Science news: Neurotoxin that closed crab fisheries is declining – but slowly; Yolo Bypass highlighted in latest edition of the Interagency Ecological Program newsletter; When trees die, water slows; El Nino, and more …

substanceIn science news this week: Neurotoxin that closed crab fisheries is declining – but slowly; Yolo Bypass highlighted in latest edition of the Interagency Ecological Program newsletter; Delta Conservancy newsletter covers habitat restoration, water quality and more; Genome sequencing may save California’s sugar pine; When trees die, water slows; Study: Climate change rapidly warming world’s lakes; Nature, not humans, has greater impact influence on water in the Colorado Basin; Interior Launches New, Interactive Web Tool to Show Effects of 16-Year Drought in the Colorado River Basin; West Coast marine mammals respond to shifting conditions, research shows; NOAA study finds “living shorelines” can lessen climate change’s effects; Analyzing options for increasing affordability of flood insurance; Why emotional intelligence is the key to tackling climate change; December El Niño update: phenomenal cosmic powers!; Examining the global impacts of El Nino 2015; How NASA sees El Nino effects from space

Neurotoxin that closed crab fisheries is declining – but slowly:  “Pseudo-nitzschia is the unwanted gift that keeps on giving.  The single-celled algae, which produces the neurotoxin domoic acid, created an unprecedented bloom in the Pacific this summer, causing a spike in marine mammal deaths and prompting closures of California’s Dungeness and rock crab fisheries. After examining months of test data by the California Department of Public Health, regulators and fisheries representatives at a meeting of the state’s Joint Committee on Fisheries and Aquaculture in Santa Rosa early in December announced mixed results. ... ”  Read more from Bay Nature here:  Neurotoxin that closed crab fisheries is declining – but slowly

Yolo Bypass highlighted in latest edition of the Interagency Ecological Program newsletter:  The current edition of the Interagency Ecological Program (IEP) newsletter is now available online. Article titles include: Yolo Bypass as a Fall Food Web Subsidy for the Lower Estuary; Evidence for Increased Utilization of the Yolo Bypass by Delta Smelt; Juvenile Chinook Salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha) Occupy the Yolo Bypass in Relatively High Numbers during an Extreme Drought; Fish Salvage at the State Water Project’s and Central Valley Project’s Fish Facilities During the 2014 Water Year; Delta Smelt Refuge Population: 2014 Update and Five-year Trends in Phenotypic Traits.  Click here to download the newsletter.

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Delta Conservancy newsletter covers habitat restoration, water quality and more:  The Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Conservancy (Conservancy) Fall 2015/Winter 2016 newsletter, Conservancy Currents, is now posted. Articles include updates on the Conservancy’s habitat restoration, water quality, watershed, and Delta as Place projects.  Click here to read the newsletter.

Genome sequencing may save California’s sugar pine: The genome of California’s legendary sugar pine, which naturalist John Muir declared to be “king of the conifers” more than a century ago, has been sequenced by a research team led by UC Davis scientists.  At 10 times the size of the human genome, the sugar pine genome is the largest ever sequenced for any organism. It is expected to provide valuable information that may help preserve the iconic but imperiled tree.  “Having the genome sequence allows us to discover the underlying genetic determinants of disease resistance, which will greatly facilitate reforestation efforts,” said professor and principal investigator David Neale, a UC Davis forest tree geneticist. “We can now give forest managers modern, rapid genetic tools to identify resistant trees.” … ” Read more from the UC Davis here:  Genome sequencing may save California’s sugar pine

When trees die, water slows:  “Mountain pine beetle populations have exploded over the past decade due to warmer temperatures and drier summers, and these insects have infected and killed thousands of acres of western pine forests. Researchers have predicted that as trees died, streamflow would increase because fewer trees would take up water through their roots.  A recent study by University of Utah geology and geophysics professor Paul Brooks and his colleagues in Arizona, Colorado and Idaho, found that if too many trees die, compensatory processes kick in and may actually reduce water availability. When large areas of trees die, the forest floor becomes sunnier, warmer and windier, which causes winter snow and summer rain to evaporate rather than slowly recharging groundwater. ... ”  Read more from Science Daily here:  When trees die, water slows

