Science news: What lurks beneath: Is a silent killer entering the San Francisco Bay?; California hatchery trends; Winter-run Chinook salmon in the spotlight; Flood risk can be higher behind levees than without them; and more …

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New high-resolution “Earthrise” image from NASA

In science news this week: What lurks beneath:  Is a silent killer entering the San Francisco Bay?; Two billion fish and counting: California hatchery trends; Winter-run Chinook salmon one of NOAA’s “Species in the Spotlight; Behind the levees: Flood risk can be higher behind levees than without them; A step toward saving the Salton Sea; Ecosystems pulling apart as some plants shift habitats, possibly adapting to climate change; Southwest sliding into new normal: Drier conditions; What is nature worth? Study helps put a price on groundwater and other natural capital; and more …

What lurks beneath:  Is a silent killer entering the San Francisco Bay?  “Early one July morning, a boat left Sausalito looking for evidence of a silent killer from the depths of the sea that might be coming into San Francisco Bay.  The research vessel Mussel Point had a crew of three: a technician, a researcher, and a captain—a deeply tanned and weather-beaten man of the sea who spent the early part of this voyage half-watching the Tour de France on his iPad while the scientists drank coffee. The morning light played across the unruffled waters of the Bay in that sparkly Thomas Kinkade sort of way that makes you wonder if nature has any taste at all.  RV Mussel Point was out looking for five buoys. … ”  Read more from Bay-Nature here:  What lurks beneath: Is a silent killer entering the San Francisco Bay?

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Two billion fish and counting: California hatchery trends:  “California has a long and intricate history of using hatcheries to supplement its salmon fisheries, starting with the first federal fish hatchery constructed along the McCloud River in 1872. In following decades, continued development from the Gold Rush and the expansion of agriculture took a toll on wild salmon and increased reliance on hatcheries. Technological improvements in the early 20th century, such as the invention of motorized boats capable of open-sea trolling, increased fishing efficiency and effort, but the higher fish catches masked wild salmon population declines (McEvoy 1986). When large dams were constructed during the mid 20th century for the Central Valley and State Water Projects, more salmon hatcheries were built to mitigate for lost spawning habitat upstream of the dams, which posed barriers to salmon migration. Reliance on hatchery supplementation intensified after World War II to support a burgeoning human population in California. ... ”  Read more from the Fish Bio blog here:  Two billion fish and counting: California hatchery trends

Winter-run Chinook salmon one of NOAA’s “Species in the Spotlight:  “Today, NOAA Fisheries released new five-year action plans for the eight marine species identified as among the most at risk of extinction through NOAA’s Species in the Spotlight campaign.  The goal of this campaign is to stop the decline of these species and move them toward recovery. NOAA is also looking to join with local, state and tribal governments, academic partners and the public to make sure these endangered species do not decline further.  The eight species highlighted in the action plans, all listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act, are the Gulf of Maine population of Atlantic salmon, Central California Coast coho salmon, Cook Inlet beluga whales, Hawaiian monk seals, Pacific leatherback sea turtles, Sacramento River winter-run chinook salmon, Southern Resident killer whales in Puget Sound, and white abalone. ... ”  Read more from NOAA here:  NOAA Species in the Spotlight

Behind the levees: Flood risk can be higher behind levees than without them:  “People living behind levees on floodplains may not be as immune to flood damage as they think, according to results of a study led by the University of California, Davis.  Levees often prevent costly flood damages and even loss of life. However, when those levees overtop or fail, and water spills onto the floodplain, the long-term damage can be far worse than if those levees were not there, the study found.  The study, published this week in the journal Environmental Science & Policy, estimated long-term flood risk, probabilities of levee failure, and resulting economic losses in the Sny Island levee district along the Mississippi River in Illinois and Missouri. … ”  Read more from Science Daily here:  Behind the levees: Flood risk can be higher behind levees than without them

A step toward saving the Salton Sea:  “From the air it glistens and shimmers. The blue waters beckon. Upwards of 100,000 birds may visit the Salton Sea on any given day, as they make their migratory journey along the Pacific Flyway.  The Salton Sea was created by a breech in a dike along the Colorado River that poured water into the Salton Sink in the early 1900s. For decades the Sea continued to receive sufficient quantities of water from irrigation runoff to sustain it. This lake in the desert became a favorite getaway for Hollywood stars, and the Sea was populated with corvina, croaker and other sport fish to entice anglers. … ”  Read more from US FWS Field Notes here:  A step toward saving the Salton Sea

Ecosystems pulling apart as some plants shift habitats, possibly adapting to climate change: A UCLA-led study examining whether plant species in California have shifted to higher elevations, possibly in response to climate change, discovered that non-native plants are moving fastest, altering and potentially damaging ecosystems. The research, led by UCLA professor Jon Christensen, also showed significantly less movement by species that grow only in California, suggesting that these endemic species may have the hardest time adapting to the challenges of climate change.  “We see different kinds of species moving at different rates, and that raises the concern that California’s ecosystems are unraveling,” said Christensen, an adjunct assistant professor of history and a member of the UCLA Institute of the Environment and Sustainability. “Native species may face not only a changing climate, but also competition from invasive species which are moving more quickly.” … ”  Read more from PhysOrg here:  Ecosystems pulling apart as some plants shift habitats, possibly adapting to climate change

