SCIENCE NEWS: Mass oyster die-off in San Francisco Bay related to atmospheric rivers; Odds of reaching 100% of normal precipitation for Water Year 2017; Dos Rios Ranch: A model for restoration; Drought strikes centuries-old oaks; and more …

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Sahara Desert From the Space Station’s EarthKAM

In science news this week: Mass oyster die-off in San Francisco Bay related to atmospheric rivers; Odds of Reaching 100% of Normal Precipitation for Water Year 2017; Dos Rios Ranch: A model for restoration; Drought strikes centuries-old oaks; Rock layers preserve record of ancient sea tides near Blythe, California; Saving a Rare Desert Fish on the Brink of Extinction; NOAA releases Chief Scientist’s Annual Report; Environmental DNA effectively monitors aquatic species populations; What satellites can tell us about how animals will fare in a changing climate; Scientists shed light on climate-changing desert dust fertilizing the oceans; The world’s wet regions are getting wetter, the dry regions are getting drier; NASA releases eye-popping view of carbon dioxide; and more …

Mass oyster die-off in San Francisco Bay related to atmospheric rivers:  “Atmospheric rivers contributed to a mass die-off of wild Olympia oysters in north San Francisco Bay in 2011, according to a study led by the University of California, Davis and the San Francisco Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, or NERR.  The study, published Dec. 14 in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, is the first to document biological impacts of atmospheric rivers, which are predicted to increase in frequency and intensity under future climate change.  “This shows us one way in which extreme events might affect coastal ecosystems,” said lead author Brian Cheng, a UC Davis doctoral candidate and NERR graduate research fellow at the time of the study. “Oysters can help buffer shorelines and enhance biodiversity, but this is one facet of climate change that might be a hurdle for oyster restoration efforts in San Francisco Bay.” … ”  Read more from UC Davis here:  Mass oyster die-off in San Francisco Bay related to atmospheric rivers

odds-of-100-precipDr. Michael Dettinger Calculates the Odds of Reaching 100% of Normal Precipitation for Water Year 2017 (December Update): “The odds shown here are the odds of precipitation in the rest of the water year (after November 2016) totaling a large enough amount to bring the water-year total to equal or exceed the percentage of normal listed. “All Yrs” odds based on monthly divisional precipitation totals from water year 1896-2015. Numbers in parenthesis are the corresponding odds if precipitation through October had been precisely normal (1981-2010 baseline). ... ”  Read more from the Center for Western Weather and Water Extremes here:  Odds of Reaching 100% of Normal Precipitation for Water Year 2017

Dos Rios Ranch: A model for restoration: While attending this year’s biennial Bay-Delta Science Conference, we were inspired by all the ongoing work to restore habitat throughout the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta region. Many presentations focused on the significant reduction of California’s historical wetlands, with Julie Beagle of the San Francisco Estuary Institute noting that as much as 98% of the marshland in the Delta have been lost. This significant loss has coincided with the reduction of floodplains throughout the state that serve as crucial rearing habitats for juvenile fishes. Restoration projects, like those currently underway at Liberty Island, are an integral effort to mitigate for these losses and to help restore struggling fish populations throughout the region. We wanted to highlight another restoration project working to return reclaimed farmland in the southern Delta to its natural form at the Dos Rios Ranch. ... ” Read more from the FishBio blog here:  Dos Rios Ranch: A model for restoration

Drought strikes centuries-old oaks: The most severe drought in living memory did a number on California’s blue oaks. A new study by UC Berkeley researchers shows how even centuries-old trees struggled when landscape water disappeared between 2012 and 2015.  Some showed stress by producing miniature leaves, some by shedding leaves, and some simply died. The study’s findings will help refine our ability to manage resources in coming decades—a measure critical for conserving the state’s beloved oak woodlands as climate change effects intensify.  “Plants we thought were probably more resilient to the , weren’t. We saw them pushed to their limits,” says UC Berkeley professor Todd Dawson, a principal investigator of the study. ... ”  Read more from Phys Org here:  Drought strikes centuries-old oaks

Rock layers preserve record of ancient sea tides near Blythe, California:  “Five million years ago, the Colorado River met the Gulf of California near the present-day desert town of Blythe, California. The evidence, say University of Oregon geologists, is in the sedimentary rocks exposed at the edges of the valley where the river flows today.  The layers vary rhythmically in thickness, reflecting the influx of sea current during strong spring and weak neap tides, and point to 330 meters (1,082 feet) of uplift of the seafloor in roughly the past 5 million years, said UO graduate student Brennan O’Connell, lead author on a paper online ahead of print in the journal Geology.  The findings provide compelling evidence that this region—the southern Bouse Formation that is rich in tidal features—once was under a northern-reaching, marine water arm of the Gulf of California. … ”  Read more from PhysOrg here:  Rock layers preserve record of ancient sea tides near Blythe, California

Saving a Rare Desert Fish on the Brink of Extinction: “There is a rare species of desert fish fighting for its survival in a fresh water pond in the desert landscape of southern Nevada — the Pahrump poolfish.  According to biologists monitoring the tiny fish, one of the last remaining populations of the endangered Pahrump poolfish, Empetrichthys latos, is at an alarmingly low number, below 1,000, compared to the 10,000 recorded in 2015. Throughout the month of October 2016, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist James Harter and Nevada Department of Wildlife (NDOW) biologist Kevin Guadalupe are rescuing the Pahrump poolfish from Lake Harriett at Spring Mountain Ranch State Park outside of Las Vegas, Nevada, and moving them to the NDOW’s fish hatchery at the Lake Mead National Recreation Area.  The poolfish are being taken to the hatchery to protect the species from extinction. … ”  Read more from the USFWS here:  Saving a Rare Desert Fish on the Brink of Extinction

