Science news and reports: What’s killing California’s native pigeons, rebuilding West Coast abalone populations, hatchery history, farm fields and habitat, global warming and atmospheric rivers, ENSO on the edge, and more …

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New Guinea Rainforest from the ISS

In science news this week, What’s killing California’s native pigeons?, Innovative restoration techniques used to rebuild West Coast abalone populations, Wagons, trains, and airplanes: Hatchery history in California, Does removing habitat around farm fields really make our food safer?, Global warming may alter atmospheric rivers, Details on the February ENSO discussion: On the edge?, The ecology of games framework:  Some responses to critics, Using solar energy to improve the desalination process, and Manmade pollutants finding their way into groundwater through septic systems

What’s killing California’s native pigeons?  “Picture a pigeon and what comes to mind? Probably not a creature that most nature-lovers normally reserve much sympathy.  But what if that pigeon was a bona fide member of California’s native species list? Say, the band-tailed pigeon — a sweet, sociable member of the dove family that can travel in groups of hundreds as they descend on winter acorn crops, wherever that food source may be. ... ”  Read more from Bay Nature here:  What’s killing California’s native pigeons?

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Innovative restoration techniques used to rebuild West Coast abalone populations:  “An edible delicacy prized for their shells, abalone populations historically supported West Coast fisheries and economies. In recent decades, however, their numbers have declined considerably—threatening the loss of a resource with significant ties to West Coast communities. To curb the decline and begin to rebuild abalone populations, NOAA Fisheries is tapping into partnerships and innovative restoration techniques to swing the pendulum toward recovery. Overfishing and disease contributed to the decline of all seven species found along the West Coast, with two species endangered with extinction—white and black. ... ”  Continue reading at PhysOrg here:  Innovative restoration techniques used to rebuild West Coast abalone populations

Wagons, trains, and airplanes: Hatchery history in California: The year is 1871. California has been a state for just over 20 years and the country is mired in reconstruction following the end of the Civil War just six years earlier. Both the telephone and the light bulb have yet to be invented, and America’s population numbers less than 40 million people, while California’s population of approximately 100,000 is a fraction of today’s 38 million. A flood of pioneers is traveling to the Western United States, some using the transcontinental railroad that was completed less than two years prior. Recently elected President and Civil War hero Ulysses S. Grant, acting along with the legislature, has just created the Commission of Fish and Fisheries, the first government undertaking to conserve U.S. fishery resources, and one of the first acts of conservation in our nation’s history. ... ”  Read more from the FishBio blog here: Wagons, trains, and airplanes: Hatchery history in California

Does removing habitat around farm fields really make our food safer? Death, disease and…organic spinach?  They form the mystery NatureNet Science Fellow Danny Karp came to the organic farms of California’s Central Coast to investigate. It all started in 2006, when a notorious E. coli outbreak killed 3 people and sickened hundreds.  Though the source of the outbreak was eventually traced back to organic bagged spinach harvested from a field on the Central Coast, no one could ever say how the spinach had become infected in the first place.  In the end wildlife took part of the blame. The result: in efforts to comply with new rules and industry pressure, farmers began fencing their fields and removing habitat across the Central Coast.  But does removing habitat really make our food safer? ... ”  Read more from Cool Green Science here:  Does removing habitat around farm fields really make our food safer?

Global warming may alter atmospheric rivers:The hose has been turned back on full-force over Northern California: A stream of moisture is flowing over the drought-riddled state and dropping copious amounts of rain just days after the close of one of the driest Januaries on record.  The influx of much-needed rain comes courtesy of a feature called an atmospheric river that is a key source of much of the state’s precipitation and water supply. ... ”  Read more from Scientific American here:  Global warming may alter atmospheric rivers

Details on the February ENSO discussion: On the edge?At the beginning of this month, we find ourselves looking at conditions in both the ocean and the atmosphere that appear a bit like El Niño.  Sea surface temperature anomalies in the Niño3.4 region have been at or above +0.5°C for the last few months, and the forecast calls for a 50-60% chance the Niño3.4 index will remain above +05°C through the late winter and into spring. However, we still haven’t checked the box saying we have “El Niño conditions.” Why not?  Mostly, it’s because even though there are some promising signs that the atmosphere may be responding to the warmer equatorial Pacfic, we’ve seen a lot of fluctuations over the past year. It will take more than a couple of weeks to convince us El Nino has really “locked in.” … ”  Read more from the ENSO blog here:  Details on the February ENSO discussion: On the edge?

