SCIENCE NEWS: California projected to get wetter through the end of the century; Study: Critical Sierra meadows being overtaken by forest; Fishing for pikeminnow: A native predator removal derby; Legal battle drives dam managers to extraordinary salmon research; and more …

Cross section of pumpkin stem; Photo by PNNL

In science news this week: California projected to get wetter through the end of the century; Study: Critical Sierra meadows being overtaken by forest; Fishing for pikeminnow: A native predator removal derby; Northwest salmon are the stuff of legends. Despite millions, the species struggles to survive. Can we save them — and at what price?; Legal battle drives dam managers to extraordinary salmon research; Climate change to deplete some US water basins used for irrigation; Groundwater pumping drying up Great Plains streams, driving fish extinction; and Diatoms have sex after all, and ammonium puts them in the mood

California projected to get wetter through the end of the century:  “Under business-as-usual greenhouse gas emissions, climate models predict California will get warmer during the rest of the century and most also predict the state will get drier.  But, new research, published today in the journal Nature Communications, predicts that California will actually get wetter. The scientists from the University of California, Riverside predict the state will get an average of 12 percent more precipitation through the end of this century, compared to the last 20 years of last century. … ”  Read more from UCR Today here:  California projected to get wetter through the end of the century

Study: Critical Sierra meadows being overtaken by forest:  “Subalpine meadows are among the Sierra Nevada’s most enchantingly picturesque landscapes. These sparsely wooded, grassy expanses are home to plants and animals found nowhere else, and they play an important role in regulating the flow of water from the Sierra snowpack to the rest of the state.  But these ecosystems may soon disappear.  A UC Merced study Opens a New Window. authored by former doctoral student Kaitlin Lubetkin, Professor Leroy Westerling and Sierra Nevada Research Institute (SNRI) Opens a New Window. scientist Lara Kueppers Opens a New Window. found that these meadows are being increasingly overrun by forest as changing conditions allow the offspring of nearby trees to take hold in meadow environments that previously favored shrubs and grasses over saplings. For the many species that depend on meadows, this change may force them to find new habitats. … ”  Read more from UC Merced here:  Study: Critical Sierra meadows being overtaken by forest

Fishing for pikeminnow: A native predator removal derby:  “Predation is a normal component of a healthy ecosystem, and in California’s rivers, Chinook salmon evolved alongside a suite of native predators that include birds, mammals, and other fishes, such as the Sacramento pikeminnow (Ptychocheilus grandis, previously called “squawfish”). However, human alteration of the Sacramento–San Joaquin River Delta and its tributaries, as well as the introduction of a host of non-native predatory fish species, have made juvenile salmonids much more vulnerable to predation. Native Sacramento pikeminnow will readily consume juvenile salmon (Brown and Moyle 1991), and concerns about increasing pressure from pikeminnow predation emerged at artificial structures like the Red Bluff Diversion Dam in the 1970s and 80s (Tucker et al. 1998, Vogel et al. 2011), and in the Eel River, where pikeminnow were illegally introduced (Nakamoto and Harvey 2003). However, recent research has not found predation on salmon by pikeminnow further down in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta (Nobriga et al. 2006, Nobriga and Feyrer 2007).  … ”  Read more from FishBio here:  Fishing for pikeminnow: A native predator removal derby

Northwest salmon are the stuff of legends. Despite millions, the species struggles to survive. Can we save them — and at what price?  “The salmon of the Northwest are the stuff of legends.  Pioneers talked of rivers so thick that they were tempted to cross on the backs of the fish. When Meriwether Lewis led his band of explorers through the Northwest in 1805, he marveled in his journal of “almost inconceivable” numbers of salmon.  At one time, 8 million to 16 million Columbia and Snake river salmon rode spring flows from tributaries such as the cold, clear Salmon and Clearwater rivers to the ocean, living one to three years before making the daunting upstream trip to their native waters to spawn and die. … ”  Read more from the Bellingham Herald here:  Northwest salmon are the stuff of legends. Despite millions, the species struggles to survive. Can we save them — and at what price? 

Legal battle drives dam managers to extraordinary salmon research:  “On a research boat on the Columbia River, Laurie Weitkamp with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration grabs two buckets filled with water and about a dozen young salmon and steelhead.  “Ooh, we got some steelies!” she says.  By stretching a net across the river below Bonneville Dam, researchers are intercepting the fish swimming toward the ocean to see what they’ve been eating. … ”  Read more from OPB News here:  Legal battle drives dam managers to extraordinary salmon research

Climate change to deplete some US water basins used for irrigation:  “A new study by MIT climate scientists, economists, and agriculture experts finds that certain hotspots in the country will experience severe reductions in crop yields by 2050, due to climate change’s impact on irrigation.  The most adversely affected region, according to the researchers, will be the Southwest. Already a water-stressed part of the country, this region is projected to experience reduced precipitation by midcentury. Less rainfall to the area will mean reduced runoff into water basins that feed irrigated fields.  Production of cotton, the primary irrigated crop in the Southwest and in southern Arizona in particular, will drop to less than 10 percent of the crop yield under optimal irrigation conditions, the study projects. Similarly, maize grown in Utah, now only yielding 40 percent of the optimal expected yield, will decrease to 10 percent with further climate-driven water deficits. … ”  Read more from Science Daily here:  Climate change to deplete some US water basins used for irrigation

Groundwater pumping drying up Great Plains streams, driving fish extinction:  “Farmers in the Great Plains of Nebraska, Colorado, Kansas and the panhandle of Texas produce about one-sixth of the world’s grain, and water for these crops comes from the High Plains Aquifer — often known as the Ogallala Aquifer — the single greatest source of groundwater in North America. A team of researchers, including Colorado State University Professor Kurt Fausch and Jeff Falke, a CSU alumnus and an assistant professor at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, have discovered that more than half a century of groundwater pumping from the aquifer has led to long segments of rivers drying up and the collapse of large-stream fishes.  If pumping practices are not modified, scientists warn that these habitats will continue to shrink, and the fish populations along with them. … ”  Read more from Science Daily here:  Groundwater pumping drying up Great Plains streams, driving fish extinction

Diatoms have sex after all, and ammonium puts them in the mood:  “New research shows a species of diatom, a single-celled algae, thought to be asexual does reproduce sexually, and scientists learned it’s a common compound — ammonium — that puts the ubiquitous organism in the mood.  The findings, published today in PLOS One, may be a key step toward greater understanding of the evolution of sexual behavior and also have important biotechnology implications.  “Our discoveries solve two persistent mysteries that have plagued diatom researchers,” said corresponding author Kimberly Halsey, a microbiologist at Oregon State University. “Yes, they have sex, and yes, we can make them do it.” … ”  Read more from Science Daily here:  Diatoms have sex after all, and ammonium puts them in the mood

And lastly …

Surreal Aerial Views of Fish Farms Captured by Bernhard Lang: “Flying in a helicopter high above the coast of Greece, German photographer Bernhard Lang captures unusual networks of circular fish farms. The strange, ovoid enclosures appear like abstract geometric designs, hardly related to the thriving ecosystems of fish that lay just below the surface. Aquaculture is seen by many as a more efficient way to safely breed larger volumes of fish instead of harvesting wild populations, but concerns about the environmental impact near farming sites have raised a lot of questions. ... ”  Check out the pictures from Colossal here:  Surreal Aerial Views of Fish Farms Captured by Bernhard Lang

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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