SCIENCE NEWS: Nutria alert: Save a wetland, eat a rodent; Trailblazing tadpoles; How deforestation is affecting global water cycles; Modeling forests’ future; Seabirds are pooping out plastic; and more …

Churning in the Chukchi Sea; Photo by NASA’s Marshall Space Center

Nutria alert: Save a wetland, eat a rodent:  “They’ve spread across the globe wreaking havoc through the destruction of levees, drainages, and thousands of acres of marshland. It might sound like the work of aliens from a science-fiction movie, but hordes of whiskered rodents are actually to blame. Nutria, swamp rat, and coypu are all common names for these beaver-like animals (Myocastor coypus), which are known for their voracious eating and breeding habits. Last November we reported on the capture of a single nutria in Merced, California. Over the next few months, more were spotted in the San Joaquin Valley and Delta. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service launched an emergency response program to capture as many as possible, and in less than a year more than 200 nutria have been captured in six counties from San Joaquin to Fresno, prompting concern about how to contain their further expansion. … ”  Read more from FishBio here:  Nutria alert: Save a wetland, eat a rodent

Legwork and expertise combine to bolster endangered frog populations:  “Many years of painstaking monitoring and assessment efforts undertaken by CDFW have helped guide an ongoing effort to bolster the dwindling populations of mountain yellow-legged frogs in Southern California.  Tim Hovey, a senior environmental scientist in CDFW’s South Coast Region, has been hiking through the forest to monitor and evaluate yellow-legged frogs in Little Rock Creek and Big Rock Creek in the Angeles National Forest since 2002, when they were listed under the Endangered Species Act (they were listed as state endangered in 2013). At that time, it was estimated that fewer than 100 adult frogs remained in the wild. ... ”  Read more from the Department of Fish and Wildlife here:  Legwork and expertise combine to bolster endangered frog populations

Trailblazing tadpoles:  “At a campground on the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument inside the Angeles National Forest, scientists gathered on a warm summer morning in June. In a cooler, 500 endangered tadpoles dart back and forth inside several zip tied plastic bags, unaware they would be pioneers in an effort to re-establish a population of their species in the wild.  “There are more tadpoles in this cooler than there are on this entire mountain,” said Ian Recchio, curator of Amphibians, Reptiles and Fish for the Los Angeles Zoo and Botanic Gardens.  The bags of tadpoles were then carefully transferred into two insulated cooler backpacks for transport into the forest. This reintroduction would mark another milestone in efforts to recover the species. … ”  Read more from the US Fish and Wildlife Service here:  Trailblazing tadpoles

Prioritizing West Coast Chinook salmon stocks for Southern Resident killer whale recovery: “NOAA Fisheries and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife developed a prioritized list of West Coast Chinook salmon stocks that are important to the recovery of endangered Southern Resident killer whales. Several of these Chinook salmon stocks are also themselves listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).  The list gives extra weight to salmon runs that Southern Residents have been documented as preying on, especially during winter when the whales may have a harder time finding sufficient food. … ”  Read more from NOAA here:  Prioritizing West Coast Chinook salmon stocks for Southern Resident killer whale recovery

Natural chromium sources threaten California groundwater resources:  “When Erin Brockovich sued a major utility company in the 1990s for contaminating drinking water with hexavalent chromium, a toxic and carcinogenic metal, national attention turned to California. Now researchers have determined that natural sources of the element may be geographically more important when it comes to the state’s groundwater management.  In a study that appeared online June 27 in Environmental Science & Technology, Stanford scientists used a statewide groundwater database and a new means of tracing sources to identify wells containing hexavalent chromium from industry versus those that became contaminated from naturally occurring sources – some of which may also have resulted from human activity. ... ”  Read more from Science Daily here:  Natural chromium sources threaten California groundwater resources

Scientists use satellites to measure vital groundwater resources:  “The availability of water from underground aquifers is vital to the basic needs of more than 1.5 billion people worldwide.  In recent decades, however, the over-pumping of groundwater, combined with drought, has caused some aquifers to permanently lose their essential storage capacity.  With the hope of providing better tools to water resource managers to keep aquifers healthy, scientists funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and affiliated with Arizona State University (ASU) and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) are using the latest space technology to measure this precious natural resource. … ”  Read more from the National Science Foundation here:  Scientists use satellites to measure vital groundwater resources

Rivers in the Sky: How Deforestation Is Affecting Global Water Cycles:  “Every tree in the forest is a fountain, sucking water out of the ground through its roots and releasing water vapor into the atmosphere through pores in its foliage. In their billions, they create giant rivers of water in the air – rivers that form clouds and create rainfall hundreds or even thousands of miles away.  But as we shave the planet of trees, we risk drying up these aerial rivers and the lands that depend on them for rain. A growing body of research suggests that this hitherto neglected impact of deforestation could in many continental interiors dwarf the impacts of global climate change. It could dry up the Nile, hobble the Asian monsoon, and desiccate fields from Argentina to the Midwestern United States. … ”  Read more from Yale E360 here:  Rivers in the Sky: How Deforestation Is Affecting Global Water Cycles

Modeling forests’ future:  “The 2014 megafires in Canada’s Northwest Territories burned 7 million acres of forest, making it one of the most severe fire events in Canadian history.  A new study shows that as those fires scorched a region of boreal forest the size of Maryland, they released half as much carbon back into the atmosphere as all the plants, shrubs and trees in Canada typically store in an entire year.  … The megafires paper is one of two recently released studies based on data from NASA’s Arctic Boreal Vulnerability Experiment, or ABoVE, that will help scientists better understand and predict both short- and long-term changes in the ecosystems of Alaska and Northern Canada. … ”  Read more from NASA here:  Modeling forests’ future

Seabirds are pooping out plastic:  “Plastics, those indestructible relics of our throwaway culture, are omnipresent in the oceans, making their way into everything from sea salt to seabirds. Now, a new study finds seabirds may be giving back, shuttling particles from ocean garbage gyres back to shore in their poop. Around colonies where seabirds congregate, the pungent white streaks may form halos of plastic pollution—contaminating soil and potentially cycling back into the sea.  The study, conducted on northern fulmars in the frigid waters off Canada’s Labrador Peninsula, is the first to measure plastics in seabird guano. The idea arose when a group of researchers studying plastic ingestion by seabirds were having coffee and pondering where the junk they found stuffing birds’ stomachs might ultimately wind up. ... ”  Read more from Hakai Magazine here:  Seabirds are pooping out plastic

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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