SCIENCE NEWS: Building upon 50 years of interagency ecological science in the Bay-Delta; Conserving freshwater biodiversity in the Anthropocene; Witness trees tell how ecosystems of Silicon Valley have changed; Understanding ocean changes and climate just got harder; and more …

Building upon 50 years of interagency ecological science in the Bay-Delta: This year marks a significant milestone for the Interagency Ecological Program (IEP) – now nine state and federal agencies that first joined forces 50 years ago for cooperative ecological monitoring and coordination in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and San Francisco Bay Estuary. As the IEP Lead Scientist, I have been reflecting on who we are, how we’ve evolved, and what we need to do to ensure we’re still working collaboratively for another 50 years.  The IEP was born from a need to understand the ecological impacts of state and federal water projects on the Delta and the overall health of fish and wildlife throughout the estuary. Its early work – outlined in a Memorandum of Understanding among the California Department of Fish and Game, the California Department of Water Resources, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation – helped establish some of the first biological standards in the country and set standards for long-term ecological monitoring and research in the Bay-Delta. … “  Read more from the Delta Stewardship Council here: Building upon 50 years of interagency ecological science in the Bay-Delta

Conserving freshwater biodiversity in the Anthropocene:  “We are living in the Anthropocene. Scientists have classified the current geologic epoch based on overwhelming evidence that human influence is a dominating force affecting Earth’s key processes. The extent of the human reach is recognizable globally; however, in freshwater ecosystems, human impacts are particularly apparent. Extreme and visible alterations relating to soil erosion, chemical and nutrient pollution, the fragmentation of habitats through dams and diversion,  land-use conversion, and assisting the expansion of harmful invasive species have led to significant declines in freshwater biodiversity. A special issue of the journal Aquatic Conservation published in 2019 details the greatest threats and key solutions involved in the conservation of freshwater systems and freshwater biodiversity, with an overview by Flitcroft et al. (2019). … ”  Read more from FishBio here: Conserving freshwater biodiversity in the Anthropocene

Witness trees tell how ecosystems of Silicon Valley have changed:  “Picture the street where you live. Maybe you see single-family homes, or apartment blocks, a road running alongside, sidewalks, a nearby park. Now imagine time running in reverse: buildings and stores change their faces one by one, people and cars pass in vintage styles. As the clock winds backward, the street becomes a dirt road trod on by horses pulling people in carriages; a little further and you may be standing in a field of corn, or a pasture dotted with cows. Go far enough back, and the place where your house stood may have been a forest of beech trees, or a sandy desert of blooming cacti. A new study by Erin B. Beller and colleagues for the first time scientifically tackles an important aspect of the story of our urban landscape: how do ecosystems change from the time prior to first permanent settlement to today, after growing into a densely developed modern city? ... ”  Read more from EnviroBites here: Witness trees tell how ecosystems of Silicon Valley have changed

As climate change messes with temperature and precipitation, California newts suffer: “California didn’t get much of a break.  Just three years after the 2011–2017 drought, one of the severest in recorded history for the state, the driest February in 150 years has spurred discussion of whether we’re in another drought — or if the last one even ended.  That’s bad news for Los Angeles’ only newt, California newt, Taricha torosa, and other newts in the Taricha genus, particularly in the southern half of the state south of Big Sur. A UCLA-led study, in the Nature journal Scientific Reports examined body condition of newts across their entire range, from San Diego to Mendocino. In the south, researchers discovered that body condition — a measure of health that compares weight to length — decreased by an average of 20% from 2008–2016.  … ”  Read more from the UCLA Newsroom here: As climate change messes with temperature and precipitation, California newts suffer

California’s air quality regulations help farmers prosper:  “Farmers in California’s Central Valley have seen a boost in the productivity of their high-value crops — and greater earnings — as a result of the Golden State’s air pollution controls.  Perennial crops such as almonds, grapes, nectarines, peaches, strawberries and walnuts make up about 38% of the state’s total agricultural output. In a National Science Foundation-funded study published in Nature Food, researchers at the University of California, Irvine and other institutions conducted a statistical analysis of pollution exposure and yields from these crops from 1980 to 2015.  … ”  Read more from the National Science Foundation here: California’s air quality regulations help farmers prosper

New flood damage framework helps planners prepare for sea-level rise:  “Scientists agree that sea levels will continue to rise this century, but projections beyond 2050 are much more uncertain regarding exactly how much higher ocean levels will be by 2100. While actions to protect against 2050 sea-level rise have a secure scientific basis, this range in late-century estimates makes it difficult for coastal communities to plan their long-term adaptation strategies.  Princeton University researchers at the Center for Policy Research on Energy and the Environment have developed a new framework allowing urban planners and policymakers to consider a combination of responses to sea-level rise (e.g., levees, storm surge barriers, elevating buildings, retreat) and, if hard structures, how high these protections should be built, depending on their tolerance for risk and the projected financial losses to a particular area due to flooding. The paper was published in Earth’s Future. … ”  Read more from Science Daily here: New flood damage framework helps planners prepare for sea-level rise

Understanding ocean changes and climate just got harder:  “A new study shows that two important indicators for understanding and predicting the effects of climate variability on eastern North Pacific marine ecosystems are less reliable than they were historically. This finding has important implications for fisheries and ecosystem management from Alaska to California.  Until recently, oceanographers and fishery biologists summarized and understood complex and
long-term relationships between regional fish stock productivity and ocean climate patterns using the Pacific Decadal Oscillation index (PDO) and the North Pacific Gyre Oscillation (NPGO). … ”  Read more from NOAA here: Understanding ocean changes and climate just got harder

Darwin was Right: A Scientist Needs a Heart of Stone:  Robert Lackey writes, “A few months ago I was asked to present my thoughts about what scientists can do to reverse the decline of public trust in the policy impartiality of scientists.  The importance of good science is broadly accepted across all political ideologies, but the level of trust in scientists (as separate from science) has probably never been lower. Here is the transcript of that talk presented at the 56th Annual Meeting of the Oregon Chapter of the American Fisheries Society, March 6, 2020, Bend, Oregon ... ”  Read more from Oregon State University here: Darwin was Right: A Scientist Needs a Heart of Stone

Featured image: Bolivian highland heart, photo by European Space Agency via Flickr

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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