J. Krug, director of the county's Environmental Health Division.

But the water board is concerned because coliform bacteria can carry disease, and the board doesn't know where the bacteria is coming from. Most major sources of pollution, such as municipal wastewater plants, are now regulated.
The bacteria counts at Memorial Beach since 1995 have ranged from a low of 6 percent above the state standard in 1995 to twice the state standard in 1999 and 2001. At Monte Rio Beach, the bacteria count was 73 percent higher than the state standard in 1996, 45 percent higher in 1997, and 88 percent higher in 2001, although the beach met state standards in 1998, 1999 and 2000.
"We've looked at the totality of the information and we haven't seen improvement," at the two beaches, said Bob Tancreto, a senior engineer with the water board. "It's risen to the level that we will be actively seeking answers."

The agency will begin taking water samples year-round, instead of just during the summer, and increasing the number of places sampled in an effort to find the cause of the coliform, Tancreto said. The details of the monitoring program, including cost, are still being worked out, but monitors will probably be placed for the first time at streams emptying into the Russian River, said Frank Reichmuth, the board's acting assistant executive director.
If human activity is causing the pollution, the board will work with offending individuals or with the county to implement a clean-up program. The board also can levy fines if polluters don't comply.

The Russian River problems were listed in January in a lengthy report on North Coast watersheds, which is updated every two years and submitted to the federal Environmental Protection Agency.
Memorial Beach and Monte Rio Beach are the only two of the seven Russian River beaches monitored by the water board that show excessive levels of the bacteria, Reichmuth said. The county Department of Public Health is working closely with the water board to try to figure out what's happening at the two beaches, Krug said. "Do the coliform represent a health risk? If they do, what is the risk?" Possible coliform sources include runoff from horse or dairy ranches, leaking septic systems, holding tanks dumped into the river by trailer owners and droppings of wildlife, birds or domestic pets, Krug said. In its samples, the water board found that 75 percent of coliform samples collected at Monte Rio beach exceeded state water standards between 1992 and 1994. Samples exceeded state water standards in three of the past six years. Seventy-two percent of water samples collected at Healdsburg Memorial Beach exceeded the state coliform standards between 1986 and 1994. Standards have been exceeded every summer for the past six years, the report states.
The water board's report to the Environmental Protection Agency also raised a red flag on Russian River water temperature, saying the river gets so hot during summer months that it can stunt or kill young salmon.

Volunteer watershed groups and non-profit organizations are planting trees and bushes to increase the shade cover and reduce the temperature, said Bob Coey, an associate fishery biologist for the state Department of Fish and Game. But there's no immediate fix. It takes time for trees to grow, Coey said.
"There was a long period of riparian removal and it's going to take a long time to restore it. Some areas will never be restored, where there is urbanization and in flood control channels," Coey said. In terms of water temperature, the board found that all of its 26 sampling stations showed water too warm for salmon to thrive, resulting in smaller, more stressed fish. At a dozen sampling stations, the water temperature was high enough to kill young coho, the report said.

 


Climate Change May Threaten More Than One Million Species With Extinction (1/7/2004)
New Cover Story Published In "Nature" Represents Most Comprehensive Analysis To Date

(Washington, DC) - Climate change could drive more than a quarter of land animals and plants into extinction, according to a major new study published in tomorrow's edition of the journal Nature.

The study estimates that climate change projected to take place between now and the year 2050 will place 15 to 37 percent of all species in several biodiversity-rich regions at risk of extinction. The scientists believe there is a high likelihood of extinctions due to climate change in other regions, as well.

Scientists studied six regions around the world representing 20 percent of the planet's land area and projected the future distributions of 1,103 animal and plant species. Three different climate change scenarios were considered - minimal, mid-range and maximum, as was the ability of some species to successfully "disperse," or move to a different area, thus preventing climate change-induced extinction. The study used computer models to simulate the ways species' ranges are expected to move in response to changing temperatures and climate. It represents the largest collaboration of scientists to ever study this problem.

