Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Mitigation, Adaptation and the Climate Discussion

Rebuilding dunes along the Jersey shore as an adaptation of sea-level rise

The Harvard archaeologist, Dr.Jason Ur, told NASA that “When we excavate the remains of past civilizations, we very rarely find any evidence that they as a whole society made any attempts to change in the face of a drying climate, a warming atmosphere or other changes… I view this inflexibility as the real reason for collapse.

he is talking about the ancient Mayan, Khmer, and Minoan empires along with others who had no way to understand or act in the face of a changing climate. We have options that they did not have - if we decide to act.

If you have heard the terms “mitigation” and “adaptation” used in a climate context you still might not know the difference between these two approaches. The blog has a good post about the distinction.

Adaptation is addressing the effect rather than the cause of a problem. For example, seas are already rising around the world and certainly along our Atlantic coast. Scientists project that the cities and land currently home to as many as 110 million people could be underwater at high tide by 2050 if current emissions continue.

Building homes along the Jersey shore on pilings and putting in pumping stations to get rid of water on streets, as well as building or rebuilding sand dunes are all adaptations. They don't address the problem of rising sea levels.

Building sea walls, elevating infrastructure, or retreating from low-lying coastal areas altogether. In the U.S., for example, cities like Charleston, Houston, Miami, and San Francisco (to name a few) already have billion-dollar investments planned to protect their sea-bound populations.

Mitigation means addressing the root cause of the problem rather than dealing with its effects. In our example, mitigation would be human intervention to reduce the causes of sea-level rise, such as reducing sources of greenhouse gases”.

Replacing greenhouse gas-emitting fossil fuels like coal, oil, and natural gas with clean, renewable energies like solar, wind, and geothermal. With renewables becoming “the cheapest form of new electricity generation across two thirds of the world” in 2019 (compared to in just 1 percent of the world five years ago), this measure has quickly gone from a dream to an everyday reality.  

Obviously, adaptation is a short-term solution and mitigation is long-term. There aren't always things an individual can do to make significant mitigations. Most of those solutions need to be done by cities, states, and countries. Driving my hybrid car is a very small mitigation.

Both approaches are needed.

If you have rainwater coming into your basement, you will need to bail out the water and possibly seal a crack in the foundation. That's adaptation. You can't stop the rain, but if the problem stems from water pooling up outside your home, then mitigation might mean changing gutters and downspouts to move water away from the foundation, sloping your soil away from the foundation and installing drains.

As the article states:
The truth is, we’ve reached a point where no single one of these paths will get us to a truly just and livable future.
As the IPCC made clear in a recent report: “Many adaptation and mitigation options can help address climate change, but no single option is sufficient by itself. Effective implementation depends on policies and cooperation at all scales and can be enhanced through integrated responses that link mitigation and adaptation.”

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Gandy's Beach Preserve Breakwater Project

Photo credit: Adrianna Zito-Livingston/The Nature Conservancy
Gandy's Beach is a Nature Conservancy Preserve along an area of undeveloped shoreline on the Delaware Bay that provides valuable habitat for a variety of fish and wildlife. Its shore has been increasingly vulnerable to coastal erosion and was considerably impacted by storm surge from Hurricane Sandy.

This project includes the building of a shell-based living shoreline one mile offshore that will act as a breakwater and protect about one mile of sandy beach shoreline and adjacent salt marsh.

Oyster castles   Credit: Mary Conti/TNC
In 2016, TNC installed a half-mile oyster reef breakwater at the Gandy’s Beach preserve, as a means of combatting erosion and creating habitat for marine life at the site.

As of December 2017, they report about a 50% reduction in wave energy during the tidal cycle, and sand has been building up behind the structures. The reef has been colonized by about 1 million oysters, is filtering more than 1 million gallons of water per submerged hour during summer months and is helping 4,330 new fish mature every year. Blue crab, black drum, northern kingfish, weakfish, summer flounder, black sea bass, and white perch have all been recorded at the site.

The first phase of the Hurricane Sandy-funded living shoreline installation in Downe Township, New Jersey, part of the Gandy’s Beach shoreline protection project, was completed in October 2015.

For three days, partners and local volunteers placed a combination of “oyster castles” and bagged oyster shells created by local schools, just offshore. The "castles" are stackable, interlocking blocks of concrete, limestone, crushed shell and silica that encourage oyster larvae to settle.

Partner organizations monitor the integrity of the structure. This work will help stabilize approximately 3,000 feet of beach and tidal marsh shoreline, allowing the coast to heal itself.

Monday, November 4, 2019

The Fisher Has Returned. Or is it a Mink?

Nicole sent us a video from her home night vision camera that is two blocks from Shark River Park in Neptune Township. She believes it captured fishers in her yard. She saw at least 3 of them - 2 near her landscaping bed (seen in the screen grabs here) and at least one near the street.

Nicole says they look a bit like minks but are larger than any minks she has seen in the area. It's a tough identification - especially from the video - as the two look very similar.

We get several of these identification reports or questions each month and it is difficult to say for sure without the opportunity to examine the specimen up close (teeth, paws, etc.) Earlier someone commented with a link to a photo of a vulture with what appeared to be a small fisher.

Yes, you can and should report sightings of rare wildlife.

