SCIENCE NEWS: California’s almond boom has ramped up water use; After a decade away river otters make a triumphant return to the Bay Area; Santa Clara, Yolo Counties get boost to save endangered species; Nutrient nuances modeled in SF Bay; and more …

cubism-landsat-style-photo-by-usgs

Cubism, Landsat style (Photo by USGS)

In science news this week: California’s almond boom has ramped up water use, consumed wetlands, and stressed pollinators; After a decade away river otters make a triumphant return to the Bay Area; Santa Clara and Yolo Counties get big financial boost to save endangered species; Nutrient nuances modeled in SF Bay; Wetland protections in transition; The decline of recreational fishing in California; Creating a student-driven water research community; New NOAA product improves early warning of drought; El Nino impacts black abalone, but shows some signs of recovery; The incredible growth of of the 2015-16 El Nino followed by the incredible shrinking La Nina forecast; Nigiri project video

California’s almond boom has ramped up water use, consumed wetlands, and stressed pollinators:  “A new study using aerial imagery across the state of California has found that converting land to grow almonds between 2007 and 2014 has led to a 27% annual increase in irrigation demands — despite the state’s historic drought. The expansion of almonds has also consumed 16,000 acres of wetlands and will likely put additional pressure on already stressed honeybee populations.  The conversion of lands to almond orchards was sparked by a rapid growth in demand and rising almond prices. Consumption of almonds has jumped 200% since 2005 and almond prices rose from about a dollar per pound in 2000 to a peak of around $5 per pound in 2014 according to the study’s author. … ”  Read more from Science Daily here:  California’s almond boom has ramped up water use, consumed wetlands, and stressed pollinators

After a decade away river otters make a triumphant return to the Bay Area: We’re peering down into a ravine carved out by Lagunitas Creek, looking for North American river otters. According to official California Department of Fish and Wildlife records, last updated in 1995, we are officially fools; there are no otters anywhere near here. They are “non-occurring,” wiped out from most of the Bay Area long ago by trapping, pollution, lack of prey, loss of habitat—any and all of the difficulties that wild animals contend with in urban areas.  But according to the data collected in the last four years by Megan Isadore and her corps of citizen otter spotters, these little fish-eating predators are all over the place, particularly here in Marin County. On the website of her small nonprofit River Otter Ecology Project, the reports of sightings pour in, from anglers and dog-walkers and nature lovers and amazed suburbanites: Hey, I just saw an otter! As of 2016, ROEP has catalogued more than 1,730 sightings and added to that tally close to 5,000 camera-trap videos and photos and roughly 1,300 samples of otter scat. ... ”  Read more from Bay Nature here:  After a decade away river otters make a triumphant return to the Bay Area

Santa Clara and Yolo Counties get big financial boost to save endangered species:  “Northern California continues to benefit from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) Cooperative Endangered Species Conservation Fund’s Endangered Species Act grants. Nearly $3 million in funding will go to conservation efforts in Santa Clara and Yolo Counties. Authorized under Section 6 of the Endangered Species Act, the fund enables states to work with private landowners, conservation groups, and other government agencies to develop projects that protect federally-listed species and their habitats. In some areas, it promotes access to outdoor recreation resources for present and future generations by providing funding to federal, state, and local governments to purchase land, water, and wetlands for the benefit of all Americans.  “If our children are to inherit a world with something called a leatherback sea turtle, northern long-eared bat or California tiger salamander, we need to commit to conservation at every level,” said Service Director Dan Ashe. ... ”  Read more from the US FWS here:  Santa Clara and Yolo Counties get big financial boost to save endangered species

Nutrient nuances modeled: San Francisco Bay is becoming less opaque as the sediments power-washed into the Estuary by miners so long ago gradually disperse. This lets sunlight penetrate deeper into the water, creating more favorable conditions for the kind of problematic algal blooms that can shut down crab fisheries and keep people and their pooches out of the water. Scientists have collaborated on some new computer models, however, that may help them predict where and when nutrients, like nitrogen and phosphate from discharges and runoff, may exacerbate the situation.  “It’s still a turbid estuary,” says the San Francisco Estuary Institute’s Dave Senn. “But there’s been a relaxation of some of the things keeping a lid on algae growth.” … ”  Read more from the Estuary News here:  Nutrient nuances modeled

Wetland protections in transition:  “Environmentalists are heading warily into the fall following two regulatory developments that they fear may cramp efforts to protect California’s wetlands. In June the State Water Resources Control Board released a draft document overhauling wetlands protection procedures but leaving open the question of exactly which wetlands are eligible for protection. In the same month the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that landowners may mount court challenges to U.S. EPA or Corps of Engineers jurisdictional determinations before a permit is issued, potentially generating a torrent of wetlands-related litigation.  … ”  Read more from Estuary Magazine here:  Wetland protections in transition