"This study makes it clear that climate change is the most significant new threat for extinctions this century," said co-author Lee Hannah, Climate Change Biology Senior Fellow at the Center for Applied Biodiversity Science (CABS) at Conservation International (CI). "The combination of increasing habitat loss, already recognized as the largest single threat to species, and climate change, is likely to devastate the ability of species to move and survive."

These forecasts are for species predicted to go extinct eventually based on climate change between now and 2050, but do not suggest that these species will go extinct by then.

The study concluded that the minimum expected, or inevitable, climate change scenarios for 2050 produce fewer projected extinctions (18% averaging across the different methods) than mid-range projections (24%), and about half those predicted under maximum expected climate change (35%). Therefore, 15-20% of all land species could be saved from extinction if the minimum scenario of climate warming occurs.

"If these projections are extrapolated globally and to other groups of land animals and plants, our analyses suggest that well over a million species could be threatened with extinction as a result of climate change," said study lead author Chris Thomas of the University of Leeds.

Small fluctuations in climate can affect a species' ability to remain in its original habitat. Slight increases in temperature can force a species to move toward its preferred, usually cooler, climate range. If development and habitat destruction have already altered those habitats, the species often have no safe haven. According to Hannah, this study underscores the need for a two-part conservation strategy.

"First, greenhouse gasses must be reduced dramatically, and a rapid switch to new, cleaner technologies could help save innumerable species," he said. "Second, we must design conservation strategies that recognize that climate change is going to affect entire ecosystems, and therefore have to prepare effective conservation measures immediately."

For this study, CABS at CI worked with the National Botanical Institute of South Africa to model more than 300 plant species in South Africa's Cape Floristic Region, located on the country's southern tip. In that region, fully 30 to 40 percent of South African Proteaceae, for example, is forecast to go extinct as a result of climate change between now and 2050. Proteaceae is a family of flowering plants that includes South Africa's national flower, the King Protea, as well as the daystar and the pincushions.

The Cape Floristic Region is considered one of the world's 25 "biodiversity hotspots," areas with a large number of unique species under tremendous threat.

Global mean temperatures have increased about one degree Fahrenheit over the past century with accelerated warming over the past two decades. Scientists attribute the recent rise of global temperature to human induced activities that have altered the chemical composition of the atmosphere. The buildup of greenhouse gases - primarily carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide - traps heat, acting much like a greenhouse in the atmosphere.

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The Center For Applied Biodiversity Science (CABS) based at Conservation International, strengthens the ability of CI and other institutions to accurately identify and quickly respond to emerging threats to Earth's biological diversity. CABS brings together leading experts in science and technology to collect and interpret data about biodiversity, to develop strategic plans for conservation and to forge key partnerships in all sectors toward conservation goals. Read more about CABS at www.biodiversityscience.org.


Water shortages, species extinctions imminent, report says.
U.N. gives bleak environmental report

Associated Press - 5/23/02
By Jill Lawless, staff writer

LONDON - A quarter of the world's mammal species, from tigers to rhinos, could face extinction within 30 years, and millions of people could suffer severe water shortages unless firm political action is taken to protect the environment, the United Nations said Wednesday. In a state-of-the-world report, the U.N. Environment Program said the Earth faces more rapid, dramatic and devastating environmental change in the next three decades.

"The increasing pace of change and degree of interaction between regions and issues has made it more difficult than ever to look into the future with confidence," the organization said in Global Environment Outlook-3. At a London news conference, U.N. Environment Program executive director Klaus Toepfer said human development "across more and more areas of the planet is not sustainable. Unless we alter our course, we will be left with very little."

Released in advance of the U.N. World Summit on Sustainable Development -- to be held Aug. 26 to Sept. 4 in Johannesburg, South Africa -- the report is based on contributions from more than 1,000 scientists collaborating with the Nairobi, Kenya-based U.N. agency. It assesses environmental changes during the past 30 years and looks ahead to the next three decades, a period the United Nations says will be critical in determining the future of the planet. The report says the world's biodiversity is under threat, with 1,130 of the more than 4,000 mammal species and 1,183 of the 10,000 birds regarded as globally threatened, meaning they could become extinct but are not necessarily under immediate threat of extinction.

