SCIENCE NEWS: NOAA Fisheries charts progress for West Coast species at risk; Winter-run critical habitat conundrum; Restoring the ‘Galapagos of North America: California’s Channel Islands; Shifting shorelines at Lake Tahoe caused by ancient lava dams; and more …

Photo by R. Frazier

NOAA Fisheries charts progress for West Coast species at risk:  “NOAA Fisheries recently submitted its biennial Report to Congress on the status of threatened and endangered species listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), including five West Coast species at high risk of extinction.  The report summarizes efforts to recover 93 species under NOAA Fisheries’ jurisdiction from October 1, 2014, through September 30, 2016. While nearly a third of the species held their own or increased in number, eight of the species are especially at risk from population decline or loss of their habitat. This group is the focus of NOAA Fisheries’ Species in the Spotlight initiative, an effort to prevent the extinction of these highly at-risk species. … ”  Read more from NOAA here:  NOAA Fisheries charts progress for West Coast species at risk

Winter-run critical habitat conundrum:  “Just when you think you’ve got a species figured out, sometimes they show up where they’re “not supposed to be” and make you reconsider. This recently happened in the fish world, when adult winter-run Chinook salmon, an endangered fish previously thought to only inhabit the mainstem Sacramento River downstream of Keswick Dam, were found to have actually reared in multiple Sacramento River tributaries as juveniles. A collaborative team of researchers made the discovery when they examined the otoliths, or “ear bones”, of returning adult winter-run, and identified where the fish had reared as juveniles by comparing ratios of strontium isotopes found in the water of various rivers to those in the fish’s otoliths. Their findings, recently published in the journal Biological Conservation, suggest that in a given year, as many as 65 percent of returning winter-run adults spent time in previously unknown rearing habitats as juveniles (Phillis et al. 2018). This makes these newly identified habitats critically important for the continued existence of winter-run Chinook salmon. … ”  Read more from FishBio here:  Winter-run critical habitat conundrum

Restoring the ‘Galapagos of North America: California’s Channel Islands:  “Off the coast of California, a string of islands rise above the waves. Shaped by millions of years of tectonic, volcanic, and climatic events, the Channel Islands have played host to myriad plants and animals. Some, like the pygmy mammoth, disappeared thousands of years ago, while others, like the island fox, are now thriving after narrowly escaping extinction at the turn of the 21st century.  Considered by many to be the Galapagos of North America, these islands, designated a national park in 1980, have been used by humans for millennia. … ”  Read more from the US FWS here:  Restoring the ‘Galapagos of North America: California’s Channel Islands

Shifting shorelines at Lake Tahoe caused by ancient lava dams:  “Pleistocene basaltic lavas form a small volcanic field that was erupted from seven vents in the northwestern Lake Tahoe basin. Most of these lavas were erupted above the water and produced lava flows that dammed the lake outlet and flowed into an early Lake Tahoe. The resulting steam explosions produced deltas composed of fragmental deposits as well as pillow lavas.  Consequently, three former raised shorelines are marked by subaerial lava flows overlying subaqueous lava deltas. In addition, eruptions from isolated vents on the lake floor produced tuff cones. Six new radiometric argon ages define three episodes when lava erupted subaerially and flowed into the lake. Lava from each of these cycles dammed the lake outlet in the Truckee River Canyon, causing the lake to rise nearly 200 m, after each of which the dams were eroded and the lake returned to near its present level. ... ”  Read more from Science Daily here:  Shifting shorelines at Lake Tahoe caused by ancient lava dams

CDFW gets a jump on preserving Sierra Nevada yellow-legged frogs:  “It does not take a leap of faith to believe that CDFW scientists have gained the upper hand in bolstering the population of yellow-legged frogs in the High Sierra.  Over the past three decades, Sierra Nevada yellow-legged frogs have become imperiled in California due to the two-pronged impact of introduced (non-native) trout and chytridiomycosis, a disease that is affecting amphibians worldwide.  Past introduction of non-native fish, including rainbow trout and golden trout, to benefit sport fishing in the High Sierra took a heavy toll on the species. … ” Read more from CDFW here:  CDFW gets a jump on preserving Sierra Nevada yellow-legged frogs

Technology keeps rice fertilizer nice:  “Farmers make a lot of decisions. One of the most important is how much fertilizer to apply to their crops, and when to apply it. Applying more than necessary or at the wrong time can waste resources, impact the environment, and cut into narrow profits.  The answer could lie in a small handheld device. A new tool may help growers make better decisions in applying nitrogen fertilizer to their rice fields. ... ”  Read more from the American Society of Agronomy here:  Technology keeps rice fertilizer nice

