Science news and reports: Keeping Delta smelt alive in captivity, copper and salmon, filtering ag runoff with wetlands, big data helps scientists dig deeper, manipulative pond scom, El Nino take 2, and more …

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Supercomputing + 40 Years of Landsat Images = A New Era for Earth Science
In science news this week: Keeping tiny Delta smelt alive in captivity is no easy task, Reducing entrainment risk for juvenile green sturgeon, Copper effects on salmon influenced by salinity, Filtering agricultural runoff with constructed and restored wetlands, Rangelands, ranching, and conservation in the Bay Area, Cullinan finally in the fold, Delta Science Program to brief the public on draft list of high priority science actions for the Delta on April 8, Big Data helps scientists dig deeper; Manipulative pond scum, Sea change: What took decades to destroy in oceans took millennia to recover, Déjà Vu: El Niño Take Two, and Drought damage leads to widespread forest death and increased sensitivity to climate change in disturbed ecosystems.

Keeping tiny Delta smelt alive in captivity is no easy task:  “The delta smelt (Hypomesus transpacificus) may be all but extinct in the wild, but it turns out that hope is not quite lost for this controversial California fish.  Although a recent survey turned up only six delta smelt in the Sacramento-San Joaquin estuary, they are not alone. Another 20,000 of the tiny fish currently live in captivity at the Fish Conservation and Culture Laboratory at the University of California, Davis. … ”  Read more from Scientific American here:  Keeping tiny Delta smelt alive in captivity is no easy task

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Reducing entrainment risk for juvenile green sturgeon:  “Water diversions make outmigration a risky business for juvenile green sturgeon in the Sacramento River, but new research points to solutions for reducing this threat. In a previous Fish Report, we described a study conducted by researchers from the University of California, Davis, who discovered that juvenile green sturgeon were more likely to be entrained than juvenile Chinook salmon during their outmigration, and were particularly bad at escaping from diversion pipes (as shown in this video). The authors concluded that unscreened diversion pipes may present a potentially significant source of mortality for juvenile green sturgeon. This is not good news for the sturgeon, given the gauntlet of more than 3,000 water diversions across the Central Valley, many of them unscreened. However, the same researchers have followed up with a new publication in the journal Conservation Physiology that provides a glimmer of hope for this threatened species. … ”  Read more from the FishBio blog here:  Reducing entrainment risk for juvenile green sturgeon

Copper effects on salmon influenced by salinity:  “Nietzsche was wrong:
 what doesn’t kill you doesn’t necessarily make you stronger. Sublethal doses of toxic copper can reduce a salmon’s chances of survival, but new research suggests impacts may be different in saltier water.  A decade of research by David Baldwin of NOAA’s North
west Fisheries Science Center 
and other biologists has shown
 that in some situations, very 
low levels of dissolved copper interfere with a salmon’s ability to detect smells. This can 
be a matter of life or death: 
salmon rely on their olfac
tory sense to avoid predators,
 locate prey, and home in on
 their natal streams when they 
return from the ocean to spawn. ... ”  Read more from Estuary News here:  Copper effects on salmon influenced by salinity

Filtering agricultural runoff with constructed and restored wetlands: “Non-point source pollution (NPS) is a global problem affecting the safety of our drinking water supply and aquatic habitats. According to the 2000 National Water Quality Inventory, agriculturally derived NPS is the leading cause of water quality degradation in surface waters. Pollutants originating from agricultural runoff include sediment, nutrients (N and P), pesticides, pathogens, salts, trace elements, dissolved organic carbon and substances that contribute to biological oxygen demand (BOD).  For example, discharge of nutrients into aquatic ecosystems has led to the formation of hypoxia/anoxia induced “dead zones” in more than 400 locations worldwide. Thus, new and effective management practices for agriculture must be identified, tested and monitored in order to reduce the impacts of agriculture on the sustainability of water resources. … ”  Read more from the California Institute for Rural Studies here: Filtering agricultural runoff with constructed and restored wetlands

Range of possibilities: Rangelands, ranching, and conservation in the Bay Area:  “At the Yolo Land and Cattle Company, some 80 miles northeast of San Francisco, along the eastern base of the blue-green massif known as Blue Ridge, butterflies and cattle move across a blond sunbaked plain on a warm summer day. There are swallowtails, sulphurs, skippers, and a herd of ebony Angus cattle. A swallowtail flickers across an empty chair, wing dots dancing, right “where Hank used to sit, right there, where the breeze blows through every day like clockwork,” says Karen Stone, a petite brunette of Italian descent who owns and manages the 13,000-acre operation with her husband, Scott, along with Scott’s brother Casey and his wife Angela.  “Hank” is father-in-law Hank Stone, who passed away at 84 last year. ... ”  Continue reading at Bay Nature here:  Range of possibilities: Rangelands, ranching, and conservation in the Bay Area

Cullinan finally in the fold:Real estate developers often name their projects for what they’ve displaced: Quail Acres, Live Oak Estates. Egret Bay would have been another such necronym. The 4,500-home development proposed for the former Cullinan Ranch on San Pablo Bay in 1983 would have left little room for egrets, or other birds. A citizen’s group, Vallejoans for Cost Efficient Growth, supported by Save the Bay and other environmental organizations, helped kill Egret Bay, and, in a deal brokered by Congresswoman Barbara Boxer, the land became part of the San Pablo Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Then came the process of restoring the badly subsided 1,500 acres to tidal wetland. On January 6, the dike between Cullinan and Dutchman Slough, a tidal arm of the Napa River and San Pablo Bay, was breached in three places, reconnecting the parcel to the Bay for the first time since it was drained and planted in oat hay in the 1880s. The waters rushed in, followed by thousands of canvasback ducks—one of the intended beneficiaries of the refuge—and other waterfowl. “They’re taking advantage of the fact that here, all of a sudden, is a food source,” says Refuge Manager Don Brubaker. “All you have to do is add water. It’s like making oatmeal.” ... ”  Read more Estuary News here: Cullinan Finally in the Fold