Among the most threatened are the black rhinoceros of Africa, the Siberian tiger and the Amur leopard of Asia, according to the U.N.'s World Conservation Monitoring Center. Much of the threat is man-made, with loss of habitat from industry, mining and farming, and the introduction of non-native species among the chief dangers. Fifteen percent of the world's land has been degraded by human activity such as overgrazing, the report says, while half the world's rivers are seriously depleted or polluted.

The report warns that roads, mining and other infrastructure developments could affect more than 70 percent of the world's surface in the next 30 years.
In addition, almost one-third of the world's fish stocks are depleted, overexploited or recovering as a result of overfishing. Michael Novacek, provost of science at the American Museum of Natural History, said the U.N. figures are in line with projections based on land loss and degradation of oceans "that as much as 30 percent of species diversity will be erased by the middle of this century."

"We have a taste of this in marine ecosystems," he said, citing devastated coral reefs in the Caribbean, loss of fisheries in the Mediterranean and the "hugely threatened" South China Sea, which feeds so many people.
The U.N. report notes progress in some areas. Air and water quality have improved in the past 30 years in North America and Europe, and the amount of land protected as national parks and reserves has quadrupled since 1970.
The United Nations also says there could be deep cuts in the emission of greenhouse gasses linked to global warming if governments show the will to enforce international agreements such as the 1997 Kyoto Protocol.
Global hunger is falling and could affect as little as 2.5 percent of the world's population by the year 2032, but 40 percent of the world's people suffered serious water shortages by the mid-1990s, and 1.x billion people still lack access to safe drinking water.

The report's bad news outweighs the good. Weather-related hazards such as cyclones, droughts and floods appear to be increasing in strength and frequency and are affecting more people, 211 million a year in the 1990s, compared with 147 million a year in the 1980s. Some attribute the increase to global warming. The United Nations says depletion of the ozone layer has reached record levels, with the ozone hole over Antarctica covering more than 11.2 million square miles in September 2000.

The report argues that political action to decrease poverty and over-consumption, reduce poor countries' debt burden and promote good government could help alleviate the worst environmental problems.


Two-thirds of world's resources 'used up'

Tim Radford, science editor
Wednesday March 30, 2005
The Guardian

The human race is living beyond its means. A report backed by 1,360 scientists from 95 countries - some of them world leaders in their fields - today warns that the almost two-thirds of the natural machinery that supports life on Earth is being degraded by human pressure.
The study contains what its authors call "a stark warning" for the entire world. The wetlands, forests, savannahs, estuaries, coastal fisheries and other habitats that recycle air, water and nutrients for all living creatures are being irretrievably damaged. In effect, one species is now a hazard to the other 10 million or so on the planet, and to itself.

"Human activity is putting such a strain on the natural functions of Earth that the ability of the planet's ecosystems to sustain future generations can no longer be taken for granted," it says.
The report, prepared in Washington under the supervision of a board chaired by Robert Watson, the British-born chief scientist at the World Bank and a former scientific adviser to the White House, will be launched today at the Royal Society in London. It warns that:
· Because of human demand for food, fresh water, timber, fibre and fuel, more land has been claimed for agriculture in the last 60 years than in the 18th and 19th centuries combined.
· An estimated 24% of the Earth's land surface is now cultivated.
· Water withdrawals from lakes and rivers has doubled in the last 40 years. Humans now use between 40% and 50% of all available freshwater running off the land.
· At least a quarter of all fish stocks are overharvested. In some areas, the catch is now less than a hundredth of that before industrial fishing.
· Since 1980, about 35% of mangroves have been lost, 20% of the world's coral reefs have been destroyed and another 20% badly degraded.
· Deforestation and other changes could increase the risks of malaria and cholera, and open the way for new and so far unknown disease to emerge.

