Science news and reports: How satellites can help monitor California’s groundwater, How do salmon change from freshwater fish to saltwater fish?, sudden oak death, rare dune plants, stranded sea lions and more …

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In science news this week, How satellites can help monitor California's groundwater, Going with the flow: Measuring water flow through soil, How do salmon change from freshwater fish to saltwater fish?, Citizen science helps predict spread of sudden oak death, Rare dune plants thrive on disturbance, Sea lion stranding: The view from the rookery, Dam removal study reveals river resiliency, Regions at greatest risk for species extinction the least studied, and more …

How satellites can help monitor California's groundwater:  “In times of crisis, turning to groundwater is understandable (it may even be unavoidable). But—as it stares down its inevitably dessicated future—California is finally waking up to the need to monitor and protect these reserves. To do that, the state’s Department of Water Resources is turning to new techniques using satellite data which, by measuring changes in the ground above, can keep an eye on water levels below. Essentially, if the Golden State is going to weather this disaster, it will need some help from up high.  Earlier this week Tom Farr, a geologist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, completed the first of many maps for the California Department of Water Resources with data collected by the European Sentinel-1 satellite. ... ”  Read more from WIRED Magazine here:  How satellites can help monitor California’s groundwater

Going with the flow: Measuring water flow through soil:  “Soil scientists have struggled with accurately measuring water flow through soil for years. Even the smallest soil details can sway water's path from the straight, sequential line gravity alone might demand. These minute differences contribute to water's “preferential flow.” For farmers' crops dependent on moisture, or chemical spills needing containment, preferential flow can be a matter of life or death.  “Water bypasses a portion of the soil…and leads to faster and deeper water flow (in other areas) than what might be typically expected,” says Henry Lin. … ” Continue reading at Science Daily here: Going with the flow? Measuring water flow through soil

How do salmon change from freshwater fish to saltwater fish?  “For decades, researchers have tried to find out what regulates changes in salmon when they transform from being freshwater to saltwater fish. Now they have come a little closer to an answer. “We have presumed that changes in thyroid hormones have been important for normal smolt development, but we have not known how the hormone is activated and it specific roles,” says Lars Ebbesson. The researchers at Uni Research Environment have now found important clues that may provide an answer. … ”  Continue reading at Science Daily here:  How do salmon change from freshwater fish to saltwater fish?

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Citizen science helps predict spread of sudden oak death:  “Efforts to predict the emergence and spread of sudden oak death, an infectious tree-killing disease, have gotten a big boost from the work of grassroots volunteers. … Sudden oak death is a fungus-like disease that has felled hundreds of thousands of trees in California. Crowdsourcing the survey and sampling work allowed researchers to gather information that would otherwise be too impractical and cost-prohibitive to obtain, and to then use the data to create a model that predicts the presence of the sudden oak death pathogen, Phytophthora ramorum, based upon such variables as rainfall and density of host trees. ... ”  Read more from PhysOrg here: Citizen science helps predict spread of sudden oak death

Rare dune plants thrive on disturbance:Beginning in the 1880s, coastal dunes in the United States were planted with European beachgrass (Ammophila arenaria) in an attempt to hold the sand in place and prevent it from migrating. The grass did the job it was brought in to do. As it trapped sand in its deep roots, the dunes at the beachfront grew higher and steeper and less sand moved inland. But, like many attempts to control nature, this one had unintended consequences.  Although dunes may look barren, they are actually reservoirs of biodiversity. “If you're a plant lover, the sand dunes are just spectacular,” said Eleanor Pardini, PhD, assistant director of environmental studies at Washington University in St. Louis. Many plants and animals are adapted to living in the patchwork of open and stabilized microhabitats that characterized dunes subject to frequent wind disturbance, she said. ... ”  Read more from Science Daily here:  Rare dune plants thrive on disturbance

Sea lion stranding: The view from the rookery:  “For a few months now, sea lion pups have been stranding on the coast of Southern California. So many have washed up, emaciated and exhausted, that marine mammal care centers can scarcely hold them all. But while most people first notice the pups on the beach, their desperate plight began on the Channel Islands, which are about 25 miles offshore of Santa Barbara. Those islands are home to the sea lion rookeries where the pups are born and where they spend the first year of life.  Many pups at the rookeries are going hungry, according to Sharon Melin, a wildlife biologist with the NOAA Fisheries National Marine Mammal Laboratory who recently returned from 3 weeks of fieldwork on the Channel Islands. … ”  Read more from Science Daily here:  Sea lion stranding: The view from the rookery

Dam removal study reveals river resiliency:  “More than 1,000 dams have been removed across the United States because of safety concerns, sediment buildup, inefficiency or having otherwise outlived usefulness. A paper published today in Science finds that rivers are resilient and respond relatively quickly after a dam is removed. “The apparent success of dam removal as a means of river restoration is reflected in the increasing number of dams coming down, more than 1,000 in the last 40 years,” said lead author of the study Jim O’Connor, geologist with the U.S. Geological Survey. “Rivers quickly erode sediment accumulated in former reservoirs and redistribute it downstream, commonly returning the river to conditions similar to those prior to impoundment.” … ”  Read more from the USGS here:  Dam removal study reveals river resiliency

Regions at greatest risk for species extinction the least studied:  “Scientists have crunched the numbers and the results are clear. For every degree that global temperatures rise, more species will become extinct. Overall, the study predicts a nearly 3 percent species extinction rate based on current conditions. If the earth warms another 3°C, the extinction risk rises to 8.5 percent. And if climate change continues on that trajectory, the world would experience a 4.3°C rise in temperature by the year 2100 — meaning a 16 percent extinction rate. ... ”  Read more from Science Daily here:  Regions at greatest risk for species extinction the least studied

 

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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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