SCIENCE NEWS: Wildfire management benefits forest and watershed; Pinole Fish Passage Project completed; Coastal wetlands save hundreds of millions of dollars; A drought that defies the odds; and more …

jupiter-rising-by-nasa

Jupiter rising (photo by NASA)

In science news this week: Wildfire management vs. fire suppression benefits forest and watershed; Pinole Fish Passage Project may be easy to miss, but it’s importance isn’t; Coastal wetlands save hundreds of millions of dollars in flood damages during hurricanes; A drought that defies the odds; A river ran through it and brought life, at least for awhile; Kickstarting innovation in fisheries science; The science of harmful algal blooms; When algae turns toxic; and 40 earths: NCAR’s large ensemble reveals staggering climate variability

Wildfire management vs. fire suppression benefits forest and watershedAn unprecedented 40-year experiment in a 40,000-acre valley of Yosemite National Park strongly supports the idea that managing fire, rather than suppressing it, makes wilderness areas more resilient to fire, with the added benefit of increased water availability and resistance to drought.  After a three-year, on-the-ground assessment of the park’s Illilouette Creek basin, University of California, Berkeley researchers concluded that a strategy dating to 1973 of managing wildfires with minimal suppression and almost no preemptive, so-called prescribed burns has created a landscape more resistant to catastrophic fire, with more diverse vegetation and forest structure and increased water storage, mostly in the form of meadows in areas cleared by fires. … ” Read more from Science Daily here:  Wildfire management vs. fire suppression benefits forest and watershed

Pinole Fish Passage Project may be easy to miss, but it’s importance isn’t:  “The casual motorist might easily miss the recently completed Pinole Creek Fish Passage project, even though it runs underneath Interstate 80, one of the most heavily trafficked highways in the country.  Pinole Creek is in an urban setting – its headwaters are in the Briones Hills on Costa Peak, within the western area of Briones Regional Park in Contra Costa County and near the Carquinez Bridge toll plaza. The project modifies the existing box culverts where Pinole Creek passes under I-80 and the creek flows 10 miles west through the towns of Pinole and El Sobrante and out to San Pablo Bay, which is about two miles away.  What the eye of the average I-80 traveler might not see, however, doesn’t hide the project’s impact. A wide range of planners worked through many obstacles to restore access to the upper reaches of Pinole Creek to assist the current population of threatened Central California Coast Steelhead. … ”  Read more from the US Fish and Wildlife Service here:  Pinole Fish Passage Project may be easy to miss, but it’s importance isn’t

Coastal wetlands save hundreds of millions of dollars in flood damages during hurricanes:  “As communities across the Southeast United States and the Caribbean count the cost of flood and wind damage during Hurricane Matthew, a pioneering study led by scientists at UC Santa Cruz, Coastal Wetlands and Flood Damage Reduction, has quantified how much protection natural coastal habitats provide during hurricanes. … “We were able to put a dollar value on the coastal protection benefits from wetlands, using Hurricane Sandy as a test case. The results are relevant for many other areas such as San Francisco Bay, where we have lost 85 percent of historic wetlands and face grave risks from future flooding,” said project lead Michael Beck, an adjunct professor of ocean sciences at UC Santa Cruz and lead marine scientist for the Nature Conservancy. “Our work shows how we can align risk reduction and conservation interests to identify where to do marsh restoration and how to fund it.” … ” Read more from UC Santa Cruz here:  Coastal wetlands save hundreds of millions of dollars in flood damages during hurricanes

science-calendarA drought that defies the odds: You have probably seen the recent headlines, “California Enters 6th Year of Drought.” The 2016 water year ended on September 30, marking the end of our fifth consecutive year of drought. We have only had two droughts that lasted six years over the past century: the Dust Bowl that lasted from 1929­–1934, and another from 1987–1992. In 1992, near the end of the 1987–92 drought, the Department of Water Resources estimated the chances of having another severe six-year drought to be 1.4% (1 in 70 years) in the Sacramento Basin, and 0.3% (1 in 300 years) in the San Joaquin Basin. Though not a feat anyone is excited to achieve, it looks like we are going to defy the odds just 20 years after that prediction. … ”  Read more from the FishBio blog here:  A drought that defies the odds

