By Juliet Eilperin – The Washington Post – February 9, 2017
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Thursday delayed listing the rusty patched bumble bee as endangered, a result of a regulatory freeze White House chief of staff Reince Priebus imposed on President Trump’s first day in office. The previous administration announced Jan. 11 that the rusty patched bumble bee, whose numbers have declined 87 percent since the mid-1990s, was so imperiled that it should become the first bee species to be listed as endangered. But a day before the new protections were set to take effect, the Fish and Wildlife Service said they would not take effect before March 21. For full story, click here.
NASA Global Climate Change – January 25, 2017
A new study of the first year of observational data from NASA’s Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) mission is providing significant surprises that will help in modeling Earth’s climate, forecasting our weather and monitoring agricultural crop growth. The findings are presented in a paper published recently in the journal Nature Geosciences by scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), ambridge; and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California. They used SMAP measurements to estimate soil moisture memory in the top 2 inches (5 centimeters) of Earth’s topsoils. The estimates improve upon earlier ones that were predicted from models or based on sparse data from ground observation stations. Soil moisture memory, which refers to how long it takes for soil moisture from rainfall to dissipate, can influence our weather and climate. For full story, click here.
Wisconsin Wetlands Association – 2016
In 2014, the North Carolina state legislature cut support for their wetland monitoring programs. Rick Savage, who had spent years monitoring wetlands for the state, knew he had to step up to make sure someone was still watching out for wetlands. Savage was looking for wetland organizations he could learn from when he came across Wisconsin Wetlands Association. “In March of 2015, I got an email from a close friend with a link to WWA’s website,” Savage said. “I spent about two minutes looking at your website and I said ‘I have got to do this for the Carolinas.’ There was no doubt about it in my mind.” For full story, click here.
Development has affected 7 percent of virgin forests since 2000: Study
By Ellen Powell – The Christian Science Monitor – January 14, 2017
On the surface, it’s just a vast expanse of land. But look closer and the untouched areas of Canada’s boreal forest are a teeming mass of life – one that may hold some life-sustaining answers. Yet in Canada and worldwide, untouched wilderness is coming under increased pressure, according to research published Friday in the journal Science Advances. The study’s authors, who have been using satellite data to track changes in the world’s intact landscapes for more than a decade, report that 7.2 percent of these areas have been compromised since 2000. For full story, click here.
A Bumblebee Gets New Protection on Obama’s Way Out
By Tatiana Schlossberg and John Schwartz – The New York Times – January 10, 2017
The Obama administration, rushing to secure its environmental legacy, has increased protection for a humble bumblebee. The rusty-patched bumblebee, once common across the continental United States, has been designated an endangered species by the Fish and Wildlife Service: the country’s first bumblebee, and the first bee from the lower 48 states, to be added to the register. Seven bees were previously listed as endangered, but they are found only in Hawaii. For full story, click here.
Centre for Ecology & Hydrology – Science Daily – January 13, 2017
The quality of our rivers and lakes could be placed under pressure from harmful levels of soluble phosphorus, despite well-intended measures to reduce soil erosion and better manage and conserve farmland for crop production, a new study shows. The UK-based Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (CEH) led a team of international scientists, who found that increased levels of soluble phosphorus in rivers entering Lake Erie, in the USA, may be linked to conservation measures, despite their success in reducing soil erosion and nutrient losses in particulate forms. For full story, click here.
U.S. Supreme Court declines to hear S.D. farmer’s wetlands case
By David Ganje – Bismarck Tribune – January 12, 2017
On Monday, Jan. 9, The U. S. Supreme Court denied the Petition of a Miner County South Dakota farm couple who were fighting a USDA wetlands designation. USDA enforces rules in which it declares as “wetlands” farmland that has been converted by a farmer from wetlands to arable working land. When such a federal designation is made the farmer loses his right to participate in USDA programs and benefits. Under USDA maps about two thirds of North Dakota, one half of South Dakota and the western part of Minnesota is covered by prairie potholes and wetlands. For full story, click here.
New Look at Rivers Reveals the Toll of Human Activity
By Jim Robbins – Environment360 – January 4, 2017
The Yellowstone River has its headwaters in the mountain streams and snowy peaks of the famous U.S. national park with the same name, and makes an unfettered downhill run all the way to the Missouri River, nearly 700 miles away. It is the longest undammed river in the Lower 48 states. Last August, the Yellowstone made national headlines when a parasite killed thousands of fish, mostly whitefish. Fear of spreading the parasite to other waterways forced Montana officials to close the river to fishermen, rafters, and boaters. At the height of summer, the stunningly scenic, trout-rich river was eerily deserted. Fishing re-opened in the fall, but the parasite has been found in other Montana waterways. For full story, click here.
Restoring seagrass under siege
By Elizabeth Devitt – Mongabay – January 2, 2017
You need a boogie board and a wetsuit to garden with Katharyn Boyer, a biology professor at San Francisco State University in California. They come in handy along the shorelines of the San Francisco Bay where Boyer and her colleagues are replanting eelgrass. For more than a decade, she’s experimented with methods to replenish these underwater plants that create key habitats and buffer zones for coastal ecosystems. Figuring out reliable ways to grow more eelgrass could revitalize these critical areas and help other scientists reverse seagrass losses around the world. For full story, click here.
Ancient Wetland Garden Found in the Pacific Northwest
Archaeology – December 27, 2016
Live Science reports that a prehistoric garden has been found on Katzie First Nation territory, located to the east of Vancouver. Archaeologist Tanja Hoffmann of the Katzie Development Limited Partnership and Simon Fraser University led the excavation of the 3,800-year-old waterlogged site. For full story, click here.
