Bay Nature magazineOctober-December 2005

Letter from the Publisher

October 1, 2007

As we enter the last weeks of the dry season and await the return of the rains that will put some life back into our parched hillsides, I’m still living off the remembered images of our incredible, extended spring, with its profuse and sustained palette of wildflowers lasting from early February through late June. The glorious showers of clarkias and Ithuriel’s spears still going strong out at Morgan Territory in mid-June were indeed a thrilling ‚Äúfarewell to spring‚Äù for this grateful hiker.

It now appears that the same climate pattern that brought the prolonged November through May soaking (and resulting wildflower extravaganza) to central and southern California is responsible for another, more troubling condition: diminished upwelling along our coast. Upwelling is the annual spring and summer phenomenon that brings nutrient-rich colder water up from the ocean depths. As we report on page 6, the strong northerly winds that normally produce this upwelling didn’t show up, leading to near-shore water temperatures five to seven degrees above normal. No upwelling means drastically reduced phytoplankton, which leads to less zooplankton, which means fewer fish, starving seabirds, and so on up the marine food chain.

What’s going on here? Scientists are frankly puzzled; such warmer water conditions are usually associated with El Ni√±o years, but the conditions that typically spawn El Ni√±os in the southern hemisphere weren’t present this year. Is it a sign of global warming? Not necessarily; scientists think this may be a contributing factor, but not the whole story, since climate change is a gradual phenomenon, and this year’s change was quite sudden. Is it just an anomaly? We’ll have to wait until next year to find out, and hope that the populations of Cassin’s auklets, rockfish, and other impacted species can survive and rebound.

Now that we can get our food and other necessities from all over the globe, we are less likely to be directly affected in the short run by dramatic changes in the surrounding environment. But we would do well to listen to (and fund!) the scientists who track ocean temperatures and wildlife populations. And strive not to add more insults (offshore oil drilling, sonar testing, overfishing, etc.) to the lives of our already-stressed marine neighbors.

At Bay Nature, we are constantly challenged to straddle this line between celebrating the myriad natural wonders of our region and warning about the threats to their survival. We can revel in the unprecedented sight of grunion mating on Crown Beach in Alameda while at the same time voicing concern about the anomalous appearance of a Southern California fish in the Bay. As we round out our fifth year of publishing Bay Nature, we promise to continue bringing you information to help decipher the complex interactions that make our region tick, both because it’s endlessly fascinating and because it’s absolutely essential to our continued ability to survive as a vibrant urban culture in the midst of natural beauty.

About the Author

From 2001-2017, David Loeb served as editor and then publisher of Bay Nature magazine, and executive director of the nonprofit Bay Nature Institute. A Bay Area resident since 1973, David moved here after graduating from college in Boston. The decision was largely based on a week spent visiting friends in San Francisco the previous January, which had included a memorable day at Point Reyes National Seashore. In the late 1990s, after many years working for the Guatemala News and Information Bureau in Oakland, David had the opportunity to spend more time hiking and exploring the parks and open spaces of the Bay Area. Increasingly curious about what he was seeing, he began reading natural history books, attending naturalist-led hikes and natural history courses and lectures, and volunteering for several local conservation organizations.

This was rewarding, but he began to feel that the rich natural diversity of the Bay Area deserved a special venue and a dedicated voice for the whole region, to supplement the many publications devoted to one particular place or issue. That’s when the germ of Bay Nature magazine began to take shape. In February 1997, David contacted Malcolm Margolin, publisher of Heyday Books and News from Native California, with the idea of a magazine focused on nature in the Bay Area, and was delighted with Malcolm’s enthusiastic response. Over the course of many discussions with Malcolm, publishing professionals, potential funders, and local conservation and advocacy groups, the magazine gradually took shape and was launched in January 2001. It is still going strong, with a wider base of support than ever.

Now retired, David contributes to his Bay Nature column "Field Reports."