Delta Science Program to brief the public on draft list of high priority science actions for the Delta on April 8:At the November 2014 Delta Plan Interagency Implementation Committee meeting, committee members requested a “list of high-impact science activities for near-term implementation,” based on the Interim Science Action Agenda, be prepared for its next meeting on May 11, 2015. These science activities are to have cross agency importance, be relevant to multiple mandates, and be implementable in the next 1-2 years.  The Delta Agency Science workgroup, involving management-level individuals representing both state and federal agencies, and the Delta Science Program, have developed a draft list of potential high-impact science actions.  On April 8th, the Delta Science Program will hold a public briefing to introduce the draft list of high-impact science actions to stakeholders and the broader Delta community for comment. ” For more information, click here.  To review the draft list of high impact science activities, click here.

L5L7L8_acquisitions_2000-2014Big Data helps scientists dig deeper:  Supercomputing + 40 years of Landsat images  = A new era for earth science:When Rebecca Moore received the formal notice in 2006 about a proposed forest thinning initiative, she nearly tossed it out. The letter included an unintelligible black-and-white topographic map of her central California community. It marked the location of the forest and the path that helicopters would take as they hauled logs off the steep hillsides. Just before the proposal hit the trash, it captured her curiosity. “I wanted to understand what this map was saying, because I wanted to know if my community was threatened,” said Moore. “We have the largest remaining stand of old-growth redwood trees in Santa Clara County.”  A Google employee, Moore wondered how the map might look in the newly released Google Earth. ... ”  Read more from Earth Observatory here:  Big Data helps scientists dig deeper:  Supercomputing + 40 years of Landsat images  = A new era for earth science

Manipulative pond scum:  “Algal blooms in freshwater lakes are often considered a harmful side effect of human land-use practices that shed excess nutrients into waterways, through sources like farming runoff and pollution. However, a new study from a multi-institutional collaboration lead by Dartmouth College shows that these external nutrient sources are not always needed for algae to thrive. Cyanobacteria, also known as pond scum or blue-green algae, can actively create the environmental conditions that allow them to keep growing in clear freshwater lakes, despite a lack of nutrients, the paper highlights. This work, recently published in the journal Ecosphere, can help scientists understand the causes of algal blooms that may threaten precious freshwater resources. … ”  Read more from the FishBio blog here:  Manipulative pond scum

Sea change: What took decades to destroy in oceans took millennia to recover: “Ocean ecosystems that experience rapid upheaval because of climate change can take thousands of years to recover, according to an examination of fossilized ocean fauna on the seafloor by the University of California, Davis.  The study, published online March 30 in the Early Edition of the journal PNAS, is the first record of disturbance and recovery of seafloor ecosystem biodiversity in response to abrupt climate change.  The work, led by Sarah Moffitt, a scientist from UC Davis Bodega Marine Laboratory and Coastal and Marine Sciences Institute, shows that while climate change and the deoxygenation of seawater can alter ocean ecology very quickly, recovery can be on a 1,000-year scale, not the 100-year scale previously thought. … ”  Read more from UC Davis here: Sea change: What took decades to destroy in oceans took millennia to recover

Déjà Vu: El Niño Take Two:Here we are—in March 2015—and we’ve got…  above-average temperatures in the subsurface equatorial Pacific, westerly wind anomalies near the surface across the western tropical Pacific Ocean, and El Niño favored through the Northern Hemisphere Summer with a 50-60% chance.  Unbelievably, it was exactly last year at this time (March 2014) when we were watching the progress of a strong downwelling Kelvin wave crossing the equatorial Pacific (#1), in part driven by westerly wind anomalies (#2), and some folks were getting excited about a potentially strong El Niño by the end of 2014 (#3).  It’s similar enough to have us rubbing our eyes and double-checking the year on the calendar. … ”  Continue reading at the ENSO blog: Déjà Vu: El Niño Take Two

Drought damage leads to widespread forest death:The 2000-2003 drought in the American southwest triggered a widespread die-off of forests around the region. A Carnegie-led team of scientists developed a new modeling tool to explain how and where trembling aspen forests died as a result of this drought. It is based on damage to the individual trees’ ability to transport water under water-stressed conditions.  If the same processes and threshold govern the future, their results suggest that more widespread die-offs of aspen forests triggered by are likely by the 2050s. Tree mortality can radically transform ecosystems, affect biodiversity, harm local economies, and pose fire risks, as well as further increase global warming. … ”  Read more from PhysOrg here:  Drought damage leads to widespread forest death

Increased sensitivity to climate change in disturbed ecosystems:Undisturbed ecosystems can be resistant to changing climatic conditions, but this resistance is reduced when ecosystems are subject to natural or anthropogenic disturbances. Plants are particularly sensitive to climatic changes in early life stages and even small climatic changes can cause vegetation shifts when ecosystems are disturbed by fires, insect outbreaks or other disturbances.  This is the conclusion from one of the world’s longest running climate change experiments conducted by the European network INCREASE, involving scientist from several European countries and headed by professor Inger Kappel Schmidt at the University of Copenhagen’s Department of Geoscience and Natural Resources Management. The results have been published in an article in the international scientific journal “Nature Communications. … ”  Read more from Science Daily here:  Increased sensitivity to climate change in disturbed ecosystems

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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