Big Bird in the City
By Kat Eschner – Hakai Magazine – December 21, 2016
If you’ve ever been to downtown Vancouver’s False Creek, you’ve likely seen them: tall gray-blue birds stalking in the shallows. To see them in the air, they seem impossible, their long bodies and s-curved necks borne aloft on giant wings. They look like they belong in a marsh, away from humans, not in the middle of the big city. Yet a recent study makes clear what many Vancouverites frequently witness: these tall, stately birds can live among human-built landscapes with relative ease. The bigger takeaway: even as rampant development encroaches on areas in which the heron has traditionally thrived, all is not lost when it comes to this endangered species. But keeping them safe into the future will take careful management. For full article, click here.
Thousands of Invisible Oil Spills are Destroying the Gulf
By Emma Grey Ellis – WIRED – December 9, 2016
Hurricane Ivan would not die. After traveling across the Atlantic Ocean, it stewed for more than a week in the Caribbean, fluctuating between a Category 3 and 5 storm while battering Jamaica, Cuba, and other vulnerable islands. And as it approached the US Gulf Coast, it stirred up a massive mud slide on the sea floor. The mudslide created leaks in 25 undersea oil wells, snarled the pipelines leading from the wells to a nearby oil platform, and brought the platform down on top of all of it. And a bunch of the mess—owned by Taylor Energy—is still down there, covered by tons of silty sediment. Also, twelve years later, the mess is still leaking. For full story, click here.
EPA’s National Lakes Assessment Finds Nutrient Pollution in Most Lakes
By Tricia Lynn – Press Release Point – December 8, 2016
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has released the results of a national assessment showing that nutrient pollution is widespread in the nation’s lakes, with 4 in 10 lakes suffering from too much nitrogen and phosphorus. Excess nutrients can cause algae blooms, lower oxygen levels, degraded habitat for fish and other life, and lower water quality for recreation. The National Lakes Assessment also found an algal toxin – microcystin – in 39 percent of lakes but below levels of concern. Low concentrations of the herbicide atrazine were found in 30 percent of lakes. For full story, click here.
Scientists Confirm: “the Blob” Really Messed Up the Northeast Pacific
By Alex Dropkin – Hakai – Magazine – December 6, 2016
The Blob helped create the bloom. Beginning in the fall of 2013, “the Blob” has sat off the Pacific coast of North America. This massive swathe of abnormally warm water raised the average temperature of the sea by 2.5 °C, and is thought to have thrown the marine ecosystem for a massive loop. Throughout its run, scientists speculated that the Blob was responsible for a whole host of damages, from mass bleaching of Hawai‘ian coral and irregular fish migration, to sea lion beachings, and warmer seasons. For full article, click here.
By Catherine Kozak – Coastal Review Online – December 6, 2016
Pocosin land is supposed to be boggy. Nature designed it to be spongy and moist, creating a bulwark against wildfires and a haven for wild animals and plants. It is also a great carbon sink, one of its newly appreciated attributes. When Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge was established in the 1991, the peat bogs had been drained and were dried out like crusty soil in a neglected potted plant. Instead of a firewall, it was fire fuel. Instead of holding carbon harmlessly in its swampy depths, it released it into the air. But lately, the boggiest thing at the refuge seems to be a squabble over whether the refuge’s pocosin re-wetting project or Mother Nature is responsible for persistent flooding of surrounding farmland, with politicians in the farmers’ corner. For full story, click here.
Ira Flatow – Science Friday – December 2, 2016
Time travel, microbes, black holes, and polar bears. There’s something for everyone on this year’s list of best science books. Maria Popova, founder of Brain Pickings, and Scientific American editor Lee Billings join Ira to weigh in with their top picks. For full story and to listen to radio broadcast, click here.
By Dmian Carrington – The Guardian – December 15, 2016
Rampant road building has shattered the Earth’s land into 600,000 fragments, most of which are too tiny to support significant wildlife, a new study has revealed. The researchers warn roadless areas are disappearing and that urgent action is needed to protect these last wildernesses, which help provide vital natural services to humanity such as clean water and air. The impact of roads extends far beyond the roads themselves, the scientists said, by enabling forest destruction, pollution, the splintering of animal populations and the introduction of deadly pests. New roads also pave the way to further exploitation by humans, such as poaching or mining, and new infrastructure. For full story, click here.
Salting the Earth: The Environmental Impact of Oil and Gas Wastewater Spills
By Lindsey Konkel– Environmental Health Perspectives – December 2016
For five days in July 2014, a broken pipe spilled more than 1 million gallons of wastewater produced by unconventional oil drilling into a steep ravine filled with natural springs and beaver dams on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation. The briny spill cut a brown swath across the North Dakota landscape, soaking into the soil and killing all vegetation in its path before it seeped into Bear Den Bay on Lake Sakakawea. This reservoir on the Missouri River is where the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara Nation gets its drinking water. For full article, click here.
Salting roads found to reverse sex of frogs
By Ella Wilks-Harper – Independent – November 24, 2016
Salting roads and pavements during winter is harming frog populations, causing would-be female frogs to change sex, experts have warned. Researchers from Yale University found that naturally occurring chemicals in de-icing substances, including sodium chloride, is altering the sex of female frogs during development. In a series of experiments, scientists found that the impact can reduce frog populations by as much as 10 percent. For full story, click here.
By Daniel Wood – Hakai Magazine – November 15, 2016
As the tide pulls out over British Columbia’s Roberts Bank on an early October morning, it pools amid the hummocks, follows intertidal runnels seaward, and leaves a silvery-green sheen on the exposed mudflats where Canadian researcher Bob Elner walks. Thousands of southbound snow geese, propelled skyward by a hawk’s approach, move in ever-shifting murmurations to Elner’s right. Dunlin and ducks grub along the tideline to his left. But the western sandpipers, he observes, are gone. A scientist emeritus at Environment and Climate Change Canada, Elner has long studied the sandpipers, and he knows they have headed south on their 10,000-kilometer fall migration from the Arctic to Latin America. The big unspoken question hanging over these mudflats is how long the sandpipers and other shorebirds will continue to stop on the Fraser River estuary and fuel up, before flying onward. For full article, click here.
