Newly Released Report: Marine and Coastal Impacts of Ocean Desalination in California
From Stanford University’s Water in the West:
In light of California’s increasing interest in meeting its water needs through desalination of ocean water, Stanford’s Woods Institute for the Environment, through the Center for Ocean Solutions and Water in the West, collaborated with Monterey Bay Aquarium and the Nature Conservancy to facilitate an Uncommon Dialogue among cross-sector experts on the potential impacts of ocean desalination on coastal and marine ecosystems.
Over the course of two days in January 2016, leading experts from academia, non-governmental organizations, private industry, and government agencies gathered in Monterey to exchange information in an open exploration of the best available science, technology and policy related to desalination. Meeting participants also identified key issues, challenges and knowledge gaps in science and policy that should be explored in future work. The dialogue was organized around sessions that focused on the regulatory framework of desalination in California, siting and community impacts, seawater intakes, and brine disposal.
The organizing committee synthesized and summarized the proceedings and conclusions of that dialogue into this newly released report. Among the report’s conclusions is that although desalination may prove critically important to specific coastal communities, it is unlikely to significantly alter the basic water budget in California due to its high cost, energy demands and other factors. In addition, the report recommends that California’s new desalination policy be supplemented by research and policies designed to identify locations along the coast where the impacts on the marine environment can most easily be minimized.
As California’s water needs and environmental policies continue to co-evolve, there will be an ever-greater demand for integrated, innovative solutions that consider a suite of environmental and socio-economic impacts. Accordingly, a strong sense of the meeting participants is that the likelihood of a sustainable future for water resources in the state will be greatly increased if relevant experts continue to strengthen cross-sectoral lines of communication similar to those employed during this two-day dialogue. Participants also agreed that an important follow up to the conference should be better focused efforts to communicate with the public in the state as a whole regarding both the potential and limitations of ocean desalination as a tool to address California’s future water scarcity issues.
For more information …
Trees moving to higher, cooler elevations, study shows
From the Department of Fish and Wildlife:
Signature tree species in the high Sierra Nevada forests – including mountain hemlock, red fir and western white pine – are shifting toward higher, cooler elevations according to new research by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW). This study foreshadows how climate warming may significantly alter entire habitats for multiple species.
The CDFW researchers found that large areas of Plumas and Sierra counties no longer have much mountain hemlock, as much of the northern Sierra Nevada lacks the higher mountains the trees now need to persist. These conifer species that are shifting to higher elevations provide food for insects, birds and mammals, and help to build forest soil.
The report was published this week in the California Fish and Game 2016 Winter Issue.
In addition to research on high-elevation tree species in the northern Sierra Nevada, CDFW-funded researchers also recently concluded that 16 of 29 different types of natural vegetation communities in California are highly or near highly vulnerable to climate change by the end of the century. These include Pacific Coast saltmarsh, high montane conifer forest and Western North American freshwater marsh.
The climate vulnerability study was completed by researchers at UC Davis with funding from CDFW. Called “A Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment of California’s Terrestrial Vegetation,” the report can be found here. It was prepared in association with the CDFW’s State Wildlife Action Plan 2015 Update, and the research will help the department understand why certain ecosystems are more vulnerable to climate change and where species may be able to persist during unfavorable environmental conditions.
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