Southwest sliding into new normal: Drier conditions: The weather patterns that typically bring moisture to the Southwest are becoming more rare, an indication that the region is sliding into the drier climate state predicted by global models, according to a new study.  “A normal year in the Southwest is now drier than it once was,” said Andreas Prein, a researcher at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder, Colorado, who led the study. “If you have a drought nowadays, it will be more severe because our base state is drier.” … ” Read more from Science Daily here:  Southwest sliding into new normal: Drier conditions

What is nature worth? Study helps put a price on groundwater and other natural capital:Most people understand that investing in the future is important, and that goes for conserving nature and natural resources, too. But in the case of investing in such “natural” assets as groundwater, forests, and fish populations, it can be challenging to measure the return on that investment.  A Yale-led research team has adapted traditional asset valuation approaches to measure the value of such natural capital assets, linking economic measurements of ecosystem services with models of natural dynamics and human behavior. … ” Read more from Science Daily here: What’s nature worth? Study helps put a price on groundwater and other natural capital

NOAA launches unprecedented effort to discover how El Nino affects weather:  “NOAA scientists and partners have embarked on a land, sea, and air campaign in the tropical Pacific to study the current El Niño and gather data in an effort to improve weather forecasts thousands of miles away.  The El Niño Rapid Response Field Campaign will deploy NOAA’s Gulfstream IV research plane and NOAA Ship Ronald H. Brown, NASA’s Global Hawk unmanned aircraft equipped with specialized sensors, and researchers stationed on Kiritimati (Christmas) Island in the Republic of Kiribati, approximately 1,340 miles south of Honolulu. Together, scientists will collect atmospheric data from this vast and remote expanse of the tropical Pacific where El Niño-driven weather systems are spawned. ... ” Read more from the NOAA here:  NOAA launches unprecedented effort to discover how El Nino affects weather

Winter precipitation patterns for every El Nino since 1950:  “The tropical Pacific climate pattern known as “ENSO,” which is short for El Niño-Southern Oscillation, has its strongest influence on the U.S. climate during winter (December-February). El Niño in general acts to tilt the odds toward wetter and cooler than average conditions across much of the South, and toward drier and warmer conditions in many of the northern regions. ... ”  Read more from Climate.gov here:  Winter precipitation patterns for every El Nino since 1950

2016 El Nino:  Don’t mock the croc:  “The large and powerful El Niño in the eastern tropical Pacific has yet to deliver torrential rains to Southern California—an almost daily problem for Bill Patzert, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s quotable oceanographer.  “No matter where I go—whether it’s JPL or Whole Foods or talking with reporters—everybody has a simple question: Show me the rain,” Patzert says.  But it might just be a case of expectations outrunning El Niño itself.  The massive pool of warm water now parked off Central America’s west coast remains formidable, and invites comparisons to the 1998 El Niño, remembered for pummeling rains that brought flooding, mud slides and debris flow to much of Southern California. … ”  Read more from JPL here:  2016 El Nino: Don’t mock the croc

NOAA photo contest reflects diversity of jobs and environments:  “We asked NOAA Fisheries employees, contractors, and other associates to show us their work, and more than 200 responded with captivating shots of a day in the life of NOAA Fisheries. The fourth annual photo contest for the Northwest Fisheries Science Center, Southwest Fisheries Science Center, and NOAA Fisheries’ West Coast Region drew 207 entries in six categories ranging from “NOAA at work” to “Science and Technology.” This was also the first year with a category for 30-second videos, which drew 16 entries.  The submissions and winners reflected the diversity of NOAA Fisheries jobs, with photos ranging from divers on abalone surveys to a bald eagle in flight and fishermen muscling albacore tuna out of a frothy ocean. ... ”  See the winners at NOAA here:  Photo contest reflects diversity of NOAA jobs and environments

USGS increases public access to scientific research:  “The U.S. Geological Survey is implementing new measures that will improve public access to USGS-funded science as detailed in its new public access plan. The plan enables the USGS to expand  its current on-line gateways to provide free public access to scholarly research and supporting data produced in full or in part with USGS funding, no matter how it is published.  The USGS plan  “Public Access to Results of Federally Funded Research at the U.S. Geological Survey: Scholarly Publications and Digital Data,” stipulates that, beginning October 1, the USGS will require that any research it funds be released from the publisher and  available free to the public no later than 12 months after initial publication. The USGS will also require that data used to support the findings be available free to the public when the associated study is published. … ”  Read more from the USGS here:  USGS increases public access to scientific research

 

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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