By Jim Robbins – The New York Times – November 14, 2016
They are beautiful, glistening icons of the West, filled with life and history. But there is far more to mountain rivers, scientists are learning, than the water churning between their banks. In a paper published earlier this year, a team of ecologists sought to outline the essential role of gravel-bed rivers in Western mountain ecosystems — the first time an interdisciplinary team has looked at river systems on such a large scale. For full story, click here.
Contact: Mike Smith, John Martin, and Peter Brandt – U.S. Environmental Protection Agency – November 14, 2016
Today, top federal and state environmental officials from New York and Connecticut announced 25 grants totaling $1.3 million to local government and community groups to improve the health and ecosystem of Long Island Sound. Fifteen projects, totaling $815,000, are in New York. The projects, which are funded through the Long Island Sound Futures Fund, will restore 27 acres of habitat, including coastal forest, dunes, and salt marshes for fish and wildlife. This grant program combines funds from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. For full news release, click here.
By Lisa Baertlein – Reuters – November 21, 2016
Forty-five large investors collectively managing $1.2 trillion in assets are pressing some of the nation's largest meat producers to set policies for reducing water pollution in their feeding, slaughtering and processing operations. The investors, who are members of sustainability non-profit advocate Ceres and the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR), sent letters to Cargill Inc [CARG.UL], JBS, Perdue Farms and Smithfield Foods [SFII.UL]. In those letters, they asked the companies to assess the pollution impacts of their direct operations and supply chains to develop comprehensive plans for protecting waterways, safely storing and managing animal waste and minimizing fertilizer runoff from feed production. For full story, click here.
By Roger Real Drouin – Environment 360 – November 1, 2016
On a recent afternoon, University of Florida watershed ecologist David Kaplan and Ph.D. candidate Katie Glodzik hiked through the Withlacoochee Gulf Preserve, on the Big Bend coast of northwestern Florida. Not long ago, red cedar, live oaks, and cabbage palms grew in profusion on the raised “hammock island” forests set amid the preserve’s wetlands. But as the researchers walked through thigh-high marsh grass, the barren trunks of dead cedars were silhouetted against passing clouds. Dead snag cabbage palms stood like toothpicks snapped at the top. Other trees and shrubs, such as wax myrtle, had long been replaced by more salt-tolerant black needlerush marsh grass. For full story, click here.
By Chelsea Harvey – The Virginian-Pilot – October 28, 2016
A new report from the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) predicts devastating declines in wildlife populations over the next five years, unless quick action is taken. By the end of the decade, we're likely to have lost 67 percent loss of all vertebrate wildlife compared to 1970, it claims. According to this year's Living Planet Report, released by the WWF every two years, wildlife populations have already suffered tremendous losses in the last few decades. Vertebrate populations have plunged by 58 percent overall since 1970, the report states. And organisms living in freshwater systems, such as rivers and lakes, have fared even worse, declining by 81 percent in the last four decades. For full story, click here.
By Adam Thomas – PHYS.org – October 28, 2016 – Video
The water crisis in Flint, Michigan put the need to protect and invest in clean drinking water front and center in the minds of many Americans. But how to go about investing, as well as how to get the public on board with such spending, is a difficult challenge that faces policymakers. A new study from the University of Delaware has found that when given the choice, people prefer to invest their money in conservation, such as protecting key areas of a watershed—also referred to as green infrastructure—than traditional water treatment plants— also referred to as gray infrastructure. They also found that different messages related to climate change, global warming, extreme weather events and decaying infrastructure affect people's willingness to contribute to projects. For full story and to view video, click here.
By Murray Carpenter – The New York Times – October 24, 2016
Joseph Zydlewski, a research biologist with the Maine Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit of the United States Geological Survey, drifted in a boat on the Penobscot River, listening to a crackling radio receiver. The staccato clicks told him that one of the shad that his team had outfitted with a transmitter was swimming somewhere below. Shad, alewives, blueback herring and other migratory fish once were plentiful on the Penobscot. “Seven thousand shad and one hundred barrels of alewives were taken at one haul of the seine,” in May 1827, according to one historian. Three enormous dams erected in the Penobscot, starting in the 1830s, changed all that, preventing migratory fish from reaching their breeding grounds. The populations all but collapsed. For full story, click here.
By Timothy B. Wheeler – Bay Journal – October 23, 2016
From the way it looks, Muddy Creek would seem to deserve its name. The Maryland stream is decidedly murky, with an orange tint to its slow-moving water. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. This tributary of the Rhode River near Edgewater underwent an extreme makeover earlier this year, and it’s still adjusting to being dramatically altered by a $1 million stream restoration project that raised its bed, widened its banks and added some meanders and pools to its channel. Whether the creek has been “restored,” or just rehabilitated, remains to be seen. Its condition is being closely monitored by scientists at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center, on whose sprawling campus the project was performed. For full article, click here.
By Ron Meador – MinnPost – October 13, 2016
The policy landscape for protecting honeybees from pesticides has just become a little more complicated, thanks to a new study suggesting that the sheer diversity of pesticides may be more of a problem than particular products. Another key finding: Certain fungicides long thought to be harmless to the bees are in fact fairly toxic to them. For full story, click here.
By Elizabeth Fox – Natural Science News – September 3, 2016
Researchers from Utah State University have developed a mathematical model for the management of wetlands. The computer model can recommend actions, such as when to begin invasive plant control, to help maintain wetland habitats. The details are in a paper just published in the journal Water Resources Research. Managing wetlands is a difficult job, especially as many states’ water supplies drop. The Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge is a 74,000-acre wildlife refuge in Utah. The refuge is home to many migratory bird species and other animals. Proper management is necessary to protect all of the unique birds that pass through but funding is limited. A team of researchers developed a mathematical model to help wetland managers better prioritize actions that will have the greatest impact. The computer model calculates the weighted usable area, or WU, of Utah’s wetlands. WU is a measure of the amount of space suitable for migratory birds based on factors such as water level and type of vegetation. The model can then recommend actions that will best increase the WU of the area. For full story, click here.
