Science news: History of metal contamination recorded in Delta soil; Protracted drought threatens California levees; Keeping the Delta’s salt field at bay; Potential mercury methylation in two California rivers; Mainstreaming resilience; and more …

Madagascan Sunset Moth Scales

In science news this week: History of metal contamination recorded in Delta soil; Protracted drought threatens California levees; Drought in the Delta:  Keeping the salt field at bay; Mercury rising: Potential mercury methylation in two California rivers; Mainstreaming resilience; Recovery: Mending Point Reyes, a Park Impaired by Invasive Mammals; Bay Belle retires; Catamaran carries on; Water resources dashboard provides “one-stop shop” for water data needs; National Science Foundation invests in a clean water future; Water conservation important to many, but only some take action; Expanding use of recycled water would benefit the environment, human health; Marcia, Marcia, Marcia:  Is El Niño the Marcia Brady of climate variability?

History of metal contamination recorded in Delta soil: Scientists have traced the history of lead and mercury contamination in tidal wetlands of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, according to a new U.S. Geological Survey article published in Science of the Total Environment.  The study, led by Dr. Judith Drexler, USGS Research Hydrologist, and co-authored by five USGS colleagues, examined lead and mercury concentrations in the region over more than 6,000 years, exploring historical factors that may have contributed to increased contamination levels throughout time.   Drexler and her team focused their research on two remaining tidal peatlands in the Delta.  These wetlands contain highly organic “peat” soils, which serve as a natural archive of environmental pollution.  The study shows that the Delta was a pristine region for most of its 6,700-year existence; however, since about 1425 CE, it has received both lead and mercury contamination originating from human activities.    … ”  Read more from the USGS here:  History of metal contamination recorded in Delta soil

Science calendarProtracted drought threatens California levees: Levee failures are most often associated with the onslaught of water from large storms, such as Hurricane Katrina, whose landfall in 2005 caused more than 50 floodwalls and levees around New Orleans to fail.  But the lack of water can also weaken these critical earthen structures, according to recent research presented last December at the fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco. … ”  Read more from EARTH Magazine here:  Protracted drought threatens California levees

Drought in the Delta:  Keeping the salt field at bay: After four of California’s driest years on record, the rain we’ve gotten this winter is hardly a drought buster. But it’s still a relief. Just a year ago, our “wet” season was so dry that state water officials panicked.  Major reservoirs were drawn way down, and record-low snowpack would limit replenishment to a trickle. Water managers worried about the hot, dry months. Would reservoirs still hold enough for freshwater releases to keep saltwater from pushing deep into the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, contaminating water supplies to cities and farms? So they built a barrier to block salt instead. … ”  Read more from Estuary News here:  Drought in the Delta: Keeping the salt field at bay

Mercury rising: Potential mercury methylation in two California rivers: Gold mining in California in the 19th century was a boon for the state’s economy but not so much for the environment. Mining left a protracted legacy that impacts the natural landscape even today. Mercury, used in the gold extraction process, has been detected throughout the Lower Yuba/Feather River system in the state’s Central Valley, and its presence could prove dangerous to local wildlife.  That mercury, which will remain in dry river sediment for thousands of years, generally poses a problem only when exposed to extreme water conditions. Flooding triggers a process called methylation, which causes a portion of the mercury to become toxic. When ingested by wildlife, this so-called methylmercury can negatively affect cardiovascular and central nervous systems. … ”  Read more from Science Daily here:  Mercury rising: Potential mercury methylation in two California rivers

Mainstreaming resilience: Whatever the “perturbation” coming our way – a flood, a drought, a weed or Donald Trump – our recovery, in the aftermath, depends on something ecologists call resilience. It’s a term everyone is pasting onto their management initiatives these days – resilient landscapes, resilient shorelines, resilient water supplies, neighborhoods, infrastructure… But what exactly does it mean, and how is it different from other fashionable buzzwords that have galvanized Californians into thinking about the future? … ”  Read more from Estuary News here:  Mainstreaming resilience

Recovery: Mending Point Reyes, a Park Impaired by Invasive Mammals: “The National Park Service gets pummeled by the public, politicians and media for all the right and all the wrong reasons. Right reasons include violations of its century-old Organic Act, which requires the agency to “conserve” native wildlife, leaving it “unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.” Wrong reasons include adherence to this law.  The story of how, in the face of intense opposition, the service ensured recovery of the 100-square-mile Point Reyes National Seashore in northern California is an example of wildlife management gone right — a profile in courage.  The story has gone unreported, largely because the service and its allies have been fearful of reigniting the controversy. But if the story is told in a way that educates rather than mocks the opposition, that’s not likely to happen. And if it’s not told, there’s no hope of reducing such opposition in the future. … ” Read more from Bay Nature here: Recovery: Mending Point Reyes, a Park Impaired by Invasive Mammals