Study: Climate change rapidly warming world’s lakes:  “Climate change is rapidly warming lakes around the world, threatening freshwater supplies and ecosystems, according to a new NASA and National Science Foundation-funded study of more than half of the world’s freshwater supply.  Using more than 25 years of satellite temperature data and ground measurements of 235 lakes on six continents, this study — the largest of its kind — found lakes are warming an average of 0.61 degrees Fahrenheit (0.34 degrees Celsius) each decade. The scientists say this is greater than the warming rate of either the ocean or the atmosphere, and it can have profound effects.  The research, published in Geophysical Research Letters, was announced Wednesday at the American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco. ... ”  Read more from NASA here:  Study: Climate change rapidly warming world’s lakes

Nature, not humans, has greater impact influence on water in the Colorado Basin:  “Researchers have found that the water supply of the Colorado River basin, one of the most important sources for water in the southwestern United States, is influenced more by wet-dry periods than by human use, which has been fairly stable during the past few decades.  The study, led by The University of Texas at Austin, took the most comprehensive look to date at the state of a water source that serves 40 million people in seven states. The researchers used 30 years of local water monitoring records and more than a decade of data collected from the NASA satellite system GRACE to reconstruct changes in the basin’s water storage since the 1980s. … ”  Read more from Science Daily here:  Nature, not humans, has greater impact influence on water in the Colorado Basin

Interior Launches New, Interactive Web Tool to Show Effects of 16-Year Drought in the Colorado River Basin: “On the heels of a White House Roundtable on Water Innovation, the U.S. Department of the Interior today launched a new, interactive website to show the dramatic effects of the 16-year drought in the Colorado River Basin. The specialized web tool, otherwise known as Drought in the Colorado River Basin – Insights Using Open Data, shows the interconnected results of a reduced water supply as reservoir levels have declined from nearly full to about 50 percent of capacity.  Launched as part of a broader effort by the Obama Administration to harness resources that help build drought resiliency, this web tool provides a visual depiction of the complexity of the nexus between water supply, water demand, and long-term drought in the Colorado River Basin by connecting data from a variety of sources affiliated with the Open Water Data Initiative, which is led by Interior’s U.S. Geological Survey. … ” Read more here: Interior Launches New, Interactive Web Tool to Show Effects of 16-Year Drought in the Colorado River Basin  View the interactive here:  Drought in the Colorado River Basin – Insights Using Open Data

West Coast marine mammals respond to shifting conditions, research shows: Humpback whales off the West Coast consume thousands of pounds of krill, plankton and small fish each day. Research shows that humpback diets reflect their surroundings, with the truck-sized whales filter-feeding on vast amounts of krill when cold upwelling waters prevail, but switching to schooling fish such as anchovies when warmer waters take over and the fish grow abundant.  The findings presented at the Society of Marine Mammalogy’s Biennial Conference in San Francisco demonstrate that humpback foraging responds to environmental changes, and illustrates how marine mammals serve as sentinels of ever-changing ocean conditions. … ”  Read more from PhysOrg here:  West Coast marine mammals respond to shifting conditions, research shows

NOAA study finds “living shorelines” can lessen climate change’s effects:  “A recent NOAA study, published in the journal PLOS One, shows “living shorelines” — protected and stabilized shorelines using natural materials such as plants, sand, and rock — can help to keep carbon out of the atmosphere, helping to blunt the effects of climate change.  This study, the first of its kind, measured carbon storing, or “carbon sequestration,” in the coastal wetlands and the narrow, fringing marshes of living shorelines in North Carolina.  “Shoreline management techniques like this can help reduce carbon dioxide in the atmosphere while increasing coastal resilience,” said Russell Callender, Ph.D., acting director of NOAA’s National Ocean Service. “As communities around the country become more vulnerable to natural disasters and long-term adverse environmental change, scientific research such as this helps people, communities, businesses, and governments better understand risk and develop solutions to mitigate impacts.” … ”  Read more from the NOAA here:  NOAA study finds “living shorelines” can lessen climate change’s effects