By Eva Botkin-Kowacki – The Christian Science Monitor – October 3, 2016
The Sierra Nevada yellow-legged frog was once one of the most abundant amphibians in that western mountain range. But the animal has disappeared from 93 percent of its historical range, leading it to be added to the endangered species list in 2014 by the US Fish and Wildlife Service. But there might be hope for the hoppers yet. For full story, click here.
Service Acts to Prevent Harm to Native Wildlife from 11 Nonnative Species
Contact: Christina Meister – U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service – September 29, 2016
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today took action to help ensure 10 nonnative freshwater fish species and one nonnative freshwater crayfish species do not become established in the United States and damage native wildlife and habitats. In a final rule that will take effect 30 days after the date of publication in the Federal Register, the Service listed the crucian carp, Prussian carp, Eurasian minnow, roach, stone moroko, Nile perch, Amur sleeper, European perch, zander, wels catfish and the common yabby as “injurious wildlife” under the Lacey Act. For full news release, click here.
Fate of turtles and tortoises affected more by habitat than temperature
Environmental News Network – September 27, 2016
Habitat degradation poses a greater risk to the survival of turtles and tortoises than rising global temperatures, according to new research. More than 60 percent of the group are listed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as vulnerable, endangered, or critically endangered, because they are being traded, collected for food and medicine and their habitats are being degraded. Understanding the additional impact of global warming and changes in rainfall patterns on their diversity and distributions is therefore paramount to their conservation. For full story, click here.
What the Ancient Oyster Knows
By Geoffrey Giller – Hakai Magazine – September 13, 2016
Stephen Durham ignores the cold water seeping into his hiking boots as he wades into a shallow, brackish creek wending through a salt marsh in Madison, Connecticut. With each step, shells crunch under his feet and he sentences a few more oysters to an early death. Below these casualties, the remains of their ancestors lie entombed in the muck. Less than a meter down, they could be hundreds of years old—artifacts of a time before modern record-keeping. Like thousands of soap-dish-sized Rosetta stones, the shells can reveal clues about the past—if you know what you’re looking for. Durham, sporting a trimmed grad-student beard and a hat from a seafood restaurant, is a new kind of sleuth. He’s one of the world’s first students trained in conservation paleobiology, a young field that applies a paleontologist’s skill set to modern-day conservation challenges by decoding animal and plant remains. For full article, click here.
Secrets of life in the soil
By Rachel Cernansky – Nature.com – September 13, 2016
Early on a cold spring morning, Diana Wall is trying out a tool normally used to make holes on golf courses — and she can't contain her excitement. Her team has always used more laborious methods to take samples of soil and its resident organisms. “Oh, that's a beautiful core,” she says as one student bags a sample filled with tiny roundworms. “Hello, nematodes!” For full story, click here.
By Bob Weber – CBS News – September 11, 2016
The challenge makes turning bitumen into oil seem like the easy part. Faced with reclaiming open-pit mines that were once thriving wetlands, Suncor and Syncrude have been trying to do what's never been done — rebuilding one of the most complex, diverse and delicate ecosystems in the boreal forest. Three years into the ground-breaking, high-profile projects, early successes are emerging. Suncor's Nikanotee fen and Syncrude's Sandhills fen are staying wet year-round. They're growing some typical fen plants. Even better, they've begun to store carbon in their peaty depths. For full story, click here.
By Joseph Dussault – The Christian Science Monitor – September 7, 2016
At the World Conservation Congress, which meets in Honolulu this week, environmental leaders are considering an unusual solution to help endangered animals: planned extinction. Gene drive, a controversial genetic editing technique through which scientists could alter or eliminate entire species, is mostly discussed alongside Zika and malaria fears. But recently, some conservationists have reframed the technique as a way to control invasive species. By slipping genetic disadvantages into the non-native population, they could theoretically protect endemic species. For full story, click here.
USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service – August 31, 2016
The National Cooperative Soil Survey Program is an endeavor of the United States Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and other federal agencies; state and local governments; and other cooperators. It provides a systematic study of the soils in a given area, including the classification, mapping, and interpretation of the soils. Soil types are classified from physical properties, drawing heavily on the principles of pedology, geology, and geomorphology. For more information, click here.
Duck numbers increasing
Ducks Unlimited – The Southern Illoisan – August 25, 2016
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service released its 2016 Trends in Duck Breeding Populations, based on surveys conducted in May and early June by FWS and the Canadian Wildlife Service. Overall duck numbers in the survey area are statistically similar to last year. Total populations were estimated at 48.4 million breeding ducks, which is 38 percent above the 1955-2015 long-term average. Last year's estimate was 49.5 million birds. The projected mallard fall flight index is 13.5 million birds, similar to the 2015 estimate of 13.8 million. The main factor for duck breeding success is wetland and upland habitat conditions in the key breeding landscapes of the prairies and the boreal forest. For full story, click here.
Science in the Wild: The Legacy Of the U.S. National Park System
By Jim Robbins – Environment360 – August 24, 2016
In a small cabin that serves as the Glacier National Park climate change office, Dan Fagre clicks through photos that clearly show the massive glaciers that give this park its name are in a hasty retreat. "There was a hundred square kilometers of ice in 1850," Fagre, a United States Geological Survey researcher who has studied the glaciers of Glacier since 1991, explains. "We are down to 14 to 15 square kilometers, so an 85 to 86 percent loss of ice in the park. There's no doubt they are going to disappear unless some massive cooling happens," he says, which isn't likely. The flows of mountain streams and rivers throughout the park will dwindle as their sources melt. And one species that will dearly miss the ice-cold runoff from the glaciers is the meltwater stonefly, an insect that's only found in a few glacier-fed streams in the park. It will likely disappear when the glaciers vanish, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says. For full story, click here.
