SCIENCE NEWS: Scientists launch two-pronged approach to map cyanotoxins in Bay-Delta; Restoration at Liberty Island; The story behind a uniquely dark wetland soil; Does DNA in the water tell us how many fish are there?; and more …

Scientists launch two-pronged approach to map cyanotoxins in Bay-Delta:  “Over the last few decades the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta has experienced declines in phytoplankton productivity and a shift in species composition resulting in observed increases in harmful algal blooms (HABs).  While some HABs are nontoxic, others contain cyanobacteria (also referred to as blue-green algae) which may produce dangerous toxins (cyanotoxins) that pose a health threat to people and animals. These cyanotoxins also may be an additional stressor on declining native fish populations and other organisms living in the Delta’s aquatic ecosystem. ... ”  Read more from the USGS here: Scientists launch two-pronged approach to map cyanotoxins in Bay-Delta

Restoration at Liberty Island:  “Habitat restoration is a big undertaking in California’s highly modified Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, with many projects taking years, if not decades, to plan and implement before seeing the work come to fruition. However, nature is also capable of creating its own opportunities for habitat improvement. Liberty Island, a 5,303-acre parcel located at the southern end of the Yolo Bypass in the northern Delta, is one example of these unexpected occurrences. Like many of the other small islands in the Delta, Liberty Island was productive farmland during California’s early agricultural boom. But once a storm breached the island’s levees and flooded it in 1997, a sort of accidental restoration has been creating encouraging outcomes for the native species living there. … ”  Read more from FishBio here: Restoration at Liberty Island

The story behind a uniquely dark wetland soil:  “When it comes to soils, proper identification is key. Identification allows scientists to determine the story behind the soil: how it formed, how it behaves in different scenarios, and how valuable it may be to certain plants and animals.  … Many soils are simple for trained soil scientists to identify. But Karen Vaughan of the University of Wyoming and her team dug in to investigate an area of soil along the central coast of California that had some peculiar characteristics.  “The reason for this research site really comes from long ago in a wetlands field lab,” she says. “Students kept saying the soil didn’t meet all the field indicators of hydric—or wetter—soils. I thought, it has to. It’s wet and there’s plenty of water-loving vegetation. Then I realized it must be a problematic soil, so we set up this experiment to figure it out.” ... ”  Read more from PhysOrg here: The story behind a uniquely dark wetland soil

Storms cause extended, elevated contaminant concentrations in urban streams:  “Each fall in Puget Sound, coho salmon leave the salt water and swim up freshwater streams. They head upstream to spawn: lay their eggs and die.  Death is always the end of this journey for coho salmon, but in streams now running through urban areas, stormwater runoff kills them before they can spawn.  This phenomenon, called Urban Runoff Mortality Syndrome, can kill up to 70-90% of coho salmon in an affected area.  “‘Woah’ is a pretty common response,” said Kathy Peter, a research scientist formerly at University of Washington Tacoma and the Center for Urban Waters.  This phenomenon adds pressure to the Puget Sound population, already considered a species of concern by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service under the Endangered Species Act.  In new research published in Environmental Science and Technology, Peter and a team of researchers show that the issue of runoff can be more complicated than previously thought. … ”  Read more from Environmental Monitor here: Storms cause extended, elevated contaminant concentrations in urban streams

CDFW’s Science Institute: Providing our scientists with the tools for success:  “CDFW is a department with about 1,200 employees in scientific classifications, spread from Yreka in the north to Blythe in the southeast. Their expertise spans a broad spectrum of subjects – wildlife management, fisheries management, marine issues, habitat conservation and restoration, veterinary science, pathology, genetics, invasive species and so much more.  Coordinating the efforts of a department with such a wide range of specialties is no small task. But back in 2006, CDFW released its Strategic Initiative, which laid the groundwork to do just that. The document outlined the strategies and actions that the department should take in order to increase its effectiveness across the board. One specific goal was to expand the department’s scientific capacity – to establish best standards and practices, to improve access to scientific literature, and heighten visibility and awareness of scientific efforts. … ”  Read more from CDFW here: CDFW’s Science Institute: Providing our scientists with the tools for success

Fighting Chytrid: How do biologists fight pandemics in the animal kingdom?  “While this is the first pandemic many of us humans have experienced, pandemics are not uncommon in the animal kingdom. As biologists learn about these diseases, they also identify ways to treat the infected individuals and boost immunity among the larger population. Right now, biologists in California are helping mountain yellow-legged frogs fight a deadly skin fungus, and the strategies they’re using aren’t too different from the strategies being used to fight the current pandemic in the human world. ... ”  Read more from the US FWS here: Fighting Chytrid: How do biologists fight pandemics in the animal kingdom?

