Science news and reports: A festival of cranes; Invasion of the aquatic weeds; Fish counting weirs, Using drones to monitor water quality, and more …

Sandhill Cranes; Photo by DWR

In science news this week: A festival of cranes; Invasion of the aquatic weeds; Public Comment Sought on Delta Research Station Proposal; Fish counting weirs: Rigid by design; The Guadalupe River needs rain; California’s marine fish populations are declining; Field test: Can we use drones to monitor water quality?; Planting in clumps boosts wetlands restoration success; Researchers advance understanding of mountain watersheds; Wildfires may double erosion across a quarter of Western watersheds by 2050; and Do You Know ‘How Science Makes Environmental Controversies Worse’?

A festival of cranes:  “From high overhead comes the rattling cry that conservationist Aldo Leopold called “the trumpet in the orchestra of evolution.” Riding the autumn winds, the sandhill cranes are returning to the California Delta. Every year they converge here, part of a living wave that also includes swans, geese, and ducks arriving from the north to spend the winter. Among the vineyards, orchards, housing tracts, and dairy farms, the cranes in their thousands gravitate to a handful of roosting areas: Cosumnes River Preserve, Woodbridge Ecological Reserve, Staten Island, and other sites on private land. Their arrival is one of California’s supreme wildlife spectacles, a major draw for Delta visitors—and, like the migration of the monarch butterflies, a phenomenon we risk losing. … ”  Continue reading at Bay-Nature here:  A festival of cranes

Invasion of the aquatic weeds: While it may sound like a B-rated Halloween movie, parts of California really are under a floral invasion. Non-native species introductions are a familiar topic in the Sacramento–San Joaquin Delta when it comes to animal species, but the Delta faces significant pressures from plant invaders as well. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife defines an invasive aquatic plant as any aquatic plant or algae species whose proliferation or dominant colonization causes ecological or economic harm. Such invaders can also harm public health, and can have a significant socio-economic impact by impeding recreation and water operations for agricultural, municipal, and industrial needs. One of the more recent examples is the water hyacinth invasion of the Port of Stockton, which shut down an annual boat parade and significantly affected shipping access. In addition to hyacinth, there are other alien plant species of concern found throughout the Delta region and its tributaries. … ”  Read more from the FishBio blog here:  Invasion of the aquatic weeds

Public Comment Sought on Delta Research Station Proposal: “A notice announcing the availability of a draft Environmental Impact Report/Environmental Impact Statement (EIR/EIS) for a proposed science and research center in the Delta will be published in the Federal Register on Oct. 30, 2015, the California Department of Water Resources and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced today. The notice opens a 45-day public comment period that will end Dec. 14, 2015 and will include two public meetings. … The Delta Research Station would consist of two facilities – an Estuarine Research Station and Fish Technology Center, and would consolidate approximately 145 employees from federal and state offices of the Interagency Ecological Program (IEP). A total of four alternatives are identified in the EIR/EIS, with the preferred alternative located at the Sacramento River site of the Rio Vista Army Reserve Center in the City of Rio Vista. ... ”  Read more from the DWR here:  Public Comment Sought on Delta Research Station Proposal

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Fish counting weirs: Rigid by design: Using fish counting weirs to tally migrating salmonids is familiar territory for FISHBIO: we have been operating these devices on multiple rivers for over a decade, and have fabricated many more for other organizations throughout the West. Up until now, we have specialized in floating resistance board weirs. This type of weir has many advantages: it can operate under a wide range of river flows, can withstand heavy debris, is easy to clean, and allows for boat passage over it. But the biggest obstacle is that this design don’t easily allow for fish to pass in the downstream direction, just upstream. We have tried modifying the design, such as making a depressed area in which fish can pass over the weir and into a livebox (fish trap) to be counted and released, but this has not proved effective. … ”  Read more from FishBio here:  Rigid by design