Lichen is a famous biological partnership — but it might actually be a threesome
By Rachel Feltman – The Washington Post – July 22, 2016
Traditionally, scientists have likened lichen to a married couple: The crusty growths found on trees and rocks are actually composite organisms, formed by the symbiotic partnership between an algae and a single fungus. But a new study throws a wrench into that 150-year-old belief, suggesting that a third partner has been lurking in the mix. A second fungus — this one a type of yeast — makes the synergy possible. For full story, click here.
How purple bacteria could help save amphibians in the Rockies
By Krista Langlois – High Country News – August 1, 2016
Browns Creek slips out of the Collegiate Peaks near the central Colorado towns of Salida and Buena Vista. Bordered by conifer forests and alpine wetlands, the waterway offers perfect habitat for an obscure amphibian called the boreal toad, a warty, mottled creature about the size of a human palm. Historically, boreal toads abounded in Rocky Mountain streams above 7,000 feet, but in the past several decades, populations have plummeted. For full story, click here.
New Study Quantifies Benefits of Agricultural Conservation in Upper Mississippi River Basin
Contacts: Alex Demas and Sarah Haymaker, USGS – Soil Erosion News Today – June 22, 2016
Researchers at the U.S. Geological Survey and the U.S. Department of Agriculture have published a new studyThis is an external link or third-party site outside of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) website. that demonstrates that agricultural conservation practices in the upper Mississippi River watershed can reduce nitrogen inputs to area streams and rivers by as much as 34 percent. The study combined USDA's Conservation Effects Assessment Project (CEAP) data with the USGS SPARROW watershed model to measure the potential effects of voluntary conservation practices, which historically have been difficult to do in large river systems, because different nutrient sources can have overlapping influences on downstream water quality. For full story, click here.
Threats to habitat connectivity as sea waters inundate coastal areas
By Jim Melvin, Clemson University – Environmental News Network – June 21, 2016
By the year 2100, sea levels might rise as much as 2.5 meters above their current levels, which would seriously threaten coastal cities and other low-lying areas. In turn, this would force animals to migrate farther inland in search of higher ground. But accelerated urbanization, such as the rapidly expanding Piedmont area that stretches from Atlanta to eastern North Carolina, could cut off their escape routes and create climate-induced extinctions. For full story, click here.
On the Bay: Chesapeake's no oxygen 'dead zone' to be average or smaller
By Christina Jedra – Capital Gazette – June 14, 2016
Scientists estimate this year's Chesapeake Bay low-oxygen "dead zone" will be roughly the volume of 2.3 million Olympic-size swimming pools —about average. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced Monday that the hypoxic, or low-oxygen, zone will be approximately 1.58 cubic miles, close to the long-term average since 1950. "The low oxygen levels are insufficient to support most marine life and habitats in near-bottom waters and threaten the Bay's production of crabs, oysters and other fisheries," NOAA said. For full story, click here.
'Frankenturtles' released into the Chesapeake Bay by VIMS researchers
By Todd Corillo – WTKR.com – June 16, 2016 – Video
Researchers at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science are studying sea turtle mortality in an effort to protect living turtles from harm by releasing "Frankenturtles" into the Chesapeake Bay. Assistant Professor David Kaplan and graduate student Bianca Santos are trying to pinpoint where hundreds of dead loggerhead sea turtles that wash up on beaches of the Chesapeake Bay every year may have died. They hope that information will help them figure out likely causes of sea turtle death and help map out "safe zones" for the turtles. For full story and to view video, click here.
Can Native American Oyster Practices Rejuvenate the Chesapeake Bay?
By Kastalia Medrano – Pacific Standard Magazine – June 16, 2016
Estuary systems are in decline around the world. Polluted waters, overfishing, and sea levels rising as a result of climate change have left many marine ecosystems a mess. And the Chesapeake Bay, after a century of overfishing and deteriorating water quality, is in trouble. In the ongoing search for ways to restore the Chesapeake, an interdisciplinary team of scientists from the Smithsonian Institution — including biologists, resource managers, archaeologists, anthropologists, even a paleontologist — may have found the key in one of the watershed’s most vital and iconic symbols: the oyster. For full article, click here.
Using Lake Michigan turtles to measure wetland pollution
Eurek Alert – June 9, 2016
Decades of unregulated industrial waste dumping in areas of the Great Lakes have created a host of environmental and wildlife problems. Now it appears that Lake Michigan painted and snapping turtles could be a useful source for measuring the resulting pollution. For full story, click here.
The Drought Solution That's Under Our Feet
By Padma Nagappan – News Deeply – June 6, 2016
Now in the fifth year of an epic drought, Californians have explored ways to save water and wring it out of typical and atypical sources. The search has spanned the gamut from funding research, investing in expensive solutions like desalination plants, toying with the idea of recycling wastewater, imposing water-use restrictions, letting lawns go dry and experimenting with irrigation efficiency techniques for the crops that feed the country. Thirsty crops, a burgeoning population and below-average precipitation have also led to seriously overdrawn groundwater sources that took a very long time to fill up. The state’s agricultural industry, which grows more than 250 crops, has also been vilified for its heavy water use. But is the Golden State missing a solution that could offer a high payout – a solution that’s right under its feet? For full story, click here.
