Science news and reports: Prepare for the extinction of Delta smelt, plus hatcheries, instream flows for salmon, habitat restoration, West Coast sea lions, river algae and mercury pollution, and more …

Phytoplankton

Phytoplankton; courtesy NOAA Photo Library

In science news this week, Prepare for the extinction of Delta smelt, In search of hatchery solutions, Instream flows: new tools to quantify water quality conditions for returning adult Chinook salmon, Habitat restoration brings back Oregon chub, Environmental changes stress West Coast sea lions, West Coast waters shifting to lower productivity regime, River algae affecting mercury pollution at Superfund site, Winter’s finally over: How did the NOAA Climate Outlook do?, National Science Foundation announces plan for comprehensive public access to research results, and to save an entire species, all you need is $1. 3 million a year

Quote of the day:  “Uncertainty to a scientist means there’s a range of outcomes. Uncertainty to the public means ‘you guys don’t know what you’re talking about.’
— Dr. Peter Gleick

Prepare for the extinction of Delta smelt:  Dr. Peter Moyle writes, “I saw my first delta smelt in 1972, during my first fall as an assistant professor at UC Davis. I was on a California Department of Fish and Wildlife trawl survey to learn about the fishes of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. The survey then targeted young striped bass, but the trawl towed behind the boat captured large numbers of the native delta smelt.  I remember a single haul with a couple hundred of these iridescent finger-length fish being dumped into a container on deck. I decided to study smelt biology because these fishes were so abundant and yet so poorly studied. I would have no trouble collecting enough of them for my research. ... ”  Read more from the California Water Blog here:  Prepare for the extinction of Delta smelt

In search of hatchery solutions:  “As discussed in a recent Fish Report, the hatchery system in California is currently facing a growing number of concerns about the role fish hatcheries should play in helping wild salmon and steelhead stocks. Many would argue that hatcheries are simply treating the symptoms, and not the causes, of salmon decline. While the state’s 10 anadromous fish hatcheries produce an impressive number of fish, questions have arisen regarding the harm these fish have caused to dwindling wild populations. Fortunately, widespread acceptance of these deleterious effects has resulted in several attempts to reform hatchery practices. Beginning in 2010, California formed the Hatchery Scientific Review Group (HSRG), which conducted a complete hatchery review based on criteria derived from three fundamental principles: 1) well-defined goals, 2) scientific defensibility, and 3) informed decision-making and adaptive management. While these principles may sound like oft-used buzz words, suggestions from the group’s review, released in 2012, have been generally accepted and should be implemented at hatcheries across the state. ... ”  Continue reading at the FishBio blog here:  In search of hatchery solutions

Instream flows: new tools to quantify water quality conditions for returning adult Chinook salmon: (paper submitted for publication) Abstract: This paper examines the effect of implementing a water transaction program to address potential water quality limitations for returning adult fall-run Chinook salmon in a stream system where the agriculture is the dominant land and water use. Water transactions are becoming an increasingly used approach to provide instream flows during periods when there are competing water uses. Water transactions are often used to achieve ecological objectives, but their water quality or biological effects are rarely quantified. The effects of a water transaction implemented in the Shasta River were evaluated using a spreadsheet model to quantify changes in dissolved oxygen conditions as they relate to discharge, pool volumes, holding habitat capacity, and potential dissolved oxygen demand by holding fish. The results indicate that water transactions may mitigate potential water quality impairments by decreasing the residence time in holding habitat, and are particularly effective during periods when flows are low, holding habitats are near carrying capacity, and dissolved oxygen demand by fish is elevated.  To read the paper from UC Davis Center for Watershed Sciences, go here: Instream flows: new tools to quantify water quality conditions for returning adult Chinook salmon
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Habitat restoration brings back Oregon chub:Sun streamed through bare willow branches lining the North Santiam River as a great blue heron plucked a pike minnow from the shallow edge. Clumps of gelatinous salamander egg masses shone like jewels in the mud. Two wintering bald eagles soared overhead. And the tiny Oregon chub thrived in the warm, shallow water.  “At first we thought we’d make the right habitat, then recolonize the habitat. But before we could recolonize, they showed up. Kind of like, if you make it, they will come,” said Brian Bangs, a biologist with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.  The Oregon Chub is the first fish ever to be removed from the Endangered Species List due to resurgence in numbers. The only other fish removed from the list were taken off because they became extinct. ... ”  Read more from Courthouse News here:  Habitat restoration brings back Oregon chub

Environmental changes stress West Coast sea lions:In Southern California hundreds of starving sea lion pups are washing up on beaches, filling marine mammal care centers that scarcely can hold them all.  Meanwhile thousands of adult male California sea lions are surging into the Pacific Northwest, crowding onto docks and jetties in coastal communities.  How can animals from the same population be struggling in one region while thriving in another? The answer lies in the division of family responsibilities between male and female sea lions, and the different ways each responds to an ever-changing ocean. … ”  Read more from NOAA here:  Environmental changes stress West Coast sea lions

