SCIENCE NEWS: Current conservation efforts may not be enough for Central Valley waterbirds; How much drought can a forest take?; Unraveling the knot: Water movement in the Delta; and more …

Photo by Doug Barnum

In science news this week: Current conservation efforts may not be enough for Central Valley waterbirds; How much drought can a forest take?; Episode 1: Unraveling the knot: Water movement in the Delta; Rain or shine, Service biologists work through some tough weather conditions; Learning from carcasses and final fish counts; New technique quickly predicts salt marsh vulnerability; Facts, science, and identity: The seeds of science skepticism; The importance of Traditional Ecological Knowledge when examining climate change; Scientists link toxic algal blooms along West Coast to warm waters in the Pacific; NASA measures ‘dust on snow’ to help manage Colorado River basin supplies

Current conservation efforts may not be enough for Central Valley waterbirds:  “A new study published in PLOS ONE demonstrates that current conservation planning efforts for waterbird habitat in the Central Valley can likely compensate for habitat loss through the middle of the century.  However, after 2065, a future with a much warmer, drier climate could reduce waterbird habitat by more than 15 percent, and the combination of these climate projections and reduced water supply could cause even greater habitat losses.  The study addresses uncertainties in climate, the Central Valley landscape, and the water use and delivery system in order to provide useful information for waterbird habitat conservation planning. … ”  Read more from USGS here:  Current conservation efforts may not be enough for Central Valley waterbirds

How much drought can a forest take? Why do some trees die in a drought and others don’t? And how can we predict where trees are most likely to die in future droughts?  Scientists from the University of California, Davis, and colleagues examined those questions in a study published in the journal Ecology Letters.  Using climate data and aerial tree mortality surveys conducted by the U.S. Forest Service during four years (2012-2015) of extreme drought in California, they found that when a drought hits the region, trees growing in areas that are already dry are most susceptible.  The research also showed that the effects of drought on forests can take years to surface, suggesting that such effects may linger even after the drought has ended. ... ” Read more from Science Daily here:  How much drought can a forest take?

Episode 1: Unraveling the knot: Water movement in the Delta:  Bill Fleenor, Amber Manfree, and Megan Nguyen write, “In 2010, John DeGeorge of RMA, Inc used animated model results to illustrate specific flow and water quality issues in the Delta to the State Water Board. The Center for Watershed Sciences, working with John and using RMA software, has assembled a series of narrated animations to show some major forces acting on Delta flows and water quality. The goal is to “Unravel the Knot” of California’s Delta – at least some it – in terms of flow and water quality.  In Episode 1 we start with general background of California water and the role and significance of the Delta. … ”  Read more and watch the video from the California Water Blog here:  Episode 1: Unraveling the knot: Water movement in the Delta  See next episode here: Episode 2: “Unraveling the Knot” Water Movement in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta – Tidal Forces

Rain or shine, Service biologists work through some tough weather conditions:  “The rains came, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service got to work.  Whether it was to release more than a half-million steelhead, making sure rotary screw collection traps on the upper Sacramento River were preserved, or monitoring for Delta smelt, a little inclement weather wasn’t stopping the Service from crucial daily activities.  The very welcome wet opening to 2017 didn’t slow down the Coleman National Fish Hatchery’s scheduled week-long efforts to release 600,000 year-old steelhead into a Sacramento River location near Red Bluff. … ”  Read more from the US FWS here:  Rain or shine, Service biologists work through some tough weather conditions

Learning from carcasses and final fish counts:  “What can you learn from a dead fish? Surprisingly, a lot. Dead salmon are a common sight this time of year, as adult fall-run Chinook salmon perish after migrating upstream from the ocean to spawn in the rivers of California’s Central Valley.  Their carcasses then drift downstream, where they either decay in the river, are eaten by animals, wash ashore, or land on one of our fish-counting weirs. Fish scientists can collect information from salmon carcasses found in the field that can help estimate the age of the fish and its origins, assess population numbers, and determine fish reproductive success. We collect this data by taking body measurements, and by marking carcasses for population estimate surveys. We also remove the heads of carcasses to study the fish’s ear bones, or otoliths, which contain a record of the fish’s age. The heads of the fish may also contain a coded wire tag, which indicates the fish was hatchery-reared and provides its brood year. Carcass surveys are also used to estimate the numbers of spawning fish and to see if females laid eggs before they died. … ”  Read more from the FishBio blog here:  Learning from carcasses and final fish counts

New technique quickly predicts salt marsh vulnerability:  “Scientists working on a rapid assessment technique for determining which US coastal salt marshes are most imperiled by erosion were surprised to find that all eight of the Atlantic and Pacific Coast marshes where they field-tested their method are losing ground, and half of them will be gone in 350 years’ time if they don’t recapture some lost terrain.  The US Geological Survey-led research team developed a simple method that land managers can use to assess a coastal salt marsh’s potential to survive environmental challenges. The method, already in use at two national wildlife refuges, uses any one of several remote sensing techniques, such as aerial photography, to gauge how much of an individual marsh is open water and how much of it is covered by marsh plants. By comparing the ratio of ponds, channels and tidal flats to marsh vegetation, land managers can determine which marshes stand the best chance of persisting in the face of changing conditions. … ”  Read more from the USGS here:  New technique quickly predicts salt marsh vulnerability

science-calendarMore on Delta Science:  Tom Cannon writes, “I have written often on Delta science and what has been or could be learned from science to support water management.  Yet another biennial Delta science conference, the 9th, was held this past November.  This year’s conference theme was: “Science for Solutions:  Linking Data and Decisions.”  Another year has passed, and more has been studied and learned.  More dots have joined the dozens of previous dots in data charts from annual surveys of Delta organisms and habitat conditions.  More dots lament the loss of water and habitat.  The huge Delta Science Program has progressed yet another year.  In Phil Isenberg’s opening talk, “A Guide for the Perplexed”, the former legislator and former chair of the Delta Stewardship Council suggested that scientists learn to smile more.  He asked: “Why should science be involved in policy anyway?” … ”  Continue reading at the California Fisheries Blog here:  More on Delta Science