America’s Sickest Wetlands Are in the West, EPA Finds
By John Upton – Climate Central – May 31, 20 16
Few people will see the marshland that Beth Moseley helps spruce up during her volunteer outings to an industrial stretch of bayfront. Its hidden solitude from San Francisco’s hustle and bustle is one of the reasons she often visits the restored wetland to watch birds. “Most of the work we do is pulling weeds,” said Moseley, a 61-year-old resident of the city’s Mission district, who has been joining the Audubon Society’s monthly work days at the Pier 94 wetland for several years. “It’s kind of like the bay is taking care of itself.” The fruitful growth of the salt marsh over the last decade offers a germ of briny hope in a region where wetlands have been paved, diked and invaded by weeds at a rate unmatched elsewhere in the U.S. An exhaustive assessment released by the EPA this month based on more than 1,000 wetland surveys conducted in 2011 concluded that while nearly half of the remaining wetlands in the Lower 48 are in “good” condition, just one-fifth of the wetlands in the West are doing that well. For full story, click here.
Border fence impact on wetland mixed
By Joshua Emerson Smith – The San Diego Union-Tribune – May 16, 2016
As birds sing and lizards scuttle in the lush vegetation of the Tijuana River Valley, helicopters circle overhead, and Border Patrol agents on all-terrain vehicles comb the area looking to stop illegal border-crossers. Two big metal fences and stadium lighting divide homes in Mexico from this largest intact coastal wetland in Southern California. For full story, click here.
EPA: Western wetlands in poor condition
By Will Houston – Times Standard News – May 20, 2016
A first-of-its-kind report card on the nation’s wetland habitats shows the western U.S. is not doing a good job at keeping these disappearing ecosystems in good condition. The report, released by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency this month, found only 21 percent of the 146 surveyed wetlands west of the Rocky Mountains were in “good” condition compared to about 61 percent in poor condition and 18 percent in fair condition. Common impairments for these western wetlands and those throughout the nation are ditches and draining systems, nonnative plants, loss of native plants, and surface hardening such as road paving and other development — all of which have occurred in Humboldt County, according to Humboldt Baykeeper Director Jennifer Kalt. “The public lands wetlands are being treated much better than they used to be and the private land wetlands are continuing to be abused and destroyed,” she said. For full story, click here.
Saving Amphibians: The Quest To Protect Threatened Species
By Jim Robbins – environment360 – May 12, 2016
In the mountains of western Washington, Oregon, and northern California, the Cascades frog lives most of its life cycle buried beneath deep, wet snow. When summer rolls around, though, it emerges into alpine wetlands to mate and emit its signature call, which sounds a lot like a person chuckling. The habitat of these chuckling frogs, though, and other amphibians, is being squeezed by what researchers call a climate vise. Receding glaciers here left the mountains pockmarked with thousands of lakes and ponds, some the size of a car and some acres in size. Originally fishless, 19th and 20th century managers introduced fish to 95 percent of the lakes, carrying them in on horseback or dropping them from airplanes. It seemed like a good idea at the time. But the invasive trout have hammered the frog and salamander populations: They not only gobble up the tadpoles and juveniles, they limit the production of invertebrates, essential amphibian food. Amphibians can often escape the fish-filled ponds for nearby fishless wetlands, but as temperatures warm and snowpack shrinks, these survival outlets are waning and disappearing. For full story, click here.
EPA Celebrates American Wetlands Month: Learn! Explore! Take Action!
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency – May 4, 2016
American Wetlands Month is a time when EPA and our partners in federal, state, tribal, local, non-profit and private sector organizations celebrate the vital importance of wetlands to our Nation's ecological, economic and social health. Wetlands help improve water quality, increase water storage and supply, reduce flooding and provide critical habitat for plants, fish and wildlife. For full story, click here.
Milliron Wetlands classroom dedicated by OSU-Mansfield
By Zack Lemon – Mansfield News Journal – April 18, 2016
It was in the early 1960's when Grant Milliron was approached with an offer to fund one acre of the Ohio State campus that was to be built. He was asked for $100, which he pulled out of his pocket, and handed over immediately. "That is probably one of the best investments I've ever made," Milliron said at the dedication of the wetlands and outdoor classroom he donated to the university. "I'm not sure which acre of the 600 I got, but it doesn't make any difference." The Grant and Mary Milliron Research Wetlands and Classroom was a roughly $150,000 project, according to planner and project manager Brian White. It was completed last summer after two-and-a-half months of construction. For full article, click here.
The Fate of Sediment When Freshwater Meets Saltwater
Contacts: Greg Noe and Jon Campbell – U.S. Geological Survey – February 17, 2016
Two recent USGS investigations have measured sedimentation rates along the barely perceptible slope of rivers as they empty into estuaries. The findings of these studies have important implications for the restoration of estuaries — for example, the Chesapeake Bay — and their resilience in the face of sea level rise. The studies compared the sedimentation rates found in upriver tidal freshwater swamps (located at the furthest inland reach of tides) to the rate found in brackish water marshes downstream at the lowest reaches of the rivers. For full news release, click here.
Road salt putting human, aquatic lives on a collision course
By Karl Blankenship – Bay Journal – March 3, 2016
Just a couple days before January’s “snowzilla” storm buried much of the region under 2 feet of snow, District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser apologized for the city’s “inadequate response” to less than an inch of snow that left motorists variously sliding though icy streets or stranded in backups. Since 1938, when New Hampshire began experimentally salting winter roads, the substance has increasingly become an effective — and cost-effective — way to combat the slippery effects of ice and snow. Nationwide, 10 times as much salt goes on the road as is used to season all processed foods. But as with food, too much salt in freshwater is harmful. It’s a growing problem that threatens efforts to protect stream health in the Chesapeake watershed, and even in the Bay itself. For full article, click here.
Trees vital to improving stream quality, study finds
By Sandi Martin – Phys.org – March 2, 2016
Want better streams? Plant some trees, according to a University of Georgia study.
Researchers from UGA's Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources found that where landowners cut down the forests that bordered streams—turning them into pastures or lawns—the structure and even the amount of aquatic habitat changes dramatically. For full story, click here.
