SCIENCE NEWS: Is habitat restoration actually killing plants in the California wildlands?; Sinking rails; Tule Elk: Part Tu; Collecting clean water from air, inspired by desert life; and more …

Micromodels Aid Understanding of Contaminants; Photo by Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

In science news this week:

Is habitat restoration actually killing plants in the California wildlands?In 2014, plant biologists with the California Department of Agriculture reported an alarming discovery: native wildflowers and herbs, grown in nurseries and then planted in ecological restoration sites around California, were infected with Phytophthora tentaculata, a deadly exotic plant pathogen that causes root and stem rot.  While ecologists have long been wary of exotic plant pathogens borne on imported ornamental plants, this was the first time in California that these microorganisms had been found in native plants used in restoration efforts. Their presence in restoration sites raised the frightening possibility that ecological restoration, rather than returning disturbed sites to their natural beauty, may actually be introducing deadly plant pathogens, such as those related to Sudden Oak Death, into the wild. … ”  Read more from Science Daily here:  Is habitat restoration actually killing plants in the California wildlands?

Sinking rails:  “Beyond the beaches of California lie coastal marshes. These marshes are dense with short vegetation, sprouting from saturated, salt-ridden soils. Activity is constantly shifting along with the tides. At high tides, the tidal creeks overflow with seawater. As the tides recede, the soils become exposed to air and the leftover materials brought in by the tide. It is a nutrient rich ecosystem, full of wonderful wildlife.  The Ridgway’s rail, Rallus obsoletus, lives in this shifting environment. It nests in the tall dense cordgrass found along the tidal creek. The rails exist in only two subpopulations, one is found in southern California and the other in the San Francisco Bay area. Seldom do these birds leave their territory. However, as sea levels continue to rise, there is an increasing concern for the future of this endangered species.  Dr. Rosencranz led a team from the University of California Los Angeles and the U.S. Geological Survey to describe how the rail’s habitat may change over the next 100 years with sea level rise. … ”  Read more from EnviroBites here: Sinking rails

Tule Elk: Part Tu: “Conservation efforts helped bring California’s tule elk back from the brink of extinction, as we described in a previous blog post.  There are now an estimated 5,700 tule elk living in 22 herds across California (as of 2016), including ones near Bakersfield, Pacheco Pass, Point Reyes, Owens Valley, Tomales Point, Carrizo Plain, and Cache Creek. All of the current populations of tule elk are descendants of a few individuals saved by cattle baron Henry Miller in the mid-1800s. Although today’s population is only about one percent of its historic abundance, it does mean the species is no longer facing an immediate risk of extinction. Some herds are confined within managed reserve areas, while others are free ranging. A herd typically consists of one to three smaller harems of 10–20 individuals, including a bull elk, several female cows, and their young calves. Since the herds can’t move freely through the state to interbreed with each other, wildlife managers still have to relocate and selectively breed tule elk to keep their genetic diversity healthy. A new Elk Management Plan for California includes connecting and increasing their habitat, but these types of conservation efforts can take many years and require the help of government agencies, land owners, and the public to achieve. … ”  Read more from FishBio here: Tule Elk: Part Tu

Tree-ring analysis explains physiology behind drought intolerance: “Tree rings tell the story of what’s happening physiologically as fire suppression makes forests more dense and less tolerant of drought, pests and wildfires, new research shows.  Scientists at Oregon State University and Utah State University studied 2,800 hectares of mixed-conifer forest in central Oregon, with many of the ponderosa pines in the study area dating back hundreds of years prior to 1910, when putting out wildfires became federal policy. … ”  Read more from Science Daily here:  Tree-ring analysis explains physiology behind drought intolerance

Collecting clean water from air, inspired by desert life:  “Humans can get by in the most basic of shelters, can scratch together a meal from the most humble of ingredients. But we can’t survive without clean water. And in places where water is scarce — the world’s deserts, for example — getting water to people requires feats of engineering and irrigation that can be cumbersome and expensive.  A pair of new studies from researchers at The Ohio State University offers a possible solution, inspired by nature.  “We thought: ‘How can we gather water from the ambient air around us?'” said Bharat Bhushan, Ohio Eminent Scholar and Howard D. Winbigler Professor of mechanical engineering at Ohio State. “And so, we looked to the things in nature that already do that: the cactus, the beetle, desert grasses.” … ”  Read more from Science Daily here:  Collecting clean water from air, inspired by desert life

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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