Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Trestles can now add 'beavers' to list of special things

Environment News

Amazing Discovery Highlights Biologically Diverse Watershed

Surfersvillage Global Surf News, 5 February, 2010 : - - San Clemente -- This week, San Onofre State Park officers discovered a North American Beaver at the river mouth of the San Mateo Creek. According to State Parks officials, the species was once a native species to the San Mateo Creek area, but were thought to be largely extinct in the area.

Officials speculate that the animal may be related to a small population of beaver, which was re-introduced into the Santa Margarita watershed by the Department of Fish and Game in the 1940‚s as a means of erosion control. Since then, the beaver have migrated to nearby creeks and watersheds in the area, including those in the Cleveland National Forest and San Mateo Creek.

While State Parks officials are unclear about where this specific beaver originally resided, they are sure it came from one of the streams that flows into the San Mateo Creek. San Mateo Creek has been the site of an ongoing battle between the Surfrider Foundation and other environmental groups, and the Transportation Corridor Agencies, who are seeking to build a toll road project through the watershed.

"This discovery supports our assertion that the San Mateo Creek has a thriving watershed ecosystem that deserves the highest level of protection from its source in the mountains to the ocean," says Mark Rauscher, Surfrider Foundation's Assistant Environmental Director.

According to State Park scientists, the animal had suffered trama prior to being found and unfortunately succumbed to those injuries after being captured.

About Surfrider Foundation: The Surfrider Foundation is a non-profit grassroots organization dedicated to the protection and enjoyment of our world‚s oceans, waves and beaches. Founded in 1984 by a handful of visionary surfers in Malibu, California, the Surfrider Foundation now maintains over 50,000 members and 90 chapters worldwide.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Global Warming and Climate Change in the Caribbean; should we be scared?

Last Thursday night at Surfrider Foundation Rincon's monthly meeting we had a visiting professor, Dr. Amos Winter from the Department of Marine Sciences at UPRM, and his student Juan Estrella present 'Global Warming and Climate Change in the Caribbean; should we be scared?' Below is a summary of their presentation. Some of the information was taken from the work of Wally Broecker.

Dr. Winter started off the presentation by explaining some figures and graphs related to historical climate variability, fossil fuel coupled sea level rise models, and where we should be in relation to our relationship with the environment (we are not where we should be). Before he handed over the rest of the presentation to his student, Juan Estrella, he explained the consequences of global warming and climate change. He mentioned that there are many repercussions of global warming; sea level rise, increase in the frequency and intensity of storms, increased global mean temperature, arctic shrinkage, arctic methane release, increased evaporation, erosion, changes in precipitation patterns resulting in floods and droughts, changes in circulation patterns of marine currents, spread of disease, increased probability and intensity of droughts and heat waves, economic consequences, global ecosystem out of balance, virus and wars.

Juan Estrella started off his portion of the presentation by leading into a discussion of different scenarios that we are facing. He mentioned that there are different scenarios that you can base the global warming situation off of. The first was coined by the presenters as the ‘business as usual’ scenario in which we continue to burn fossil fuels as we always have (+ 2 ppm/yr). The assumption under this scenario is that energy use will double by 2050 as the global population rises. This will elevate the CO2 concentration (2 ppm yearly will lead to 550 ppm CO2 by 2050 (present concentration = 390 ppm) in the atmosphere. The second scenario presented was the ‘prudent-cap’ where there is an eventual global halt in CO2 input into the atmosphere. They predicted that if the stop was initiated by countries and societies around the world we would still reach 560 ppm before everyone was able to completely become fossil fuel independent. They went on to say that it would take at least 50 years to completely implement a scheme, after it was initiated (~2035), to rid our dependence of fossil fuels. This would be by roughly 2085.