Bay Belle retires; Catamaran carries on: Side by side at a Redwood City marina, two vessels await their very different destinies. The Research Vessel Polaris, a classy 96-foot yacht, was built in 1927 as a pleasure craft for a Los Angeles tycoon. Beyond a few streaks of rust, her age isn’t showing. After a series of owners, she spent decades as the workhorse of the US Geological Survey’s San Francisco Bay science program, carrying researchers on transects across the Bay and into the Delta. Much of what we know about how the Estuary works—the effects of freshwater flows, sediment pulses, pollutants and pollution controls, invasive species and changing food webs—comes from sampling done from the Polaris.  Recently enrolled in the National Register of Historic Places, the boat was retired last year when repairing her many leaks got too costly. She will be sold at auction. Meanwhile her successor floats next to her in the Redwood City marina. … ”  Read more from the Estuary News here:  Bay Belle retires; Catamaran carries on

Water resources dashboard provides “one-stop shop” for water data needs:  “All regions and economic sectors in the United States depend on adequate and reliable water supplies. Too much or too little water can endanger the health and welfare of citizens and businesses. Driven by feedback from water resource managers, federal agencies and others, NOAA and partners have developed the Water Resources Dashboard: a one-stop website for relevant water data on drought, flooding, precipitation, climate and other measures.  NOAA is launching the new website today on World Water Day 2016 to better serve citizens, communities, businesses, resource managers, planners, and policy leaders at all levels of government.  … ”  Read more from Climate.gov here:  Water resources dashboard provides “one-stop shop” for water data needs

National Science Foundation invests in a clean water future: Today, at the White House Water Summit, the National Science Foundation (NSF) joins other federal agencies to emphasize its commitment to a sustainable water future.  Access to affordable clean water is vital for energy generation, food cultivation and basic life support. With drought pressure and population demands, water is an increasingly precious resource.  The California drought and Flint water emergency show some of the consequences of clean water shortages. Low-cost, low-energy technologies for both water quality testing and water treatment must be developed to overcome economic barriers and secure America’s future.  NSF supports national efforts to bolster water security and supply by investing in fundamental science and engineering research. … ” Read more from the National Science Foundation here: National Science Foundation invests in a clean water future

Water conservation important to many, but only some take action: How long do you shower? Would you be willing to set a timer for yourself while you bathe? That may be something to consider as you try to reduce your water consumption, say University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researchers.  In a study that used an online survey of 932 Floridians, UF/IFAS researchers sought to identify characteristics of so-called “high-water users,” based on residents’ perceived importance of plentiful water and their water conservation behaviors.  Researchers were most interested in the 24 percent of the respondents who saw water conservation as important yet take little action to do so — for example, people who take long showers and those who may use excessive water to irrigate their lawns. That’s because researchers want residents, homeowners associations, Extension agents and the media to target their water conservation measures to these water users. … ” Read more from Science Daily here:  Water conservation important to many, but only some take action

Expanding use of recycled water would benefit the environment, human health: Expanding the use of recycled water would reduce water and energy use, cut greenhouse gas emissions and benefit public health in California — which is in the midst of a severe drought — and around the world.  A new study by the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health, published online March 17 in the American Journal of Public Health, found that recycled water has great potential for more efficient use in urban settings and to improve the overall resiliency of the water supply. … ”  Read more from Science Daily here:  Expanding use of recycled water would benefit the environment, human health

Marcia, Marcia, Marcia:  Is El Niño the Marcia Brady of climate variability?No doubt that El Niño is the sexiest, most popular, and most studied aspect of climate variability. And we do continue to talk about El Niño events decades after they seem relevant, much like Marcia.  Now that the U.S. has just finished its warmest winter on record, we naturally ask ourselves just how influential the strong El Niño was.  But how did other factors in the earth’s climate system contribute to the record-breaking season?  How did Greg and Bobby and Cindy—or even Jan—influence the hit TV show from yesteryear?  Was the success of the show solely due to Marcia, and was our warmest winter on record solely a result of El Niño?  In this Beyond the Data post, we take a closer look at the warmest winter on record and what role El Niño might have played. ... ”  Read more from Climate.gov’s Beyond the Data here:  Marcia, Marcia, Marcia

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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