Hatchery chinook salmon are self-sorting in tanks:  “Hatchery-raised chinook salmon sort themselves into surface- and bottom-oriented groups in their rearing tanks. This behavior might be due in part to the fish’s genes, according to an Oregon State University study.  The finding, published in the journal Environmental Biology of Fishes, could change a commonly held view that hatchery-raised are generally expected to behave in the same manner, said Julia Unrein, who led the study as a master’s degree student in the Oregon Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit in OSU’s College of Agricultural Sciences. … ”  Read more from PhysOrg here:  Hatchery chinook salmon are self-sorting in tanks

Salmon face double whammy from toxic stormwater: “Washington State University researchers have found that salmon face a double whammy when they swim in the stormwater runoff of urban roadways.  First, as scientists learned a couple years ago, toxic pollution in the water can kill them. WSU researchers have now determined that fish that survive polluted stormwater are still at risk.  Experiments on both larval zebrafish, a model for salmon, and actual coho showed that can also damage hair-like sensors the fish use to find food, sense predators, and find their way in the current. … ”  Read more from PhysOrg here:  Salmon face double whammy from toxic stormwater

Presence, persistence of estrogen in vernal pools an emerging concern:  “Estrogens in treated wastewater that find their way into temporary wetlands known as vernal pools persist for weeks or even months, according to researchers, who suggest that persistence may have implications for these critical aquatic habitats.  An eight-week study of estrogens’ behavior in three vernal pools in the area of Penn State’s Living Filter, produced these findings that provide insight into current treatment inadequacy and water reuse generally. The Living Filter is a 600-acre tract where Penn State has been spray-irrigating all its wastewater on crop fields and forest since the 1980s. ... ”  Read more from Science Daily here:  Presence, persistence of estrogen in vernal pools an emerging concern

Simple rules can help fishery managers cope with ecological complexity:  “To successfully manage fisheries, factors in the environment that affect fish—like food sources, predators and habitat—should be considered as part of a holistic management plan.  That approach is gaining traction in management, but there has been no broad-scale evaluation of whether considering these ecosystem factors makes any economic sense for the commercial fishing industry. In these often profitable and competitive markets, that question has lacked the evidence to rule one way or another. ... ”  Read more from PhysOrg here: Simple rules can help fishery managers cope with ecological complexity

Aerial imagery gives insight into water trends: With an ever-growing human population and its inherent demand for water, there is a critical need to monitor water resources. New technology could make it more feasible than ever to measure changes in the water flow of rivers.  Tyler King and Bethany Neilson, researchers at Utah State University, have developed a new method to estimate river discharge using aerial imagery gathered from helicopters and drones. Their new study, published Feb. 7 in Water Resources Research, found that aerial imaging can be just as accurate as older, more expensive field methods in some cases. … ”  Read more from Science Daily here:  Aerial imagery gives insight into water trends

‘Hot spots’ of water quality violations:  “While serious violations like those in the Flint, Michigan, crises are rare, ensuring reliable access to safe drinking water poses challenges for communities across the country, according to a recent study led by the University of California, Irvine.  Researchers found that between 1982 and 2015, 9 million to 45 million people annually were affected by water quality issues — and that low-income, rural regions were most vulnerable. Infractions were more numerous in “hot spots” in Texas, Oklahoma and Idaho, suggesting that these systems struggle with recurring problems. … ”  Read more from Science Daily here:  ‘Hot spots’ of water quality violations

How an Alaskan earthquake caused fish to spawn in Death Valley:  “Conservationists are fond of saying that everything is connected, so fond that the idea has become a bit of a cliché. Just how connected is the natural world? Consider this story.  Recently, an earthquake off the coast of Alaska caused one of the world’s rarest fish to spawn, thousands of miles away in Death Valley National Park, Nevada.  At first glance, the Devils Hole pupfish would rightly be considered one of the most isolated creatures on earth. The entire range of this fish is located in a water-filled limestone cave no wider than a backyard swimming pool (although it’s deep enough that scientists have been unable to measure the bottom). Only about 115 fish swim in this habitat, according to a recent biological survey. ... ”  Read more from the Cool Green Science blog here:  How an Alaskan earthquake caused fish to spawn in Death Valley

Photo of a single atom wins top prize in scientific photography contest:  “You might need your glasses for this one. Quantum physicist David Nadlinger from the University of Oxford managed to capture an image that would have been impossible only a few years ago: a single atom suspended in an electric field viewable by the naked eye. The amazing shot titled “Single Atom in an Ion Trap” recently won the overall prize in the UK’s Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) science photo and imaging contest. You can see the atom in the shot above, the tiny speck at the very center. … ”  Read more from Colossal here:  Photo of a single atom wins top prize in scientific photography contest

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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