The decline of recreational fishing in California:  “With the change of seasons from summer to fall, the amount of time to spend fishing out on the lake or river presumably decreases, as days get shorter and cooler and vacation time ends. However, the sheer volume of fall tournaments available in California would lead one to believe otherwise. With the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta included among the top bass lakes in the nation, black bass tournament fishing now represents 90 percent of all fishing contests permitted by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. About 20 percent of the state’s 1,567 tournaments targeting black bass in 2014 were held in the Delta. However, the popularity of the Delta as a fishery comes at a time when the average participation of California’s freshwater anglers is reaching an all-time low. … ”  Read more from the FishBio blog here:  The decline of recreational fishing in California

Creating a student-driven water research community:  “Diku Sherpa is studying biodiversity in Sierra Nevada meadows. She has been tracking streamflow during California’s summer dry season to see if methods used to rapidly assess meadow conditions can be accurately correlated with other indicators of ecosystem health, like the presence of certain kinds of aquatic insects.  Sherpa was born in Nepal and moved to South Lake Tahoe as a teen to rejoin her father, who had immigrated years earlier. She began interning with the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) while still in high school, completed her undergraduate degree at Sonoma State, and continued doing summer internships with the agency. Today, she is a graduate student at California State University, Stanislaus (also known as Stan State) in Turlock where she is working toward her goal of becoming a USFS hydrologist. … ”  Read more from The Confluence blog here:  Creating a student-driven water research community

New NOAA product improves early warning of drought:  “Farmers, ranchers, and water resource managers will now have more time to prepare for potentially damaging drought conditions thanks to a new early warning product now available online.  Developed by NOAA and partners, the new product uses satellite observations of land surface temperatures taken by NOAA’s Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES) and vegetation information from NOAA’s and NASA’s VIIRS instrument. Researchers then use these observations to estimate water loss due to evaporation from the soil surface and water used by plants and evaporated from their leaves (transpiration).  Part of NOAA’s GOES Evapotranspiration and Drought Product System, or GET-D, the product provides drought warnings several weeks ahead of most other currently available drought indicators. ... ”  Read more from Climate.gov here:  New NOAA product improves early warning of drought

El Nino impacts black abalone, but shows some signs of recovery: Unusual warming of the Pacific Ocean by the “Warm Blob” and El Niño in recent years worried scientists studying the highly endangered black abalone. They knew that earlier El Niños had taken a heavy toll on the elusive shellfish, fueling outbreaks of a fatal abalone disease called withering syndrome.  “During past strong El Niño events we saw mass mortality of black abalone because of the relationship between warm ocean temperatures and a bacterial disease known as withering syndrome,” said Pete Raimondi, Research Professor at the University of California Santa Cruz. “We expected the same results this time, but the impact was somewhat mixed.”  In short, there is good news and bad news, depending on where the abalone are located. … ”  Read more from NOAA here:  El Nino impacts black abalone, but shows some signs of recovery

The incredible growth of of the 2015-16 El Nino followed by the incredible shrinking La Nina forecast:  Michelle L’Heureux writes, “I’m back with yet another GIF animation because I think I’ve developed a mild addiction to them [Editor’s note: that’s a classic denial by a serious addict]. Words mean one thing, but movies, well, they can reveal a lot. In this case, we wanted to show you every single North American multi-model ensemble forecast for ENSO over the past year and a half. This does not include every model that forecasters consider when developing their consensus outlook, but it includes a lot of them. This particular animation displays once-a-month data of sea surface temperature departures averaged in the Niño-3.4 region in the equatorial Pacific Ocean, which is one key location to monitor ENSO variations. Persistent positive numbers in excess of +0.5°C indicate El Niño, and persistent negative numbers less than -0.5°C indicate La Niña. … ”  Read more from Climate.gov here:  The incredible growth of of the 2015-16 El Nino followed by the incredible shrinking La Nina forecast

Video: The Nigiri Project: 40% of the Earth’s land surface is agricultural – either row crops or pastures. In California’s Central Valley, we’ve lost 95% of wetlands and floodplain forests. We’ve effectively conquered the landscape. And the fish have suffered. The Central Valley’s wild salmon are endangered, some on the verge of extinction.  But what if we could create fish abundance in this altered agricultural landscape?  That’s the question CalTrout’s Central Valley Senior Scientist Jacob Katz posed…and the results were amazing.” 

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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