Scientists link toxic algal blooms along West Coast to warm waters in the Pacific:  “Late in 2015, we published a series of stories about a large-scale harmful algal bloom year off the West Coast that resulted in numerous marine animal deaths and closures of recreational and commercial fisheries in California, Oregon, and Washington. At the time, scientists hypothesized that the severe, widespread toxic bloom was connected to unusually persistent warmth in the waters of the North Pacific, but actual evidence was limited.  New research led by Oregon State University and NOAA scientists supports the connection. The scientists have linked basin-wide warmth across the Pacific Ocean to the presence of elevated levels of a natural toxin—domoic acid—in razor clams in Oregon waters. According to the study, warmer oceans led to a higher likelihood that toxins would surpass safe threshold levels in Oregon, Washington, and California. … ”  Read more from Climate.gov here:  Scientists link toxic algal blooms along West Coast to warm waters in the Pacific

NASA measures ‘dust on snow’ to help manage Colorado River basin supplies: When Michelle Stokes and Stacie Bender look out across the snow-capped mountains of Utah and Colorado, they see more than just a majestic landscape. They see millions of gallons of water that will eventually flow into the Colorado River. The water stored as there will make its way to some 33 million people across seven western states, irrigating acres of lettuce, fruits and nuts in California, generating enormous amounts of electricity and ultimately flowing from taps in seven states. For a few of these sun-drenched states, snowfall (and its subsequent melt) provides up to 80 percent of the annual precipitation, which is ultimately used for drinking, farming, recreation and power generation. While it’s important for in these states to know the amount of water they can expect from snowmelt, it’s every bit as important for them to know when to expect it. ... ”  Read more from PhysOrg here:  NASA measures ‘dust on snow’ to help manage Colorado River basin supplies

Groundwater quality in the West: Basin and range basin-fill aquifers:  “A regional assessment of untreated groundwater in the Basin and Range basin-fill aquifers, which include parts of Nevada, California, Arizona, Utah and adjacent states, is now available from the U.S. Geological Survey.  The combined Basin and Range basin-fill aquifers rank fourth in the nation as a source of groundwater for public supply, providing about one billion gallons per day for this use. Urban areas within the boundaries of the aquifers include Salt Lake City, Reno, Las Vegas and Phoenix.  Scientists tested for a broad range of water-quality characteristics of untreated groundwater in 78 public-supply wells in the Basin and Range basin-fill aquifers. Results show inorganic constituents present at high concentrations, meaning at levels exceeding human health-benchmarks, in about 20 percent of the study area. Human-made organic constituents (both pesticides and volatile organic compounds) were not detected at high concentrations. The study area includes water at the depth used for public supply. The study evaluated untreated drinking water, but compared results to drinking-water quality standards. … ”  Read more from the USGS here:  Groundwater quality in the West: Basin and range basin-fill aquifers

Facts, science, and identity: The seeds of science skepticism:  “Psychological researchers are working to understand the cognitive processes, ideologies, cultural demands, and conspiracy beliefs that cause smart people to resist scientific messages. Using surveys, experiments, observational studies and meta-analyses, the researchers capture an emerging theoretical frontier with an eye to making science communication efforts smarter and more effective.  One striking feature of people who hold science-skeptic views is that they are often just as educated, and just as interested in science, as the rest of us. The problem is not about whether they are exposed to information, but about whether the information is processed in a balanced way. It manifests itself in what Matthew Hornsey (University of Queensland) describes as “thinking like a lawyer,” in that people cherry-pick which pieces of information to pay attention to “in order to reach conclusions that they want to be true.” … ”  Read more from Science Daily here:  Facts, science, and identity: The seeds of science skepticism

The importance of Traditional Ecological Knowledge when examining climate change:  “It all started with a simple conversation over lunch. The fuse had been lit, the spark began, and the first step had occurred in my journey, unbeknownst to me at the time. Later that day, I realized, for the first time in my life, I had experiences that were unique. And, I realized I held knowledge. Knowledge that was different from others; knowledge that went beyond the scientific or academic type, and that ran richer, deeper, more extensive. Sitting over sandwiches, sitting with culture, sitting with knowledge.  Truth be told, it had begun much further back, as far back as I can remember, but blissfully unaware. Lunch with a friend brought it all barreling to the forefront of my destiny, and my ancestors’ wishes. I was talking with a friend about life, when he mentioned skeletal remains that had been unearthed underneath a bridge, and how the tribe had been explaining to the non-Native state and local agencies involved that the site was one of the traditional places our Native bands migrated to and from.  … ”  Read more from The Equation blog here:  The importance of Traditional Ecological Knowledge when examining climate change

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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