Science news and notes: Sediment and the SF Bay-Delta system, salmon clubhouses, gulls munching on steelhead, Mono Lake and climate change and more!

SF Bay System

It’s an action-packed science news for this first edition of 2014!

Sediment and the San Francisco Bay-Delta System:  The USGS takes a look at the importance of sediment to the Bay Delta system:  ” … Sediment helps shape the Bay Area’s quality of life, from its water quality to its coastal beaches to the ongoing restoration of its tidal wetlands. Dams, dredging and a legacy of hydraulic mining have left their marks on the Bay Area’s system of “sediment transport”—the scientific term for the water-borne movement of sediment from place to place—making U.S. Geological Survey science crucial to charting the potential impacts of future human interventions. Yet the Bay Area’s complex sediment-transport processes have never before been comprehensively studied on a regional scale.  The first ever compilation of research focused on sediment transport in the San Francisco Bay coastal system was published in November as a special issue of the journal Marine Geology, edited by USGS scientists.  … ”  Read more from the USGS here:  Travels with Sediment in the San Francisco Bay, Delta, and Coastal System

Chinook salmon escapement preview:  The FishBio blog takes a look at the numbers:  “Across the West Coast, fall-run Chinook salmon migration is wrapping up and abundance estimates are being calculated. Most salmon abundance counts are calculated using carcass surveys to approximate the number of salmon in a watershed, but the disadvantage of this method is that escapement estimates are not available until after the migration period is complete. There are a few tributaries, however, that have adopted different techniques, such as video monitoring or the use of a Riverwatcher for enumerating fall-run Chinook salmon, that allow for real-time calculations. Using this information can provide more rapid insight into what salmon abundance looks like in 2013.  In the Sacramento River Basin, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service monitors fall-run Chinook salmon on Battle Creek with the use of video, and has the ability to enumerate Chinook salmon escapement on a semi-real-time basis. The 2013 Sacramento River Fall-run Chinook (SRFC) counts were predicted to be similar to those in 2012, and if Battle Creek is any indication, then 2013 was another good year. ... ”  Read more from the FishBio blog here:  Chinook salmon escapement preview

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Army Corps project builds “clubhouses” for juvenile salmon on the Yuba River:  “Creating an underwater environment that protects young salmon along the lower Yuba River in northern California – that’s the goal of a pilot study by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Sacramento District.  Juvenile salmon, like teenagers, enjoy finding a place to hang out and eat with friends, so Corps biologists have placed experimental fish hideouts along the lower Yuba, imitating natural drift wood deposits. The Large Woody Material Management Program is designed to enhance rearing conditions in the lower Yuba River for spring-run Chinook salmon and Central Valley steelhead and includes placing collections of specifically-sized logs and tree roots at varying locations along the lower Yuba. … ”  Read more from the Army Corps of Engineers here:  Corps pilot project seeks to learn from nature, building fish “clubhouses” on lower Yuba River

Gulls feasting on juvenile steelhead:  “Squawking, squabbling gulls – those known raiders of garbage cans and stealers of sandwiches – are also taking a hefty bite out of threatened steelhead populations on the California coast. So report researchers in a paper published in the journal Ecosphere last fall: they calculated that an out-migrating juvenile steelhead’s chances of being eaten by a Western gull can be as high as 30–45% on average in central California’s coastal streams. That’s some serious carnage for a population already on the edge. Although the gulls don’t specialize on salmonids, and eat everything from trash to carrion, steelhead numbers are low enough (as few as a couple hundred in a given watershed) that even periodic snacking by Western gulls can quickly pick away at their populations, driving them closer to extirpation. … ”  Read more from the FishBio blog here:  Gone to the gulls: predation on threatened steelhead

Study looks at impact of urban areas on steelhead:  Researchers say urban areas and even the smaller cities, too can have big impacts on waterways carrying fish, but many progressive cities are taking action. A new book, “Wild Salmonids in the Urbanizing Pacific Northwest,” published by Springer, focuses on what can be done.  ” … “One of the biggest issues with cities and towns is that they have huge areas of compacted surfaces,” Schreck pointed out. “Instead of gradually being absorbed into the water table where the ground can act as a sponge and a filter, precipitation is funneled directly into drains and then quickly finds its way into river systems. “But urban areas can do something about it,” Schreck added, “and Portland is very avant-garde. They’ve put in permeable substrate in many areas, they’ve used pavers instead of pavement, and the city boasts a number of rain gardens, roof eco-gardens and bioswales. When it comes to looking for positive ways to improve water conditions, Portland is one of the greenest cities in the world.” … ”  Read more from PhysOrg here: Impact of urban areas on fish restoration

Mono Lake and climate change:  Mono Lake is one of the country’s oldest lakes, with a rich ecosystem and a rich political history to go with it.  It’s also an area that researchers say may hold some answers to climate change:  “What will the future hold? Researchers like Ali are trying to find out, by looking deep into the past. The work has been going on for years, involving many researchers from Lamont and elsewhere, including Ali’s advisor, Sidney Hemming, her husband Gary Hemming and her former student, Susan Zimmerman. Former Lamont researcher Scott Stine has been digging into Mono Lake’s past for more than three decades.  “I can’t imagine ever not working out there,” Sidney Hemming said, reflecting on the area’s rich geological potential. “Every time I go I feel like I’ve learned so much that it’s unlikely I will have ever run out of new things to learn. … ”  Read more from Columbia University’s State of the Planet blog:  Climate Change and the Future of Mono Lake

Carbon sequestration in soil studied:  A new study focuses on the mechanisms for storing carbon in soils:  ” … It is presumed that the rough mineral surfaces provide an attractive habitat for microbes. These convert the carbon and play a part in binding it to minerals. “We discovered veritable hot spots with a high proportion of carbon in the soil,” relates Cordula Vogel, the lead author of the study. “Furthermore, new carbon binds to areas which already have a high carbon content.”  These carbon hot spots are, however, only found on around 20 percent of the mineral surfaces. It was previously assumed that carbon is evenly distributed in the soil. “Thanks to our study, we can now pin-point the soil that is especially good for sequestering CO2,” continues Kögel-Knabner. “The next step is to include these findings in carbon cycle models.” … ”  Read more from Science Daily here:  Climate Change: How Does Soil Store Carbon Dioxide?

Maven’s XKCD comic pick for this week:

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