The Guadalupe River needs rain:  “Early this summer, I watched a group of ecstatic elementary school students fishing for turtles, frogs and crayfish in the Guadalupe River, just under the Coleman Bridge in downtown San Jose.  The kids grasped their nets tightly, smiles on their faces as they stared into the water for signs of life. The water was only about puddle-deep, nothing like what they might call a river elsewhere in the world, but it was there, a functioning wet ecosystem.  A few weeks ago, I went back to find that the section of the river where earlier the children released their crayfish is now nothing but rocks and dirt. ... ”  More from Bay Nature here:  The Guadalupe River needs rain

California’s marine fish populations are declining:  “The California Current is home to many marine animals, including marine fishes, which are the most diverse vertebrates on Earth and critical to marine ecology. Two fishery-independent data sets reveal strikingly similar trends of wide-ranging declines in fish populations in the California Current.  Tony Koslow and John McGowan, researchers from Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego, and Eric Miller of MBC Applied Environmental Sciences of Costa Mesa, compared two independently collected data sets from the California Cooperative Oceanic Fisheries Investigations (CalCOFI) and power plant cooling water intakes (PPI) from five sites along the California coastline. … ”  Read more from PhysOrg here:  California’s marine fish populations are declining

Field test: Can we use drones to monitor water quality?Like most experiments, this one started with a question: is it possible to monitor water quality in small streams using Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs aka “drones”)?  Traditionally, testing and monitoring water quality is a lot of work. Collecting and analyzing samples is time and labor intensive making it challenging (and often expensive) to get data for large areas. … With UAVs and a variety of sensors becoming available, scientists now theoretically have the ability to monitor streams remotely at a higher spatial resolution, and at specific times, such as shortly after a rainstorm when there is typically more sediment in the water. ... ”  Read more from the Cool Green Science blog here:  Field test: Can we use drones to monitor water quality?

Planting in clumps boosts wetlands restoration success:  “When restoring coastal wetlands, it’s long been common practice to leave space between new plants to prevent overcrowding and reduce competition for nutrients and sunlight. It turns out, that’s likely all wrong.  A new Duke University-led study, conducted to restore degraded salt marshes in Florida and the Netherlands, has found that clumping newly planted marsh grasses next to each other, with little or no space in between, can spur positive interactions between the plants and boost growth and survival by 107 percent, on average, by the end of one growing season. ... ”  Read more from Phys Org here: Planting in clumps boosts wetlands restoration success

Researchers advance understanding of mountain watersheds:  “University of Wyoming geoscientists have discovered that the underground water-holding capacity of mountain watersheds may be controlled by stresses in Earth’s crust. The results, which may have important ramifications for understanding streamflow and aquifer systems in upland watersheds, appears Oct. 30 in Science, one of the world’s leading scientific journals.  The scientists conducted geophysical surveys to estimate the volume of open pore space in the subsurface at three sites around the country. Computer models of the state of stress at those sites showed remarkable agreement with the geophysical images. … ”  Read more from Science Daily here:  Researchers advance understanding of mountain watersheds

Wildfires may double erosion across a quarter of Western watersheds by 2050:  “In recent years, wildfires have burned trees and homes to the ground across many states in the western U.S., but the ground itself has not gotten away unscathed.  Wildfires, which are on the rise throughout the west as a result of prolonged drought and climate change, can alter soil properties and make it more vulnerable to erosion. A new study shows that the increase in wildfires may double soil erosion in some western U.S. states by 2050, and all that dirt ends up in streams, clogging creeks and degrading water quality. … ”  Read more from Science Daily here:  Wildfires may double erosion across a quarter of Western watersheds by 2050

Do You Know ‘How Science Makes Environmental Controversies Worse’? Read This Paper: Michael Campana writes, “WaterWonk extraordinaire John Fleck brought this 2004 paper by Daniel Sarewitz to my attention. I had not seen it before, much less read it. Provocative, to say the least. Read for yourself.” From the abstract: “I use the example of the 2000 US Presidential election to show that political controversies with technical underpinnings are not resolved by technical means. Then, drawing from examples such as climate change, genetically modified foods, and nuclear waste disposal, I explore the idea that scientific inquiry is inherently and unavoidably subject to becoming politicized in environmental controversies. I discuss three reasons for this. … ” You can read a copy of the paper at the Water Wired blog here:  Do You Know ‘How Science Makes Environmental Controversies Worse’? Read This Paper

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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