SCIENCE NEWS: Global warming, El Nino could cause wetter winters, drier conditions in other months; Fighting fire with prescribed fire; Alpine ecosystems struggle to recover from nitrogen deposition; and more …

Lowell Glacier, photo by NASA Earth Observatory

In science news this week:

Global warming, El Nino could cause wetter winters, drier conditions in other months:  “So here’s the good news: Despite fears to the contrary, California isn’t facing a year-round drought in our warming new world.  However, UC Riverside Earth Sciences Professor Robert Allen’s research indicates that what precipitation the state does get will be pretty much limited to the winter months — think deluge-type rainfall rather than snow — and non-winter months will be even dryer than usual, with little or no rain at all.  “It is good news,” Allen said. “But only relative to the alternative of no rain at all.” ... ”  Read more from the University of California Riverside here:  Global warming, El Nino could cause wetter winters, drier conditions in other months

Fighting fire with prescribed fire:  “Adam Hernandez walked across a blackened woodland past logs smoldering near Shaver Lake, 200 miles north of Los Angeles in the Sierra National Forest. With each step, gray ash puffed from under his heavy boots, and tiny flames flickered through a thick layer of pine needles on the forest floor.  Hernandez, 37, is an elite firefighter who served 13 years on smoke-jumper and hot-shot crews battling some of the most intense wildfires in the American West. Now, as a Sierra National Forest fire management officer, his job is setting small fires like this one to halt an epidemic that has so far killed nearly 129 million trees on 9 million acres — an area the size of Switzerland. … ”  Read more from Yale 360 here:  Fighting fire with prescribed fire

In drought and heavy rains, ecosystems function like information communication networks: “How is a telecommunications network like an ecosystem?  Tree canopies and the running streams below, or coral reefs and the ocean waters that flow around them, are interconnected components of a larger whole: an ecosystem. These ecosystem parts are in communication with one another, scientists have learned, via signals transmitted among earth, air and water.  This idea has led to new ways of tracking how precipitation alters interactions among the atmosphere, vegetation and soil, according to researchers reporting new findings this week in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. … ”  Read more from the National Science Foundation here:  In drought and heavy rains, ecosystems function like information communication networks

Alpine ecosystems struggle to recover from nitrogen deposition: “What happens to high mountain ecosystems when you take away air pollution? Not much, not very quickly. A new CU research study finds that degraded alpine ecosystems showed limited recovery years after long-term inputs of human-caused nitrogen air pollution, with soil acidification and effects on biodiversity lingering even after a decade of much lower nitrogen input levels.  The study, which was recently published in the journal Ecological Applications, indicates that even a dramatic reduction in nitrogen emissions may not be sufficient to reverse changes to various ecosystem processes after decades of high exposure. … ”  Read more from Science Daily here:  Alpine ecosystems struggle to recover from nitrogen deposition

Reducing nitrogen inputs prevents algal blooms in lakes:  “For decades, experts have debated whether reducing the amount of nitrogen flowing into lakes can improve water quality in the long-term, even though blue-green algae can bind nitrogen from the air. However, no lakes with decreased nitrogen inputs have been monitored for long enough to clarify this — until now: scientists from the Leibniz-Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries (IGB) have analysed long-term data to prove that decreasing nitrogen in Berlin’s Lake Müggelsee is the key to reducing algal blooms in summer. They showed that the amount of atmospheric nitrogen bound by blue-green algae is far too small to be used as an argument against the ecologically necessary reduction of nitrogen inputs. ... ”  Read more from Science Daily here:  Reducing nitrogen inputs prevents algal blooms in lakes

Working with natural processes – and beavers – to improve water quality:  “Nature’s industrious architect, the beaver, may help remove excess nutrients from rivers and prevent agricultural soil from losing those valuable nutrients in the first place, according to recent research. A team from the University of Exeter demonstrated the significant impact beavers have on water quality using a captive beaver trial run housing a single family of beavers.  The Exeter team, led by hydrologist and professor Richard Brazier, began working with the beavers in 2011.  “For some years I had been researching the negative impacts of soil erosion, flooding, diffuse pollution,” remarks Professor Brazier. “What the beavers do when they build dams seemed like it would make a positive difference to these problems, so the inspiration really came from trying to see if these animals could help with the problems that we have caused.” … ”  Read more from the Environmental Monitor here:  Working with natural processes – and beavers – to improve water quality

When it rains, snake bites soar:  “Hikers and trail runners be warned: Rattlesnakes and other venomous reptiles may bite more people during rainy years than in seasons wracked by drought, a new study shows.  The research, which was led by Caleb Phillips of the University of Colorado Boulder and Grant Lipman of the Stanford University School of Medicine, examined 20 years of snakebite data from across California. Their findings contradict a popular theory among many wilderness health professionals that drought might increase snake bites by pushing the reptiles into the open where they are more likely to run into people. … ”  Read more from Science Daily here:  When it rains, snake bites soar

Nearly every ecosystem on the planet will be transformed by climate change:  “If nations fail to rein in their greenhouse gas emissions, nearly every terrestrial ecosystem on the planet — from forests to grasslands to marshland —will undergo “major transformations” that will completely change the world’s biomes, warn a team of 42 scientists from around the globe in the journal Science. This will have consequences for everything from food and water security to public health. … ”  Read more from Yale 360 here:  Nearly every ecosystem on the planet will be transformed by 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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