NOAA releases Chief Scientist’s Annual Report:  “The NOAA Chief Scientist’s Annual Report provides a corporate-level overview of NOAA’s Research and Development (R&D) activities, including a clear expression of the agency’s research portfolio logic. As the nation’s environmental intelligence agency, with a legacy reaching back more than 200 years, NOAA supports a research enterprise that is a rich blend of disciplines, methods, and objectives. This document, a first of its kind, highlights NOAA’s progress towards meeting agency priorities in R&D, scientific integrity, and workforce development. … ”  Read more at NOAA here:  NOAA releases Chief Scientist’s Annual Report

Environmental DNA effectively monitors aquatic species populations:  “Environmental DNA (eDNA), the nuclear or mitochondrial DNA shed from an organism into its environment, is a rapidly evolving tool for monitoring the distribution of aquatic species. A new study published in Transactions of the American Fisheries Society discusses the ability of eDNA to accurately predict the presence, relative abundance, and biomass of wild Brook Trout (Salvelinus fontinalis) populations. The study concluded that eDNA was an effective way to measure aquatic singles-species populations. eDNA correctly predicted the presence/absence of Brook Trout in 85.0 to 92.5 percent of the 40 where fish populations were surveyed.  The study’s lead author, Barry Baldigo, a research biologist at the US Geological Survey’s New York Water Science Center, said eDNA has become an increasingly important tool for quickly and accurately assessing biodiversity in aquatic habitats. ... ”  Read more from PhysOrg here:  Environmental DNA effectively monitors aquatic species populations

What satellites can tell us about how animals will fare in a changing climate:  “From the Arctic to the Mojave Desert, terrestrial and marine habitats are rapidly changing. These changes impact animals that are adapted to specific ecological niches, sometimes displacing them or reducing their numbers. From their privileged vantage point, satellites are particularly well-suited to observe habitat transformation and help scientists forecast impacts on the distribution, abundance and migration of animals.  In a press conference Monday at the American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco, three researchers discussed how detailed satellite observations have facilitated ecological studies of change over time. … ”  Read more from NASA here:  What satellites can tell us about how animals will fare in a changing climate

Scientists shed light on climate-changing desert dust fertilizing the oceans:  “The way in which human-made acids in the atmosphere interact with the dust that nourishes our oceans has been quantified by scientists for the first time.  In the international study led by the University of Leeds, researchers have pinpointed how much phosphate “fertiliser” is released from dust depending on atmospheric acid levels.  Phosphorus is an essential nutrient for all life, and when it falls into the ocean, it acts as a fertiliser that stimulates the growth of phytoplankton and marine life.  The new study allows scientists to quantify exactly how much phosphate “fertiliser” is released from dust depending on atmospheric acid levels. ... ”  Read more from PhysOrg here:  Scientists shed light on climate-changing desert dust fertilizing the oceans

The world’s wet regions are getting wetter, the dry regions are getting drier:  “Research from the University of Southampton has provided robust evidence that wet regions of Earth are getting wetter and dry regions are getting drier but it is happening at a slower rate than previously thought.  The study, published in Scientific Reports, analysed the saltiness of the world’s oceans.  More rain and outflow from rivers in a region of an ocean means sea water gets diluted and therefore becomes less salty. More evaporation in another region takes away fresh water and leaves salt behind making that region more saline. … ”  Read more from Science Daily here:  The world’s wet regions are getting wetter, the dry regions are getting drier

NASA releases eye-popping view of carbon dioxide:  “A new NASA supercomputer project builds on the agency’s satellite measurements of carbon dioxide and combines them with a sophisticated Earth system model to provide one of the most realistic views yet of how this critical greenhouse gas moves through the atmosphere.  Scientists have tracked the rising concentration of heat-trapping carbon dioxide for decades using ground-based sensors in a few places. A high-resolution visualization of the new combined data product – generated by the Global Modeling and Assimilation Office at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, using data from the agency’s Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 (OCO-2) satellite build and operated by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California – provides an entirely different perspective. ... ”  Read more from NASA here:  NASA releases eye-popping view of carbon dioxide

Mapping long-term global surface water occurrence:  “In an article published in Nature on 7 December 2016, JRC scientists describe how, in collaboration with Google, they have quantified changes in global surface waters and created interactive maps which highlight the changes in Earth’s surface water over the past 32 years.  Based on over three million satellite scenes (1 823 Terabytes of data) collected between 1984 and 2015, the Global Surface Water Explorer was produced using 10,000 computers running in parallel. The individual images were transformed into a set of global maps with a 30-metre resolution, which enable users to scroll back in time to measure the changes in the location and persistence of surface water globally, by region, or for a specific area. The maps are available for all users, free of charge. … ”  Read more from Science Daily here:  Mapping long-term global surface water occurrence

December 2016 La Nina update: Weeble wobbles: La Niña’s clinging on by her fingernails! If last year’s big El Niño was likened by some (not us) to a certain monster lizard, this La Niña is more like a gecko. Weak La Niña conditions were present during November, and are favored to continue through the mid-winter. It’s looking more likely that the tropical Pacific will transition to neutral conditions by the January – March period.  The temperature of the ocean surface in the Niño3.4 region in the east-central tropical Pacific was about 0.9°C below average during November using the ERSSTv4 data set, and the September – November period was about 0.8°C below average. This is the third three-month period in a row below the La Niña threshold of -0.5°C—this has to last for at least five consecutive three-month periods in order to qualify as a La Niña event by this indicator. Forecasters think we’ll just barely make it. ... ”  Read more from the ENSO blog here:  December 2016 La Nina update: Weeble wobbles

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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