SCIENCE NEWS: Reversing history in the San Francisco Bay; New research shows climate change may harm migratory songbirds; Scientists still learning how microplastic harms wildlife; and more …

Reversing history in the San Francisco Bay:  “Since the 19th century, close to 90 percent of the marshland that historically ringed San Francisco Bay has been lost to development. The effects of that loss include diminished wildlife habitat, increased flood risk, degraded water quality, and far fewer opportunities for nature-based recreation.  In 2016, more than two-thirds of voters across nine counties supported ballot Measure AA, a $12 per year parcel tax over 20 years to provide $500 million in restoration funding to reverse some of those effects.  Now, Measure AA funds administered through the State of California’s San Francisco Bay Restoration Authority are funding a range of wetland restoration, flood management and wildlife-oriented public recreation projects are blooming around the Bay, including on the area’s two largest National Wildlife Refuges managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. … ”  Read more from the US FWS here: Reversing history in the San Francisco Bay

New research shows climate change may harm migratory songbirds:  “New research shows climate change may harm migratory songbirds. Saving their forest habitat may help.  Songbirds that travel to northern California each summer from winter ranges in Central and South America appear to be more sensitive to climate change than other types of songbirds, according to new research by CDFW Wildlife Ecologist Dr. Brett Furnas.  In a new paper published in the journal Biological Conservation, Dr. Furnas analyzes 14 years of data taken from the surveys of songbirds living in northern California conifer forests. The bird surveys were done in the Klamath Mountains, Southern Cascades and North Coast Ranges, a region representing 42 percent of all conifer forests in the state. … ”  Read more from CDFW here:  New research shows climate change may harm migratory songbirds

Researchers aim to cure Valley’s salty soil with $2.5m grant from NSF:  “California’s Central Valley has some of the most productive agricultural land in the world, but the accumulation of salt from irrigation water is decreasing crop productivity and threatening the industry’s long-term sustainability.  A new project out of UC Merced — funded by a $2.5 million grant from the National Science Foundation — seeks to address this problem by developing an innovative, environmentally friendly and economically feasible system to desalinate and reuse agricultural drainage water.  The project is being led by UC Merced professors Yanbao Ma, James Palko and YangQuan Chen, in collaboration with researchers from UC Santa Cruz, the University of Arizona, and the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service center in Fresno County. … ”  Read more from UC Merced here:  Researchers aim to cure Valley’s salty soil with $2.5m grant from NSF

Spotting the spotted owl: 30 years of habitat change: “In the forests of the Pacific Northwest, you can still occasionally hear the hoot of the northern spotted owl or see its camouflaged plumage. But after three decades of conservation efforts, the survival of this species continues to be challenged. Satellites have been helping researchers understand why.  On the surface the reason seems simple: there has been robust competition for limited resources. Economic demand for wood and paper products led companies to harvest timber from old-growth forests—important spotted owl habitat. Within the habitat that remained, the barred owl moved in. This invasive, competing owl species has further depleted the spotted owl’s food supply and nesting space. … ”  Read more from NASA’s Earth Observatory here: Spotting the spotted owl: 30 years of habitat change

More rain and less snow means increased flood risk, Stanford study reveals:  “As the world warms and precipitation that would have generated snowpack instead creates rain, the western U.S. could see larger floods, according to new Stanford research.  An analysis of over 400 watersheds from 1980 to 2016 shows that winter floods driven by rainfall can be more than 2.5 times as large as those driven by snowmelt. The researchers also found that flood sizes increase exponentially as a higher fraction of precipitation falls as rain, meaning the size of floods increased at a faster rate than the increase in rain.  The study, which appears in the January issue of Water Resources Research, is particularly salient for people planning infrastructure while taking global warming into account. … ”  Read more from Stanford News here:   More rain and less snow means increased flood risk, Stanford study reveals

2018’s Four Corners drought directly linked to human-caused climate change:  “The western United States has experienced such intense droughts over the past decade that technical descriptions are becoming inadequate. In many places, conditions are rocketing past “severe,” through “extreme,” all the way to “exceptional drought.”  The 2018 Four Corners drought — centered on the junction between Arizona, Utah, Colorado and New Mexico — put the region deep in the red. An abnormally hot spring and summer indicated that climate change was clearly at work, but that was about as much as most people could say of the situation at the time. … ”  Read more from Science Daily here:  2018’s Four Corners drought directly linked to human-caused climate change

Reclamation invests in novel invasive mussel research:  “The Bureau of Reclamation has signed a $755,800 cooperative agreement with Biomilab LLC to develop a novel technique to control invasive quagga and zebra mussels. Biomilab is pursuing this goal using cutting-edge methods of cell culture, genetic engineering and genomic modification.  Biomilab received the only full award in Reclamation’s Eradication of Invasive Mussels in Open Water Prize Competition in 2018. The prize competition was a theoretical challenge and sought innovative solutions to eradicate invasive quagga and zebra mussels from large reservoirs, lakes and rivers in a cost-effective and environmentally sound manner. This contract is building upon what was learned in this prize competition. … ”  Read more from the Bureau of Reclamation here:   Reclamation invests in novel invasive mussel research

Powerful parasites: tiny regulators of ecosystem health:  “Ticks, leeches, fleas, lice, bedbugs… even hearing the names of parasites can make one’s skin crawl. An individual stricken by parasites would certainly not be considered “healthy,” but the situation for ecosystems may be different. Parasite populations are often far more diverse and abundant than the species that host them, and this army of tiny marauders can have major effects on plant and animal populations. Surprisingly, recent research suggests they may even help regulate key ecosystem functions, such as resilience to periods of drought. Researchers in North Carolina manipulated the prevalence of parasites infecting an important species of plant-eating snail in salt marsh ecosystems to determine whether these parasites buffer marsh plants against the effects of drought by reducing snail grazing (Morton and Silliman 2019). Their findings suggest these lowly parasites may be deserving of a little more respect. … ”  Read more from FishBio here: Powerful parasites: tiny regulators of ecosystem health