A river ran through it and brought life, at least for awhile:  “In 2014, a large pulse of water was released into the mostly dry delta of the Colorado River along the U.S.-Mexico border. U.S. Geological Survey scientists are studying the effects of the pulse on the environment as part of a historic, bi-national collaborative effort. The pulse flow and the need to study its effects were accepted as part of the Minute 319 of the 1944 U.S.-Mexico Water Treaty.  Results from these studies will be used to assist and inform future bi-national cooperative efforts as the two countries work together to protect resources on both sides of the border.  Research on the effects of the 2014 pulse flow is ongoing, but some results of the flow have recently been uncovered by USGS scientists and their collaborators. … ”  Read more from the USGS here:  A river ran through it and brought life, at least for awhile

Kickstarting innovation in fisheries science:  “Imagine a low-cost way to fund innovative research, develop new tools and methods, and invigorate the careers of junior and senior scientists. This is the Internal Grants Program at the Northwest Fisheries Science Center.  The program is described in a Technical Memorandum published by NWFSC. Written by Robin Waples, the IGP’s director until 2015, Small Investments with Big Payoffs details the origins of the program, summarizes its challenges, achievements, and legacy, and envisions a future in which every NMFS Science Center can reap the rewards of similar programs. … ”  Read more from the Northwest Fisheries Science Center here:  Kickstarting innovation in fisheries science

The science of harmful algal blooms:  “Cyanobacterial harmful algal blooms (cyanoHABs) are increasingly a global concern. CyanoHABs can threaten human and aquatic ecosystem health; they can cause major economic damage.  The toxins produced by some species of cyanobacteria (called cyanotoxins) cause acute and chronic illnesses in humans. Harmful algal booms can adversely affect aquatic ecosystem health, both directly through the presence of these toxins and indirectly through the low dissolved oxygen concentrations and changes in aquatic food webs caused by an overabundance of cyanobacteria. Economic damages related to cyanoHABs include the loss of recreational revenue, decreased property values, and increased drinking-water treatment costs. … ”  Read more from the USGS here:  The science of harmful algal blooms

When algae turns toxic: In the spring and summer of 2015, the largest and longest-lasting harmful algal bloom (HAB) of this century hit the U.S. West Coast. Domoic acid (DA), a neurotoxin produced by the Pseudo-nitzschia algae, was found in dangerous levels in razor clams and crabs from Washington to southern California. Fisheries were closed, damaging coastal economies for months.  What caused it? And can we predict when this might happen again?  Fortunately, a group of scientists from Oregon State University, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, and the Northwest Fisheries Science Center began monitoring levels of DA, among other factors, along the central Oregon coast in January 2015—before the bloom began—and continued to do so throughout the entire event. … ”  Read mroe from the Northwest Fisheries Science Center here:  When algae turns toxic

40 earths: NCAR’s large ensemble reveals staggering climate variability: Over the last century, Earth’s climate has had its natural ups and downs. Against the backdrop of human-caused climate change, fluctuating atmosphere and ocean circulation patterns have caused the melting of Arctic sea ice to sometimes speed up and sometimes slow down, for example. And the back-and-forth formation of El Niño and La Niña events in the Pacific has cause d some parts of the world to get wetter or drier while some parts get warmer or cooler, depending on the year.  But what if the sequence of variability that actually occurred over the last century was just one way that Earth’s climate story could have plausibly unfolded? What if tiny — even imperceptible — changes in Earth’s atmosphere had kicked off an entirely different sequence of naturally occurring climate events? … ”  Continue reading from NCAR’s AtmosNews here:  40 earths: NCAR’s large ensemble reveals staggering climate variability

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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