In 1997, a team of biologists and economists tried to put a value on the "business services" provided by nature - the free pollination of crops, the air conditioning provided by wild plants, the recycling of nutrients by the oceans. They came up with an estimate of $33 trillion, almost twice the global gross national product for that year. But after what today's report, Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, calls "an unprecedented period of spending Earth's natural bounty" it was time to check the accounts.
"That is what this assessment has done, and it is a sobering statement with much more red than black on the balance sheet," the scientists warn. "In many cases, it is literally a matter of living on borrowed time. By using up supplies of fresh groundwater faster than they can be recharged, for example, we are depleting assets at the expense of our children."

Flow from rivers has been reduced dramatically. For parts of the year, the Yellow River in China, the Nile in Africa and the Colorado in North America dry up before they reach the ocean. An estimated 90% of the total weight of the ocean's large predators - tuna, swordfish and sharks - has disappeared in recent years. An estimated 12% of bird species, 25% of mammals and more than 30% of all amphibians are threatened with extinction within the next century. Some of them are threatened by invaders.

The Baltic Sea is now home to 100 creatures from other parts of the world, a third of them native to the Great Lakes of America. Conversely, a third of the 170 alien species in the Great Lakes are originally from the Baltic.

Invaders can make dramatic changes: the arrival of the American comb jellyfish in the Black Sea led to the destruction of 26 commercially important stocks of fish. Global warming and climate change, could make it increasingly difficult for surviving species to adapt.
A growing proportion of the world lives in cities, exploiting advanced technology. But nature, the scientists warn, is not something to be enjoyed at the weekend. Conservation of natural spaces is not just a luxury.

"These are dangerous illusions that ignore the vast benefits of nature to the lives of 6 billion people on the planet. We may have distanced ourselves from nature, but we rely completely on the services it delivers."


U.N. Report Says Biodiversity in Decline
By PHIL COUVRETTE, Associated Press Fri May 20, 2005 8:30 AM ET

Biodiversity is declining at an alarming rate and human activity is to blame, according to an international report.

The report released Thursday is the second of seven reports billed as the world's largest study of changes to Earth's ecosystems and the impact on humans. It is the result of five years of collaboration between 1,360 experts from 95 countries around the world.

Human activity is responsible for a reduction of biodiversity which degrades ecosystems and penalizes other groups of people, especially the poorest who depend most on them, according to the report presented at McGill University in Montreal to mark the International Day for Biological Diversity.

Entitled "Ecosystems and Human Well-being: the Biodiversity Synthesis Report," it was prepared by the U.N. Millennium Ecosystem Assessment with the cooperation of the Convention on Biological Diversity.

"The loss of biodiversity is a major barrier to development already and poses increasing risks for future generations," said Walter Reid, the director of the Millennium Assessment, "However, the report shows that the management tools, policies, and technologies do exist to dramatically slow this loss."

According to the report changes in biodiversity due to human activities were more rapid in the past 50 years than at any time in human history, and over the last 100 years species extinction caused by humans has multiplied as much as 1,000 times.

Some 12 percent of birds; 23 percent of mammals; 25 percent of conifers and 32 percent of amphibians are threatened with extinction, and the world's fish stocks have been reduced by an astonishing 90 percent since the start of industrial fishing.

"We will need to make sure that we don't disrupt the biological web to the point where collapse of the whole system becomes irreversible," warns Anantha Kumar Duraiappah, of Canada's International Institute for Sustainable Development, one of the co-chairs of the report.

The report notes that while efforts have helped reduce the loss of biodiversity more action is needed as little progress is foreseen in the short term.

"The magnitude of the challenge of slowing the rate of biodiversity loss is demonstrated by the fact that most of the direct drivers of biodiversity loss are projected to either remain constant or increase in the near future," the report says.

The report blames biodiversity change on a number of factors including habitat conversion, climate change, pollution and over-exploitation of resources.

 

 

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