Science news: Quantifying the effectiveness of conservation; mercury pollution; megacity water demands, blue carbon, and more …

Ocean in the fall

Phytoplankton bloom in the Atlantic

In science news this week: Improving tools for quantifying the effectiveness of conservation; New research sheds light on mercury pollution in estuaries, food chain; It takes a village and much more to quench megacity water demands; Wake up to blue carbon; Global human freshwater footprint surges; Novel data science approaches could drive advances in seasonal to sub-seasonal predictions of precipitation; and Commentary: We need coequal science for the Bay-Delta’s coequal goals, says Tina Swanson

Improving tools for quantifying the effectiveness of conservation: Despite concerted efforts toward evidence-based and quantified conservation, understanding the effects and the effectiveness of conservation interventions lags far behind most other policy fields, such as poverty reduction or educational enrollment (Ferraro and Pattanayak 2006).  For example, one of the primary tools of maintaining the diversity of life on Earth has been the establishment of legally protected areas. But conservation is still lacking quantifiable answers to important questions about their true effectiveness: Do protected areas conserve species, habitats, and other forms of biodiversity? Do protected areas protect the health, opportunities, and income of local people? … ”  Read more from the Cool Green Science blog here:  Improving tools for quantifying the effectiveness of conservation

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New research sheds light on mercury pollution in estuaries, food chain:Two studies by Dartmouth researchers and their colleagues shed new light on mercury pollution in the waters of the northeastern United States.  The studies appear in the journal Marine Chemistry.  Mercury, which is transformed into methylmercury in water, is a global pollutant that damages human health. Most people are exposed to mercury by eating fish, particularly from open ocean and coastal fisheries. All 50 states have had fish consumption advisories pertaining to mercury. Estuaries act as a repository for methylmercury, storing toxic particulates in both the sediment and water column. … ”  Read more from Science Daily here:  New research sheds light on mercury pollution in estuaries, food chain

It takes a village and much more to quench megacity water demands:  “Municipal water problems of yesteryear:  The well’s going dry.  Dig deeper.  Municipal water problems of today: Megacities with millions of thirsty residents and water guzzling infrastructures exhaust nearby sources and start pulling water from aquifers, reservoirs, and farmlands far away.  Getting that water is so complicated that impacts are largely unknown.  In this week’s edition of Water International, scientists at Michigan State University (MSU) propose a novel way to begin understanding what happens to the globe when large cities – think Beijing, Los Angeles, Sao Paulo – reach far to get the water they need. ... ”  Read more from Michigan State University here: It takes a village – and much more – to quench megacity water demands

Wake up to blue carbon: Climate change is a portfolio problem. There’s no one cause, but rather a calamitous portfolio. Depending on your politics, history, culture or geography, you may want to focus attention on over-consumption, or overpopulation, or the industrial revolution, big agriculture, fossil fuels or deforestation.  With no one cause, there’s no one solution. We can’t instantly stop burning fossil fuels. We can’t halt the juggernaut of consumer culture. Ending deforestation won’t be enough, and switching to renewable energy won’t happen fast enough. We have to build up a portfolio of responses.  One of those options needs to be “blue carbon.” … ”  Read more from the Cool Green Science blog here:  Wake up to blue carbon

Global human freshwater footprint surges: The new study shows that dams and irrigation considerably raise the global human consumption of freshwater by increasing evapotranspiration. This effect increases the loss of freshwater to the atmosphere and thereby reduces the water available for humans, societies and ecosystems on land.  “Small things that we do on the surface of the Earth can have large global effects. Previously, the global effects of local human activities such as dams had been underestimated. This study shows that, so far, the effects are even greater than those from atmospheric climate change,” says Fernando Jaramillo, postdoc at the Department of Physical Geography at Stockholm University. … ”  Read more from Science Daily here:  Global human freshwater footprint surges

Novel data science approaches could drive advances in seasonal to sub-seasonal predictions of precipitation: Predictions at the seasonal to sub-seasonal scale are important for planning and decision-making in a variety of disciplines, and improving understanding and model skill at this timescale is a key research priority. An as yet underexplored approach to sub-seasonal prediction using data science and graph theory methods that are increasingly common to other fields outside of meteorology and climate science shows potential to improve predictions at this challenging timescale.  A recently accepted Journal of Climate paper by Lu et al., addresses this deficiency by exploring the application of correlation networks to sea surface temperature (SST) and sea level pressure (SLP) to determine if teleconnected patterns could be exploited to inform prediction of precipitation out to 30 days. … ”  Read more from Climate.gov here:  Novel data science approaches could drive advances in seasonal to sub-seasonal predictions of precipitation

Commentary: We need coequal science for the Bay-Delta’s coequal goals, says Tina Swanson:  She writes, “In California’s San Francisco Bay-Delta system, we have a lot of science–a deep bench of scientific experts, decades of multi-disciplinary research, and impressive monitoring and modeling tools that continuously add to our knowledge and understanding of the estuary and its watershed. And … we have a public, institutional commitment that planning and management will be based our scientific understanding of the system, the problems and the solutions.  But lately I have been really struck by how out of balance our pursuit and application of science is relative to the two coequal goals. Have you noticed that all of the science–both the actual science and the calls for more science–seems to focus on the ecosystem and fish side of the equation? ... ”  Continue reading at the NRDC Switchboard here:  We need coequal goals for coequal science

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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