Why is CO2 the culprit for global warming? As sunlight enters the Earths atmosphere as short-wave hi energy radiation it is reflected and re-absorbed as long-wave radiation by CO2 and other greenhouse gases (water vapor, methane, aerosols, etc.) This long-wave radiation is trapped in the atmosphere by these greenhouse gases causing the ‘greenhouse effect’ which increases the global temperature. According to all climatogical models, planet temperature rises when CO2 is added to the atmosphere. In essence, the greenhouse effect is a positive feedback loop where the addition of more CO2 will trap in more long-wave radiation increasing the lower atmospheric temperature leading to an increase in evaporation. Higher evaporation rates produces more gas (water vapor) which traps in more radiation and the cycle repeats itself with the addition of more CO2 into the atmosphere. As a result, the aforementioned consequences arise (i.e. land-based ice melting, sea-level rise, global temperature increase).

According to the presenters the ‘naysayers,’ people in denial of global warming, claim that the warming in the last 30 years was because of the sun (with no supporting data), that warming in the early and late 20th century had no known man-made cause (which is true, but our planets climate has changed on its own as much as we have with greenhouse gases), and that the climate is no warmer than it has been in the last 12,000 yrs (which is also true, but the models predict that if we continue with ‘business as usual’ the temperature will rise far more). With those arguments presented, it is more clear why the majority of the world’s scientists agree that increases in CO2 is inducing an accelerated global climate change.

In order to relieve the environment from these global warming affects, the presenters listed a ‘road map for carbon management.’ They mentioned that we need a world-wide consensus mandating the reduction of the use of CO2, but also to diversify our use of alternate sources. Types of alternate sources that could be used by the world are hydrogen, solar, biomass, hydropower, wind, and nuclear. Some of these are more promising the others. For instance, hydrogen needs manufacturing and it also presents a storage problem so is not collectively thought to be the best option. Biomass production uses as much fossil fuels as it replaces and it presents the problem of fuel versus food. Solar is currently too expensive, but the technology is steadily moving forward so the future in solar may be promising. Wind is largely a local source and not a regional/global source, while nuclear energy looks the most probable for a clean alternative. But, nuclear power presents two problems, waste and probable terrorists attack. While the conservation of CO2 addition and alternate sources of energy are prescisely the way we should be moving we also need to enhance our ability to capture and store the CO2 in the atmosphere. According to the presenters, there was a method developed by Klaus Lackner to capture CO2 molecules and makes them into a liquid. They added that there is a wide range of storage sites being proposed (including deep aquiders, deep ocean, Antarctic lakes, etc.). In the end, the presenters mentioned that we need a ‘leveling of the playing field’ where there is an international agreement to clean the atmosphere by conserving, using alternates, and CO2 capture and storage methodologies.

Judith Enck, Regional Administrator of Region 2 visits Puerto Rico

On February 4th, 2010, a host of environmentalists had the opportunity to meet the new Regional Administrator for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). She was appointed to this position on November 5, 2009. The states and territories included in Region 2 are New Jersey, New York, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and seven federally recognized Indian Nations. Region 2 oversees programs, initiatives, and issues related to air and water pollution, industrial discharges, toxic substances, pesticides, protection of streams, lakes and the ocean, solid and hazardous wastes, the cleanup of chemical spills and abandoned hazardous waste sites, and much more. This meeting presented the unique opportunity for representatives from Sea Grant UPRM, Sierra Club PR, CORALations, UPR-Rio Piedras, local EPA representatives, Cuidadanos Del Karso, Asociación Nacional de Derecho Ambiental, Inter American University, and more to meet Mrs. Enck and discuss the many environmental issues plaguing the island.

The issues raised illuminated a harsh reality of the numerous problems affecting Puerto Rico’s natural resources. Most of the issues addressed were related to water quality problems, i.e. waste treatment plant inefficiencies, wetland and watershed destruction, the disposal of coal ash, karst degradation groundwater pollution, and air quality problems, ie. degraded air quality from coal-fired power-plants, downwind exposure, and unexploded ordinance and health effects (just to name a few). After the round table discussion, Judith interrupted the glum feeling that surrounded the table after listing these numerous problems with a few positive notes. She mentioned that she will do everything in her power, including working with major politicians to pass through congress a ‘bottle bill’ (aka container deposit laws) that have been a proven, sustainable method of collecting bottles and cans for recycling. Typically, the refund value of the bottle or can is 5 or 10 cents, which provides a monetary incentive to return the item for recycling. Mrs. Enck mentioned that she would want a 10 cent incentive. Everyone in the room agreed that this would be a great way to curb the prolific littering that inundates the roadways and beaches around the island principally consisting of plastic and glass containers.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Surfrider restores Rincón beach to former glory