Latest 'Bay Barometer' shows uneven restoration progress
By Karl Blankenship – Bay Journal – February 4, 2016
Migratory fish have more rivers in the Bay to swim, and underwater grass beds are growing, but streamside forest plantings and wetland restoration have lagged badly in recent years, a new report from the state-federal Chesapeake Bay Program shows. It's Bay Barometer, an annual assessment of the Chesapeake region’s pollution reduction and habitat restoration efforts, found uneven progress toward meeting the 11 goals set in the Bay Watershed Agreement adopted in 2014. While much of the information has already been publicly released, the report compiles it to offer an overview of restoration efforts. For full article, click here.
Wetlands conservation milestone for WWF
World Wildlife Fund – February 1, 2016
The designation of wetlands for conservation with WWF support reached over 100 million hectares worldwide with the declaration of seven sites in Zimbabwe under the Ramsar convention. The news comes just ahead of World Wetlands Day on 2 February and following the identification of water crises as one of the top three global risks, according to the World Economic Forum’s Global Risk Report 2016. With this year’s World Wetlands Day focusing on wetlands and livelihoods, a number of sites such as Lake Chivero, the primary water supply for Zimbabwe’s capital city Harare, are of particular significance. “When we mark World Wetlands Day, we are reminding people that water doesn’t come from a tap; it comes from healthy wetland ecosystems,” said Lifeng Li, WWF International’s Director of Freshwater. For full story, click here.
EPA Releases Scientific Report Showing U.S. Coastal Waters a Mix of Good and Fair Health
Contact: Robert Daguillard – EPA-Yosemite – January 28, 2016
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today released the 2010 National Coastal Condition Assessment showing that more than half of the nation's coastal and Great Lakes nearshore waters are rated good for biological and sediment quality, while about one-third are rated good for water quality. In almost all coastal waters, however, contaminants in fish tissue pose a threat to sensitive predator fish, birds, and wildlife. The National Coastal Condition Assessment is part of a series of National Aquatic Resource Surveys (NARS) designed to advance the science of coastal monitoring and answer critical questions about the condition of waters in the United States. For full news release, click here.
Grass-planting change boosts coastal wetland restoration success
Ecology Global Network – November 13, 2015
When restoring coastal wetlands, common practice calls for leaving space between new plants to prevent overcrowding and reduce competition for nutrients and sunlight. That’s likely all wrong. A new study, conducted to restore degraded salt marshes in Florida and the Netherlands, has found that clumping newly planted marsh grasses next to each other, with little or no space in between, can spur positive interactions between the plants. In some test plots, plant density and vegetative cover increased by as much as 300 percent by season’s end. For full story, click here.
Precision conservation: mapping the watershed meter by meter
By Leslie Middleton – Bay Journal – January 24, 2016
A handful of young computer professionals, most fresh out of college or graduate school, work at stand-up workstations, or sit, using ergonomic ‘balance balls’ as chairs. They peer intently at screens checkered with aerial images of farms, forests and subdivisions. Here, in a workroom at the nonprofit Chesapeake Conservancy in Annapolis, they are re-imaging the Chesapeake Bay watershed and creating new ways to envision restoration, conservation and public access to the Bay and its rivers. For full article, click here.
EPA science panel: Fracking study needs work
By James Fenton – Daily Times – January 24, 2016
In June, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released a draft assessment of a study looking into hydraulic fracturing's potential impact on drinking water and concluded fracking was off the hook for water pollution. Now, a scientific panel made up of 30 expert analysts — hydrologists, geologists, scientists, many of them professors in the sciences — who oversaw the investigation, came back this month charging that the study lacked baseline testing that would have led to more insightful and revealing results. For full story, click here.
Environment group warns against reducing manatees' endangered status
By Oliver Milman – The Guardian – January 12, 2016
A US government move to downgrade the conservation status of manatees and green sea turtles is premature, an environment group has warned, despite encouraging signs that both species are recovering. The US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) has proposed that the West Indian manatee be down-listed from endangered to threatened under the endangered species act. The move follows a notable recovery in manatee numbers – in 1991, it was estimated there were just 1,267 of the hefty aquatic beasts off the coast of Florida. That number has now swelled to 6,300 in Florida, with 13,000 in total across the manatee’s entire range, which stretches throughout the south-eastern US, Caribbean, Mexico and the northern coasts of South America. The FWS said that work to reduce collisions with speedboats and unintentional entanglements with fishing nets has paid off, as well as the effective rehabilitation of sick and injured manatees, which can weigh over 3,000 pounds and are nicknamed “sea cows” because they eat copious amounts of sea grass. For full story, click here.
A Reprieve for Fungus-Battered Frogs
By Rachel Nuwer – The New York Times – January 4, 2016
After a six-year effort, researchers on the Spanish island of Majorca have rid several groups of Majorcan midwife toads of the pathogen Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis — better known as chytrid fungus, or B.d. It’s the first time the disease, which is devastating amphibians worldwide, has been eradicated in a wild population. For full story, click here.
Sea Lamprey Mating Pheromone Registered by U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as First Vertebrate Pheromone Biopesticide
Contacts: Dr. Marc Gaden and Marisa Lubeck – U.S. Geological Survey – January 4, 2016
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency registered a sea lamprey mating pheromone, 3kPZS, as the first ever vertebrate pheromone biopesticide in late December, 2015. Like an alluring perfume, the mating pheromone is a scent released by male sea lampreys to lure females onto nesting sites. Research and development of the mating pheromone was funded by the Great Lakes Fishery Commission, with additional support from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, in collaboration with federal government, university, and private industry partners. For full news release, click here.
Leaving it to beavers: Communities make room for natural engineers
By Whitney Pipkin – Bay Journal – December 14, 2015
Once valued as little more than pelts, beavers are back in vogue and rebuilding their reputation as habitat engineers. It helps their cause that the dams they build as homes also create water quality-boosting wetlands and habitat for other species. In the process, the structures slow the flow of water and filter out sediment that would otherwise be on its way to the Chesapeake Bay. And a new study out of the Northeast suggests the dams, which can alter the course of entire river systems, can also substantially reduce the amount of nitrogen in them. For full story, click here.
