Bermuda sand and kelp beds, by NASA

Science news and reports: Unleash the salmon cannon; Tomales Bay revival exceeds expectations; California’s wildflowers losing diversity in face of warmer, drier winters, and more …

Bermuda sand and kelp beds, by NASA
Bermuda sand and kelp beds, by NASA
In science news this week, Unleash the salmon cannon; Tomales Bay revival exceeds expectations; Why the California water crisis is a foretaste of water crises to come; California’s wildflowers losing diversity in face of warmer, drier winters; Proposed floodplain restoration reduces flood risks and restores salmon habitat; $700 million plan to help Columbia River salmon faces new challenge;  Finding fish from discarded DNA; A weather scientist explains the drought in the West; and more …

Unleash the salmon cannon: Now even salmon can realize dreams of flight. Last year, a device dubbed the “salmon cannon” rocketed to popular stardom with the help of John Oliver, when the late-night TV show host produced a segment launching fake salmon at the faces of a celebrity line-up. It wasn’t long before friends and family were asking whether FISHBIO had heard of “this salmon cannon thing.”  While it sounds like a spoof, the apparatus was actually developed by a company called Whooshh Innovations for a very practical purpose: to transport fragile items, such as fish or fruit, from point A to B in the most efficient way possible. The “cannon” is really a slick, flexible tube (maybe a bit more akin to a fish water slide). As a fish makes its way through a valve, a tube attached to a blower provides positive pressure behind the fish, and propels it through the flexible tube that gently seals around the fish. ... ”  Read more from the FishBio blog here:  Unleash the salmon cannon

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Tomales Bay revival exceeds expectations:  “Our three observation boats rarely break formation as we count waterbirds along the 12-mile survey route on Tomales Bay. That’s a lot of water to cover, and the effort requires intensive focus. Only when we encounter a rare or spectacular seabird, or a gray whale visiting from the outer coast, do we interrupt the count to relish the moment. So when veteran team member Jim White radios the other boats to announce “a couple of black scoters, male and female, coming your way!” field observers on our Audubon Canyon Ranch (ACR) Waterbird Survey team focus their attention, briefly, on the noteworthy pair of diving ducks. As the birds take flight at a low angle off the water with a broad sheet of several hundred surf scoters, cheers arise from the team members, who have been concerned about previous declines in both species. Could the large flock of scoters we’re seeing today be a sign of the changes on Tomales Bay? A growing body of evidence—including a tenfold increase in the number of dabbling ducks—points to a dramatic rebound of wildlife populations in Tomales Bay following restoration of its largest tidal wetland, at the southern end of the estuary. … ”  Read more from Bay-Nature here:  Tomales Bay Revival

Why the California water crisis is a foretaste of water crises to come:  “You’ve no doubt seen it all over the news: California is in the midst of its worst drought in its history.  And that media coverage has portrayed this drought as an extreme, unprecedented event. But it’s something more. The California water crisis is a harbinger of things to come.  Increasingly, cities around the world are going to have to deal with their own water crises. And the reason may not be what you think.  Climate change is driving part of this increased water scarcity, by changing the timing and amount of precipitation, snowmelt, and evaporation. ... ”  Read more from the Cool Green Science blog here:  Why the California water crisis is a foretaste of water crises to come

California’s wildflowers losing diversity in face of warmer, drier winters:Native wildflowers in California are losing species diversity after multiple years of drier winters, according to a study from the University of California, Davis, which provides the first direct evidence of climate change impacts in the state’s grassland communities.  The study, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, is based on 15 years of monitoring about 80 sampling plots at McLaughlin Reserve, part of UC Davis’ Natural Reserve System.  “Our study shows that 15 years of warmer and drier winters are creating a direct loss of in some of California’s grasslands,” said lead author Susan Harrison, a professor in the Department of Environmental Science and Policy. “Such diversity losses may foreshadow larger-scale extinctions, especially in regions that are becoming increasingly dry.” … ”  Continue reading at PhysOrg here:  California’s wildflowers losing diversity in face of warmer, drier winters

Proposed floodplain restoration reduces flood risks and restores salmon habitat:  “Salmon are severely impacted by the loss of floodplain habitats throughout the West Coast. In few places is this more pronounced than in Oregon’s Tillamook Bay, where nearly 90 percent of estuaries’ tidal wetlands have been lost to development—threatening the survival of federally-protected coho salmon and the safety of the local community. Now, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, NOAA Fisheries, and others have come together to reduce flood risk, increase resiliency of the ecosystem, and restore salmon habitat in Tillamook Bay by coordinating and aligning their investments.  The Southern Flow Corridor project, as the proposed collaborative effort is known, will reconnect over 500 acres of floodplain habitat to two of the Bay’s most productive salmon-bearing streams—the Wilson and Trask Rivers. … ”  Read more from PhysOrg here:  Proposed floodplain restoration reduces flood risks and restores salmon habitat