The mink is not threatened in NJ and has a trapping season. The fisher (Martes pennanti) was extirpated almost 100 years ago. That doesn't mean the fisher is extinct. That is when there is the complete disappearance of a species. Extirpation, also called local extinction, is the disappearance of a species only from a given area.

It is sometimes called a "fisher cat" or Appalachian black cat. It does look like a blend of a fluffy cat and a fox. But it's a lot meaner - closer to a wolverine.

Oddly enough, it is not a feline and it does not catch fish. It is in The fisher is a member of the Mustelidae family, which includes otters, badgers, martens, ferrets, minks, and wolverines.

Can you tell the difference between these two specimens?  One is a mink, one is a fisher.

Fisher or mink?               images via wikipedia commons
Fisher or Mink?
Through no efforts by the state's wildlife agencies, the fisher is again present in at least Sussex and Warren counties based on trappings by state officials. There are not many and they probably arrived because of re-introduction by New York and Pennsylvania in the last decade.

The fisher is a top predator but it disappeared from our state due to trapping for its pelt and because excessive logging practices during the 19th and 20th centuries caused populations beyond NJ and across its entire range.

This website has received reports on sightings, photos caught by trail cameras and anecdotal stories and questions from homeowners.

Did Nicole capture images of fishers?  It's possible. 

Want to know the answer to the identification of the two photos above? Take a look here and here.

Thursday, October 31, 2019

First Reported Case of Eastern Equine Encephalitis in NJ Deer

The NJ Division of Fish and Wildlife is advising hunters and anyone who spends time outdoors to take precautions against mosquito bites as the first reported case of Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) in deer in New Jersey has recently been documented in Winslow Township, Camden County. Four human cases have been reported in New Jersey this year.

The disease, which is similar to West Nile virus, can infect humans, mammals and birds through the bites of mosquitoes that have fed on infected reservoir hosts. While most people infected with the EEE virus show no signs of illness and make a full recovery, the disease is serious with 4 to 5 percent of those infected developing flu-like symptoms that advance rapidly, often leading to permanent disability. The virus can also cause death.

The deer in Winslow was described as disoriented, thin, and drooling. When it was approached it was unafraid and was lying down with its head up. The deer was euthanized by a Division of Fish and Wildlife Conservation Police Officer and submitted to the NJ Department of Agriculture for testing.

Other symptoms in deer can include depression, weakness, loss of coordination, circling, seizures, blindness, excitability, aggression, and irritability. The disease appears to minimally impact deer populations in North America and is unlikely to significantly impact the overall deer population.

Most birds with EEE do not show any symptoms and never become ill. However, EEE can cause illness and death in some bird species including pigeons, pheasants, turkeys, emu, and quail. Birds infected with EEE may exhibit a staggering gait, drooping wings, twisted neck, or tremors.

If you observe wild birds or mammals exhibiting unusual behaviors or the symptoms described above, please call the Division's Wildlife Pathology Office at 908-735-6398 or the DEP Hotline at 877-WARN-DEP (877-927-6337).

The Division offers the following tips to reduce the potential for contracting EEE:
  • Use insect repellent when outdoors and cover exposed skin, especially at dusk when mosquitoes are most active. 
  • Standing water around homes also should be removed because mosquitoes lay their eggs in water. Host seeking mosquito activity may persist during the day at this time of year if temperatures are warm enough for mosquitos to fly (55 degrees F and higher). The first killing frost is the official end of the adult mosquito season in any given area.
  • Take precautions when field-dressing harvested animals to avoid contracting potentially infectious diseases. Wear gloves when field dressing, skinning, and/or processing game. and clean knives thoroughly before and after using them. Thoroughly wash hands when through.


Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Endangered Plants of New Jersey

The Fish and Wildlife Service website lists endangered plants and animals. There are 947 plants listed but only six listed species are believed to or known to occur in New Jersey.

Five of those are listed as "threatened" in NJ and only the American Chaffseed is listed as endangered in our state.

Endangered and threatened plants don't get the attention that animals do - which probably threatens them even more.

American chaffseed - USFWS, NJ Field Office

American Chaffseed (Schwalbea americana) is the sole species currently classified in the genus Schwalbea. It is an erect, hemiparasitic, perennial herb that is native to the southeastern United States where it is found in wet acidic grasslands. But the species has declined tremendously from its historical range due to fire suppression, and it is currently listed as "Endangered" by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

American chaffseed occurs in sandy (sandy peat, sandy loam), acidic, seasonally-moist to dry soils. It is generally found in early successional habitats described as open, moist pine flatwoods, fire-maintained savannas, areas between peaty wetlands and xeric (dry) sandy soils, bog borders, and other open grass-sedge systems.

American chaffseed is dependent on factors such as fire, mowing, or fluctuating water tables to maintain the crucial open to partly-open conditions that it requires. The species appears to be shade intolerant. American chaffseed occurs in species-rich plant communities where grasses, sedges, and savanna dicots are numerous.

American chaffseed is currently known to occur only in Burlington County, but the species formerly occurred in Camden, Gloucester, Atlantic, Cumberland, and Cape May Counties.

More at

The other plants listed as threatened in NJ are:
  • Amaranth, seabeach (Amaranthus pumilus)
  • Beaked-rush, Knieskern's (Rhynchospora knieskernii)
  • Pogonia, small whorled (Isotria medeoloides)
  • Pink, swamp (Helonias bullata)
  • Joint-vetch, Sensitive (Aeschynomene virginica)