CDFW’s balancing act to restore native frog habitat while preserving backcountry fishing opportunities: “In the Tahoe National Forest, California Department of Fish and Wildlife scientists are working to balance native species restoration with recreational fishing.  This summer, for the first time in the Tahoe National Forest, CDFW will begin work to restore Sierra Nevada yellow-legged frog (Rana sierrae) habitat by removing introduced trout from four alpine lakes and four small ponds within the Five Lakes Basin area. The Sierra Nevada yellow-legged frog is listed as threatened under California’s Endangered Species Act and endangered under the federal Endangered Species Act. … ”  Read more from CDFW here:  CDFW’s balancing act to restore native frog habitat while preserving backcountry fishing opportunities

Food web dynamics influence mercury movement in the Grand Canyon:  “A new study describes how food web dynamics influence the movement of mercury throughout the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon. This new research from the U.S. Geological Survey and partners represents one of the first times that the movement and fate of mercury has been traced through an entire food web.  Mercury is a pollutant that accumulates within the animals that ingest it and becomes more concentrated as it travels up the food chain. Mercury occurs in food webs throughout the world, even in seemingly remote locations such as Grand Canyon National Park. ... ”  Read more from the USGS here: Food web dynamics influence mercury movement in the Grand Canyon

Does DNA in the water tell us how many fish are there?  “River water, lake water, and seawater contain DNA belonging to organisms such as animals and plants. Ecologists have begun to actively analyze such DNA molecules, called environmental DNA, to assess the distribution of macro-organisms. Challenges yet remain, however, in quantitative applications of environmental DNA.  In a research article published online in Molecular Ecology, researchers from the National Institute for Environmental Studies, Tohoku University, Shimane University, Kyoto University, Hokkaido University, and Kobe University, have reported a new method for estimating population abundance of fish species (or more generally, a target aquatic species), by means of measuring concentration of environmental DNA in the water. Their results suggest the potential of the proposed approach for quantitative, non-invasive monitoring of aquatic ecosystems. ... ”  Read more from Science Daily here: Does DNA in the water tell us how many fish are there?

The burning question: How do wildfires impact watersheds?  “For people in the western United States, images of devastating wildfires have become a terrifyingly familiar part of the annual news cycle. While the fires themselves can be dangerous and damaging to the communities where they occur, the impacts are not limited to when the flames are burning. With long-lasting changes to the landscape, fires can also change the way in which water moves through the landscape for months and years afterwards. When thinking about how water moves through an area, scientists often think in terms of a watershed, which is the area of land for which any rain that falls on that surface will eventually drain to the same point, such as a large lake or river.  Understanding processes happening within watersheds and how they could be affected by fires is important since changes to these processes impact water supplies, both for communities that lie within the bounds of the watershed, as well as communities further downstream.  … ”  Read more from Enviro Bites here: The burning question: How do wildfires impact watersheds?

As wildfires flare up across West, research highlights risk of ecological change:  “One of Jonathan Coop’s first vivid memories as a child was watching the flames of the 1977 La Mesa Fire in north-central New Mexico. The human-caused fire burned more than 15,000 acres of pine forests in the Bandelier National Monument and areas surrounding the Los Alamos National Laboratory.  Now a forest ecologist and professor at Western Colorado University, Coop studies the ecological effects of fire on forests in the Southwest United States. He’s also the lead author of a new scientific synthesis about how wildfires drive changes in forest vegetation across the United States. … ”  Read more from Science Daily here:  As wildfires flare up across West, research highlights risk of ecological change

A nationwide view shows “evolution” of water quality concerns:  “Water quality issues are shifting in the United States’ rivers in big ways.  Those changes are driven, in part, by the way the land in a watershed is used and they’re big enough that researchers may need to change the way they think about water quality in the American rivers.  “What was striking to us was how perceptions of water quality issues from several decades ago may need to be updated,” said Edward Stets, a U S Geological Survey research ecologist, in an email response to questions from Environmental Monitor.  New research by Stets published in Environmental Science & Technology in March highlights these shifting water quality issues.  ... ”  Read more from the Environmental Monitor here: A nationwide view shows “evolution” of water quality concerns

Featured image credit:  The Optimist, by USGS Earth as Art

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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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