$700 million plan to help Columbia River salmon faces new challenge:  “A massive federal habitat restoration effort in the Columbia River Basin has spent more than $700 million on breaching levies, restoring tidal channels, reconnecting floodplains and other actions meant to boost salmon and steelhead populations imperiled by hydroelectric dams.  Experts say it’s likely the largest, most intensive, and most expensive restoration program in the nation. Hundreds of restoration projects in Oregon, Idaho, Washington, and Montana have reopened more than 2,800 miles of habitat.  The monumental scope and price tag stem from habitat restoration’s role as the centerpiece in a federal management plan to relieve the damage that dams cause to fish. Critics of the plan say relying heavily on habitat improvements is not enough to restore wild fish runs and take them off the endangered species list. … ”  Read more from PhysOrg here:  $700 million plan to help Columbia River salmon faces new challenge

Finding fish from discarded DNA: To round out our series on environmental DNA (eDNA), in which we’ve described the basic concepts of this technique in aquatic research, as well as its challenges and limitations, here we highlight some successful applications of eDNA methods in fisheries science. This emerging technology has been used to characterize the distribution of invasive or endangered fishes, to estimate fish biomass, and to determine species composition – all from traces of genetic material left in the water. For example, Takahara et al. (2013) used eDNA technology to test water from 70 ponds on multiple Japanese islands in a search for genetic evidence of the bluegill sunfish, an invasive species in Japan. By pairing this sampling with observational surveys, the authors confirmed the presence of sunfish DNA in all locations where they visually detected the fish, but also in a number of locations where the species eluded observation.  ... ”  Read more from the Fish Bio blog here:  Finding fish from discarded DNA

A weather scientist explains the drought in the West: Daniel Swain writes, “Why has it been so warm and dry out West? That’s a question just about everyone left of the Rockies has puzzled over these past few years. As the eastern U.S. has found itself facing the brunt of “Snowpocalypses,” “Snowmageddons,” and other remarkable winter-weather events, historically verdant states like California and Colorado have been slowly fading into a worrisome shade of brown for more than a decade.  Rainfall and snowpack in the West have dwindled to record lows, but those are merely symptoms of a larger, persistent atmospheric configuration that has become essentially stuck in place over the past several years. Because of that, it’s worth looking to the skies for clues about the origins of the West’s water woes. Here’s a (literal) top-down approach to understanding what is causing the drought in the West … ”  Continue reading at Outdoor Magazine here:  A weather scientist explains the drought in the West

In hot water: Climate change reaches underwater and impacts freshwater fisheries:  “On July 4th, the first Independence Day fireworks will shoot into the sky reflecting off the nearby lake or river, making that familiar pop! pop! sound throughout the night. With all the exciting pyrotechnics, it’s easy to overlook the fish living just under the water’s surface.  Freshwater fish may seem impervious to the outside world under their protective layer of water, but climate change is already having major impacts on fish both around the world and right here in our backyards and communities.  With 2014 being Earth’s warmest year on record since 1880, climate change is an ever-present threat to freshwater environments. Changes in temperatures and precipitation levels are already having major impacts on fish populations. Fish are not only important because of their cultural, recreational and commercial value for humans but they also serve as a central piece of the food web for other fish and animals like birds, otters and bears. Understanding the effects of climate change on this important resource is paramount. … ”  Read more from the USGS here:  In hot water: Climate change reaches underwater and impacts freshwater fisheries

Extreme weather in a changing climate: Asking the right questions:  “When a deadly heat wave lingers for an especially long time; when a hurricane makes landfall with particular ferocity; or when droughts, winter storms or cold snaps break records, the public is increasingly interested in knowing if human-induced climate change played a role.  Attributing individual extreme weather events to a warming climate is difficult work. Even so, scientists have been making an effort in recent years to determine when a connection can be detected.  In a new “Perspective” piece published in Nature Climate Change, scientists at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) and the University of Reading argue that many researchers looking for links between the two have been asking the wrong question. … ”  Read more from NCAR AtmosNews here:  Extreme weather in a changing climate: Asking the right questions

Ranking data: Is second place really ‘first’ loser?  Deke Arndt writes, “Two weeks ago, I wrote about 2015’s chances of dethroning 2014 as the warmest year on record and how the maturing El Niño increases those odds.  This week, going Beyond the Data, we’ll unpack what that first-place ranking really means. In the big picture, the actual rank of an individual year isn’t that important. In fact, using ranks can really over-emphasize their importance. So why do we use them?  Let’s start with something light, like some [really amateur] comparative psychology. ... ”  Continue reading at Climate.gov here:  Is second place really ‘first’ loser?

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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