Analyzing options for increasing affordability of flood insurance: A new congressionally mandated report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine identifies an approach for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to evaluate policy options for making premiums through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) more affordable for those who have limited ability to pay.  Microsimulation is a modeling approach that is well-suited to estimating premiums and future flood damage claims at the individual policyholder level, the report says. A microsimulation modeling approach would, for example, allow FEMA to compare the price of NFIP premiums that reflect true flood risk — as called for in the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012 — with measures of policyholders’ ability to pay. The agency then could evaluate how different premium and mitigation assistance programs might be designed to make premiums affordable for cost-burdened households. … ”  Read more from Science Daily here:  Analyzing options for increasing affordability of flood insurance

Why emotional intelligence is the key to tackling climate change:  Faith Kearns writes: “Climate science has been instrumental in developing the ambitious carbon emission reduction targets negotiated at the recent climate talks in Paris. At the same time, the kinds of actions needed to avert the worst effects of climate change demand new ways of engaging that go far beyond science and formal diplomacy.  This shift from a focus on the technical to the social is not unexpected. After the particularly challenging climate talks of 2009, science and technology studies expert Sheila Jasanoff concluded a Science article by reflecting that the scientific community “has demonstrated it can learn and change in its methods of representing science to scientists. That ingenuity should now be directed toward building relationships of trust and respect with the global citizens whose future climate science has undertaken to predict and reshape.“  In other words, while climate science has advanced greatly, the human-to-human piece still needs attention. … ”  Read more at The Conversation here: Stretching science: why emotional intelligence is key to tackling climate change

December El Niño update: phenomenal cosmic powers!:If you’ve been following the development of this El Niño, you may have heard in the media that sea surface temperatures in the central equatorial Pacific are at near-record highs. Are we seeing the most powerful El Niño ever? Remember: ENSO is not all about the ocean: El Niño is one phase of the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO). An ENSO event involves changes in both the sea surface temperatures and in the overlying atmosphere across the tropical Pacific. In the case of El Niño, sea surface temperatures are warmer than average, and the Walker Circulation, which operates like a vertical loop through the tropical Pacific atmosphere—is weakened. This weakness shows up as more clouds and rain in the central and/or eastern Pacific and less over Indonesia, weaker near-surface winds (the trade winds, that usually blow from the east to the west), and weaker upper-level winds. … ”  Read more from the ENSO blog:  December El Niño update: phenomenal cosmic powers!

Examining the global impacts of El Nino 2015: People the world over are feeling, or will soon feel, the effects of the strongest El Niño event since 1997-98, currently unfolding in the eastern equatorial Pacific Ocean. New NASA satellite observations are beginning to show scientists its impact on the distribution of rain, tropospheric ozone and wildfires around the globe.  New results presented Tuesday, Dec. 15, at the American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco show that atmospheric rivers, significant sources of rainfall, tend to intensify during El Niño events, and this year’s strong El Niño likely will bring more precipitation to California and some relief for the drought. Atmospheric rivers are short-lived, narrow streams of wind that carry water vapor from the tropical oceans to mid-latitude land areas.   … ”  Read more from NASA here:  Examining the global impacts of El Nino 2015

How NASA sees El Nino effects from space:  “This winter, weather patterns may be fairly different than what’s typical — all because of unusually warm ocean water in the east equatorial Pacific, an event known as El Niño. Because of El Niño, California is expected to get more rain, while Australia is expected to get less. Since this El Niño began last summer, the Pacific Ocean has already experienced an increase in tropical storms and a decrease in phytoplankton.  El Niño is an irregularly occurring weather phenomenon created through an abnormality in wind and ocean circulation. While it originates in the equatorial Pacific Ocean, El Niño has wide-reaching effects. In a global context, it affects rainfall, ocean productivity, atmospheric gases and winds across continents. At a local level, it influences water supplies, fishing industries and food sources. … ”  Read more from NASA here:  How NASA sees El Nino effects from space

Maven’s XKCD Comic Pick of the Week …

Photo courtesy of Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

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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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