The ecology of games framework:  Some responses to critics: Mark Lubell writes: “A major branch of my research is devoted to studying complex institutional systems, which I argue are the defining feature of real-world environmental governance and public policy more generally.    Along with my colleagues (especially John Scholz and Ramiro Berardo) and students, we have updated the “ecology of games” idea originally developed by sociologist Norton Long in 1958 to describe the many different types of political actors and institutions operating in local political contexts.  Our ecology of games framework (EGF) synthesizes a number of existing theoretical concepts, with a strong basis in the work of Elinor Ostrom and new institutional economics, network analysis, and complex adaptive systems. We have collected a large amount of data on water and climate governance in several different countries, submitted and published a number of papers, and given a wide variety of talks. ... ”  Continue reading at Mark Lubell’s blog here: The ecology of games framework: Some responses to critics

Using solar energy to improve the desalination process:A new process to decompose waste desalination brine using solar energy, which neutralises ocean acidity and reduces environmental impact, has been proposed by an Aston University (UK) academic.  Although turning salty ocean water into fresh water is important to benefit poverty-stricken populations, desalination has a very damaging ecological footprint. Many environmental advocates see it as a last resort for retrieving fresh water, but fast growing populations mean it is becoming the only viable option. The amount of fresh water produced by desalination is predicted to double within the next decade to meet global demand. … ”  More from Science Daily here:  Using solar energy to improve the desalination process

Manmade pollutants finding their way into groundwater through septic systems:  “Pharmaceuticals, hormones and personal care products associated with everyday household activities are finding their way into groundwater through septic systems in New York and New England, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.  “Septic systems nationwide are receiving increased attention as environmental sources of chemical contamination,” said USGS scientist Patrick Phillips, lead author of the study published in the journal Science of the Total Environment. Two different well networks were studied, one in New England and the other in New York, looking for micropollutants in groundwater samples collected downgradient of septic systems.  “Downgradient” is the term used for how groundwater flows under the ground, and is a similar term to “downstream” when describing surface water. The scientists tested for items such as pharmaceuticals, personal care products, and plasticizer compounds (which make things more flexible). … ”  Read more from the USGS here:  Manmade pollutants finding their way into groundwater through septic systems

SFEWS_LogoFrom the archives of the San Francisco Estuary and Watershed Journal …

Conservation of Native Fishes of the San Francisco Estuary: Considerations for Artificial Propagation of Chinook Salmon, Delta Smelt, and Green Sturgeon: Israel, Joshua A., Fisch, Kathleen M., Turner, Thomas F., Waples, Robin S. (2011)  Abstract: Many native fishes in the San Francisco Estuary and its watersheds have reached all-time low abundances. Some of these declining species (e.g., Chinook salmon Oncorhynchus tschawytscha) have been under artificial propagation for decades. For others (e.g., delta smelt, Hypomesus transpacificus, and green sturgeon, Acipenser medirostris), this management option is just beginning to be discussed and implemented. Propagation strategies, in which organisms spend some portion of their lives in captivity, pose well-documented genetic and ecological threats to natural populations. Negative impacts of propagation have been documented for all Central Valley Chinook salmon runs, but limited efforts have been made to adapt hatchery operations to minimize the genetic and ecological threats caused by propagated fishes. ... ”  Continue reading abstract and download copy of paper here:  Conservation of Native Fishes of the San Francisco Estuary: Considerations for Artificial Propagation of Chinook Salmon, Delta Smelt, and Green Sturgeon

Maven’s XKCD Comic Pick of the Week …

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About Science News and Reports: This weekly feature, posted every Thursday, is a collection of the latest scientific research and reports with a focus on relevant issues to the Delta and to California water, although other issues such as climate change are sometimes included. Do you have an item to be included here? Submissions of relevant research and other materials is welcome. Email Maven.

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