Puerto Rico Daily Sun - Monday, February 1st, 2010
By Nathalia Vega

You are greeted with a sign with the image of a whale that reads “Playa Marías.” You park your car and take a glimpse of the tropical vegetation that is the gateway to a bright blue ocean and white sand. You close your eyes and feel the breeze blowing through your hair. The artistic display of the sun reflected on the ocean was just what you needed to complete this masterpiece. Immediately you think: “This is paradise.”

But Playa Marías was not always this way. Its beauty was hidden under a sea of spare tires, soda cans and plastic bags. Under the wing of the Surfrider Foundation, it has been transformed from a neglected beach to a beautiful, clean and accessible paradise for everyone to enjoy.

“There was trash all over the place. You couldn’t even park in the parking lot,” Surfrider chairman Wess Merten said.

Watering the plants, pulling weeds, mulching, and cleaning the beach were just some of the activities that Surfrider members and volunteers were doing to fix up Playa Marías on Jan. 23. This was the final event in the Playa Marías Restoration Project.
Located in Rincón, “the Town of Beautiful Sunsets,” Playa Marías is a well known surfing spot that attracts both tourists and locals.

“Maria’s Beach is legendary, ever since the 60s. It is the lifeblood of the community, and one of the most biodiverse and healthiest places around”, said Jason Epstein, treasurer of the foundation.

The Playa Marías Restoration Project started August 2009, when a group of volunteers installed new trash barrels at the beach and adjacent areas. During another event, they assembled 3 planting beds where over 75 shrubs were planted. “We planted vegetation to stabilize the soil. One of the main problems that beaches face is the [erosion] of this soil, something that ultimately affects the coral reefs,” Merten said.

A week later the chapter paid over $600 for the parking lot to be fixed.
Now, Playa Marías is the object of amazement and surprise for those who knew it before.

Surfrider is a nonprofit, grassroots environmental organization dedicated to the protection and enjoyment of the world’s oceans, waves and beaches. This beach is just one of the many projects that Surfrider Foundation in Rincón has done.

Their main proyect was Salva Tres Palmas, the environmental victory that gave life to the Tres Palmas Marine reserve, the first marine reserve in Puerto Rico.
For the Playa Marías Restoration Project, the foundation had the help of the municipality of Rincón, the Department of Natural and Environmental Resources and private companies such as HC Wooden Pallets, Calypso café and Surf787 Surf School. Money is limited, so collaborators play an important role in the projects.
“There’s only so much that we can do by ourselves,” Merten said. The manual labor is done by a small but dedicated group of volunteers.

“Ever since we were little, we were taught to love our island. That’s why we do what we do”, said Cuqui González, a volunteer who picked up trash and filled water gallons while her husband Alexis Henriquez planted shrubs.

But there is already graffitti on the new trash barrels, and government zoning affect the work. Roger Wagner, owner of Surf787 surf school, said the main problem was in education and awareness of the problems that beach littering can bring.
“One solution to the trash problem would be consistent enforcement of the littering laws and the initiation of school programs to educate children about the importance of protecting their beaches,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Surfrider Foundation plans to continue their efforts to clean up restore and improve the island’s environment. “It may seem like a small area, but it has a big impact,” Merten said. The next events include filming a documentary about coral reefs, hosting a fundraiser, finding another site to restore, and preparing for the upcoming International Surf Day in June.

They’ve got their hands full. “Volunteering your time to preserve and conserve our natural resources can help the future generations to appreciate those resources that we enjoyed when we were young. Once they are destroyed, they are lost forever,” the Surfrider representative declared.

For more information on the Surfrider Foundation, log on to www.surfrider.org/Rincón.