Science news and reports: Data standards for models, farm practices effects on wildlife, large infrastructure projects, salt and more

Ferriginous Hawk,
Photo by US FWS

Standards for modeling data:  Working with incompatible or poorly-organized data sets when setting up models can suck up enormous amounts of time, sometimes ending up not being able to be used.  In the absence of any framework, this data can remain obscure, undocumented and thus unused, hindering our understanding of the state’s water system.  ” …  With this need in mind, the UC Davis Center for Watershed Sciences recently launched an initiative in the California modeling community to develop standard datasets for building and using models of California’s water system. The goal is to establish common protocols for organizing, documenting, storing these datasets. Such standards would allow models to be built and modified with greater ease, transparency and participation. … ”  Continue reading from the California Water Blog here:  Project HOBBES: Assembling water models from the data up

Sharks benefiting from restoration projects around the San Francisco Bay:  The Save The Bay blog shares the good news:  ” … For those of you still wondering why wetland restoration is important, this great article by Paul Rogers in the San Jose Mercury News last week really laid it out, with compelling photographs like this one and a powerful case for restoring the Bay. Because it turns out that bringing these former Cargill salt ponds back to wetlands is leading to a noticeable increase in sharks. Lots of them (and no, they won’t bite you). … ”  Read more from the Save the Bay blog here:  Is Bay restoration showing benefits? Just ask the sharks.

Farm practices for food safety and its effect on wildlife:  The 2006 E. coli outbreak in bagged spinach brought many changes to farm practices to reduce the risk of contamination by wildlife feces, such as removing non-crop vegetation, treating irrigation reservoirs, installation of fencing, and use of poison to control rodent populations. ” … While the researchers couldn’t establish a direct cause-effect link to food safety practices, these habitat changes happened during a time of “aggressive implementation of on-farm food safety practices” such as removal of non-crop vegetation — and could impact wildlife both on land and in streams (such as Chinook salmon). Farmers paid the price too, with new farm safety practices costing an average of $21,000. … ”  Read more from the Cool Green Science blog: Quick Study: What Do New Food Safety Protocols Mean For Habitat and Wildlife?

Is the Bay Bridge fiasco a harbinger of things to come?  Dan Walters wrote in his column in last Sunday’s Sacramento Bee:  ” …  “There are some phenomena that have no cultural bounds such as maternal love and a healthy fear of large predators,” Flyvbjerg writes.  “We can add to this list the fact that, across the globe, large infrastructure projects almost invariably arrive late, over-budget and fail to perform up to expectations.”  However, Flyvbjerg does much more than describe the syndrome; he also seeks to understand its origins and offer ways to avoid its pitfalls. … ”  Mr. Walters is referencing a report written by Bent Flyvbjerg, an Oxford University professor, which you can find here: Delusion and Deception in Large Infrastructure Projects: Two Models for Explaining and Preventing Executive Disaster

Dams and greenhouse gas emissions:  Scientists already know that large dams are a source of methane: ” … Like carbon dioxide, methane is one of the greenhouse gases, which trap heat near Earth’s surface and contribute to global warming. Methane, however, has a warming effect 25 times more powerful than carbon dioxide. The methane comes from organic matter in the sediments that accumulate behind dams. That knowledge led to questions about hydroelectric power’s image as a green and nonpolluting energy source. Maeck’s team decided to take a look at methane releases from the water impoundments behind smaller dams that store water less than 50 feet deep. … ”  Find out what they discovered from Science Daily here:  Sediment Trapped Behind Dams Makes Them ‘Hot Spots’ for Greenhouse Gas Emissions

The Water Channel tackles the salt issue:  About 20% of all irrigated land suffers from salinization, but it’s not just an agricultural problem:  ” …  It affects cities in very direct ways. Urban freshwater resources are getting increasingly salinized due to seawater intrusion, activities in neighbouring rural areas and improper management of human waste. This makes cities outgrow their freshwater reserves faster. More money and energy then has to be spent on treatment and supply, making water (and pretty much everything else) more expensive and a greater burden on the environment. … ”  You can find videos, webinars, resources, links, discussions, articles and blog posts on salt and what we’re doing about it at the Water Channel here:  Is the world getting saltier?

California’s Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Conflict: from Cooperation to Chicken: Here’s a classic report worth another look:  “California’s Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta is the major hub of California’s water supply system and is central to the ecosystem of many native threatened and endangered species. Conflicts over the Delta have evolved over more than a century. This paper traces changes in this conflict in game theoretic terms, with its implications for the region’s physical and ecological decline and governance. The Delta is not a zero-sum problem and win-win resolutions may exist if stakeholders cooperate. Game theory provides some insights on potential win-win solutions. The Delta problem has had a Prisoner’s Dilemma structure, where stakeholder self-interest makes cooperation unlikely within a reasonable timeframe, especially given a lack of trust, reliable information, and the many stakeholders involved. However, the core of the game is changing as

the unsustainable future becomes more widely apparent. Today\s Delta problem has characteristics of a Chicken game, where cooperation is unlikely because parties deviating from the status quo are likely to bear
more of the costs of a long-term solution. The state of California may be the victim (or chicken) of the Delta game, bearing the greatest costs, if it continues to rely on a policy of leaving parties to develop voluntary cooperative resolution without a sufficient mechanism for enforcing cooperation. … ”  California’s Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Conflict: from Cooperation to Chicken
Photo credit: Photo of ferriginous hawk by US FWS.
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