Finding wildfire’s fingerprint in the atmosphere:  “Wildfires seem to be everywhere in the news lately. For those of us in the United States, and particularly in California, “wildfire season” evokes a clear sense of dread, having personally touched so many us. (I have several friends who lost homes—thankfully, though, nothing more—during the 2017 Thomas Fire in my hometown.) Last year, a public uproar ensued when photos of the burning Brazilian Amazon spread across Twitter and eventually to international news outlets. In Indonesia, ultrafine particles from agricultural practices that ignite peatlands have serious effects on the health of tens of thousands of people in the region each year. … ”  Read more from EOS here: Finding wildfire’s fingerprint in the atmosphere

Historical Mercury Pollution: Tree Rings Have the Receipts!  “Mercury is a particularly problematic environmental pollutant. What makes it troublesome is that it is both toxic, causing a range of health issues, and persistent, such that when it gets into an environment it tends to stick around for a long time. You may have heard warnings about mercury in fish, but people can also be exposed to mercury through the air they breathe and the water they drink. Mercury can affect the nervous system, digestive system, and immune system and damage lungs, kidneys, skin, and eyes. Human-caused sources of mercury pollution include industrial processes that use mercury compounds and fossil-fuel use, especially the burning of coal for energy production. … ”  Read more from EnviroBites here: Historical Mercury Pollution: Tree Rings Have the Receipts!

Microplastic pollution: Scientists are still learning how it harms wildlife:  “Plastic pollution is a growing global concern. Large pieces of plastic have been found almost everywhere on Earth, from the most visited beaches to remote, uninhabited islands. Because wildlife are regularly exposed to plastic pollution, we often ask what effects plastics have on the animals.  Over time, macroplastics (plastic debris larger than five millimeters in size) break up into tiny particles called microplastics (smaller than five millimeters), which can persist in the environment for hundreds of years. … ”  Read more from Phys Org here:  Microplastic pollution: Scientists are still learning how it harms wildlife

Scientists managed to find marine animals that weren’t contaminated by plastic:  “Whales, seabirds, turtles, crabs, and worms—all kinds of marine animals are afflicted with plastic pollution. But seals living in the eastern Canadian Arctic seem to have so far escaped this modern plight. When scientists examined the stomach contents of the Arctic’s ringed, bearded, and harbor seals, they found krill, fish, kelp, roundworms, and even rocks. But not plastic. For a new study, Madelaine Bourdages, a graduate student at Carleton University in Ottawa, and her team dissected the stomachs of 142 seals, including 135 ringed seals, six bearded seals, and one harbor seal.  … ”  Read more from Hakai Magazine here: Scientists managed to find marine animals that weren’t contaminated by plastic

Warm water ‘blob’ led to fatal whale entanglements. Here’s why:  “Much of the West Coast’s ocean bounty comes courtesy of the California Current, an up-welling of cold, nutrient-rich water in the late winter and early spring.  “That stimulates the development of a rich food web that is sort of like a Serengeti of the ocean,” said Jarrod Santora, a research ecologist at UCSC and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.  Humpback whales travel all the way from Hawaii to feast in the cold waters off the coast. But between the years 2014 and 2016, a severe marine heat wave, nicknamed “the blob,” coincided with an unprecedented number of humpback fatalities stemming from entanglements with fishing gear. … ”  Read more from KQED here:  Warm water ‘blob’ led to fatal whale entanglements. Here’s why

Sinkhole science: Groundwater in the Great Lakes: “If you followed our fieldwork last summer, you probably remember hearing about our research on the fascinating sinkholes and microbial communities that lie at the bottom of northern Lake Huron off the coast of Alpena, MI. Now you can experience this research as a short film!  NOAA GLERL has partnered with Great Lakes Outreach Media to create a short film entitled Sinkhole Science: Groundwater in the Great Lakes. It was recently featured on Detroit Public Television’s Great Lakes Now program as well as the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary’s International Film Festival. In the film, you’ll learn how NOAA GLERL’s Observation Systems and Advanced Technology (OSAT) branch studies how these sinkholes impact the water levels and ecosystems of the Great Lakes. GLERL’s OSAT Program Leader Steve Ruberg explains the high-tech gadgets involved in this research, including a remotely operated vehicle (ROV), a tilt-based current sensor, and temperature strings to determine vertical movement of groundwater entering the lakes through the sinkholes.”  Watch the video from NOAA here:  Sinkhole science: Groundwater in the Great Lakes

Wave gliders, ocean drifters and drones to help international researchers solve key climate question:  “Coordinated research missions by scientists from America, Europe and the island nation of Barbados are plying the tropical ocean off of Barbados in search of an answer to a pressing question: Will the fluffy, innocuous, postcard-worthy armadas of clouds that help cool this stretch of warm seas, and tropical seas the world over, survive climate change?  To date, science has investigated how these clouds form and dissolve primarily using theories, models, and also observations from satellites, sparsely-spaced buoys, and prior field campaigns. Similar to prior research studies, the American, European and Barbadian campaigns currently underway will be focused on obtaining new data from instruments carried on four research ships, five instrumented airplanes, research-quality ground stations, and targeted satellites. … ”  Read more from NOAA here:  Wave gliders, ocean drifters and drones to help international researchers solve key climate question

Featured Image Credit: Astronauts captured a striking glimpse of the Andes Mountains, which divide lush forest from the Atacama Desert.  Photo by NASA’s Earth Observatory.

Maven’s XKCD Comic Pick of the Week …



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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