West Coast waters shifting to lower productivity regime: Large-scale climate patterns that affect the Pacific Ocean indicate that waters off the West Coast have shifted toward warmer, less productive conditions that may affect marine species from seabirds to salmon, according to the 2015 State of the California Current Report delivered to the Pacific Fishery Management Council. The report by NOAA Fisheries’ Northwest Fisheries Science Center and Southwest Fisheries Science Center assesses productivity in the California Current from Washington south to California. The report examines environmental, biological and socio-economic indicators including commercial fisheries and community health. ... ”  Read more from Science Daily here:  West Coast waters shifting to lower productivity regime

River algae affecting mercury pollution at Superfund site:Dartmouth scientists and their colleagues have found that periphyton — a community of algae, bacteria and other natural material living on submerged surfaces — is helping to transform mercury pollution from a Superfund site along a New Hampshire river into a more toxic form of the metal.  The study also found lower than anticipated levels of methylmercury in crayfish, mayflies and small fish downstream from the former chemical plant along the Androscoggin River in Berlin, N.H., despite elevated methylmercury in the sediment, water and periphyton.  The results, which shed light on mercury dynamics within rivers and their food webs, appear in the journal Environmental Toxicology & Chemistry. … ”  Read more from Science Daily here:  River algae affecting mercury pollution

Winter’s finally over: How did the NOAA Climate Outlook do?  “Last November, I wrote a post discussing the Climate Prediction Center’s (CPC) temperature and precipitation outlooks for winter (December 2014 – February 2015).  Since we’re now into March, it seems appropriate for me to look back and see how they did.  In that post, I discussed the probabilistic nature of the outlook, and what the favored categories (above-, near-, and below-average) for winter temperature and precipitation were judged to be.  As a reminder, and if you haven’t memorized that post, the outlooks favored above-average temperatures in Alaska, much of the West, and also in northern New England, and below-average temperatures in the south-central and southeastern parts of the nation.  ... ” Read more from the ENSO blog: Winter’s finally over: How did the NOAA Climate Outlook do?

Public comment period for Data Summit White Paper extended to March 27:  “In June 2014, the Delta Stewardship Council hosted an Environmental Data Summit to explore data challenges identified by the Delta Science Plan. One outcome of the Summit is a draft vision document, Enhancing the Visions for Managing California’s Environmental Information. This paper is a preliminary synthesis of ideas explored during the Summit that have emerged from initiatives, current programs, and the experiences of individuals from State and federal agencies, academia, private, and non-governmental entities. 
Over the next 30 days, the public is invited to review this draft report that seeks to advance California’s information technology infrastructure. The primary goals include supporting and advancing California’s existing data systems, ensuring alignment with national technology trends, and laying the foundation for more consistent and robust access to data and metadata across organizational boundaries.  To view the complete webpage, please click here.  To view the document, please click here.

National Science Foundation announces plan for comprehensive public access to research results: Today, the National Science Foundation (NSF), announced its continued commitment to expand public access to the results of its funded research through the publication of its public access plan, Today’s Data, Tomorrow’s Discoveries. NSF’s public access is intended to accelerate the dissemination of fundamental research results that will advance the frontiers of knowledge and help ensure the nation’s future prosperity.  “Scientific progress depends on the responsible communication of research findings,” said NSF Director France A. Córdova. “NSF’s public access plan is another effort we have undertaken to emphasize the agency’s central mission to promote the progress of science.”  NSF will require that articles in peer-reviewed scholarly journals and papers in juried conference proceedings or transactions be deposited in a public access compliant repository and be available for download, reading and analysis within one year of publication. ... ”  Read more from the National Science Foundation here:  National Science Foundation announces plan for comprehensive public access to research results

To save an entire species, all you need is $1. 3 million a year: “How much would you pay to save a species from becoming extinct? A thousand dollars, $1 million or $10 million or more? A new study shows that a subset of species — in this case 841 to be exact — can be saved from extinction for about $1.3 million per species per year, but only if conservation efforts are put in place immediately to ensure habitat protection and management, according to researchers that include a Texas A&M professor.  The international team of researchers includes scientists from the Max-Planck Odense Center at the University of Southern Denmark, Imperial College of London, Australia’s University of Queensland, the American Bird Conservancy, the IUCN SSC Conservation Breeding Specialist Group, the International Species Information System, the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums, and Burak Güneralp, research assistant professor at Texas A&M. The team’s work is published in the current issue of Current Biology. … ”  Read more from Science Daily here: To save an entire species, all you need is $1. 3 million a year

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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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