UMD researcher helps develop method to measure how wetland restorations affect greenhouse gases
By Lindsey Feingold – The Diamonback Online – December 10, 2015
A University of Maryland researcher has helped develop a method for measuring how much the restoration of wetlands can help reduce greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. A team of scientists including environmental science and technology professor Brian Needelman spent the past four years on the project, collecting data and presenting them in a usable way. For full story, click here.
Piping Plovers Losing Breeding Habitat to Wetland Drainage
Contact: Marisa Lubeck – USGS – November 19, 2015
Piping plovers, a federally threatened species of shorebirds, are likely losing wetland breeding habitat in the Great Plains as a result of wetland drainage, climate change or both, according to a new U.S. Geological Survey study. “Our findings suggest that if drainage continues, there will be continued declines in the amount of breeding habitat for piping plovers at wetlands in the Great Plains,” said Lisa McCauley, who led the study as a USGS postdoctoral student and currently works at The Nature Conservancy. “Managers can use information from our study to better restore and conserve valuable wetland ecosystems for the protection of this species.” For full story, click here.
New map of Earth's groundwater to help estimate when it may run out
By Magda Mis –Thomson Reuters Foundation – November 16, 2015
The first map showing the world's hidden groundwater was published on Monday, bringing us closer to estimating how much there is, and when it will run out if we over-use the resource. Using data and computer models, an international team of researchers estimated that less than six percent and perhaps as little as one percent of water found close to the Earth's surface is renewable in a human lifetime. "This has never been known before," Tom Gleeson of Canada's University of Victoria and the lead author of the study, said in a statement. "We already know that water levels in lots of aquifers are dropping. We're using our groundwater resources too fast - faster than they're being renewed." For full story, click here.
Planting In Clumps Boosts Wetland Restoration Success
Contact: Tim Lucas – Duke Environment – November 2, 2 015
When restoring coastal wetlands, it’s long been common practice to leave space between new plants to prevent overcrowding and reduce competition for nutrients and sunlight. It turns out, that’s likely all wrong. A new Duke University-led study, conducted to restore degraded salt marshes in Florida and the Netherlands, has found that clumping newly planted marsh grasses next to each other, with little or no space in between, can spur positive interactions between the plants and boost growth and survival by 107 percent, on average, by the end of one growing season. For full story, click here.
Wetland case seen as 'no-brainer' for Supreme Court review
By Robin Bravender – E&E Publishing, LLC – October 30, 2015
Legal experts predicted today that the Supreme Court will review a major water case in what may become the court's biggest environmental battle of this term. The court is considering whether to take on a case, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers v. Hawkes Company Inc., that involves assessing whether federal regulators' determinations of areas qualifying for Clean Water Act protections may be challenged in court. For full story, click here.
Asian carp move closer to Lake Michigan: Solutions?
By Michael D. Regan – The Christian Science Monitor – November 2, 2015
Three electric fences. That is all that is preventing the Asian carp from swimming into the Great Lakes, even as evidence shows the destructive fish are creeping closer to the world's largest body of freshwater, and as calls for the federal government to curb the spread of the invasive species have become as voracious as the fish's appetite. For full story, click here.
U.S. Rivers Show Few Signs of Improvement from Historic Nitrate Increases
USGS – October 28, 2015
During 1945 to 1980, nitrate levels in large U.S. Rivers increased up to fivefold in intensively managed agricultural areas of the Midwest, according to a new U.S. Geological Survey study. In recent decades, nitrate changes have been smaller and levels have remained high in most of the rivers studied. The greatest increases in river nitrate levels coincided with increased nitrogen inputs from livestock and agricultural fertilizer, which grew rapidly from 1945 to 1980. In some urbanized areas along the East and West coasts during the same period, river nitrate levels doubled. Since 1980, nitrate changes have been smaller as the increase in fertilizer use has slowed in the Midwest and large amounts of farmland have been converted to forest or urban land along the East coast. For full story, click here.
San Francisco Bay: Race to build wetlands is needed to stave off sea-level rise, scientists say
By Paul Rogers – San Jose Mercury News – October 18, 2015
San Francisco Bay is in a race against time, with billions of dollars of highways, airports, homes and office buildings at risk from rising seas, surging tides and extreme storms driven by climate change. And to knock down the waves and reduce flooding, 54,000 acres of wetlands -- an area twice the size of the city of San Francisco -- need to be restored around the bay in the next 15 years. That's the conclusion of a new report from more than 100 Bay Area scientists and 17 government agencies that may help fuel a regional tax measure aimed at addressing the looming crisis. For full story, click here.
Sonoma County farmland to return to become natural wetland
The Sacramento Bee – October 26, 2015
Sonoma County restoration project aims to make 1,000 acres of farmland a tidal marsh basin over the next 25 years. The Santa Rosa Press Democrat reports that supporters and partners of the Sonoma Land Trust gathered Sunday to watch an excavator break through a Sears Point levee, allowing saltwater to flood over the reclaimed oat fields. Officials say it will take decades for the marshland's vegetation and wildlife to return. For full story, click here.
Scientists play catch up as new chemicals contaminate Great Lakes birds
By Brian Bienkowski – Environment Health News – October 6, 2015
Stain repellent and fire retardant chemicals that scientists know little about are increasingly showing up in herring gull eggs around the Great Lakes, spurring concern for potential health impacts. The gulls are considered a sentinel species, and the contaminants appearing in their eggs paint a picture of a shifting chemical profile in the Great Lakes, which holds about 20 percent of the world’s fresh surface water. While legacy pollutants, such as mercury and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), still persist, a growing list of esoteric pollutants is showing up in wildlife. For full story, click here.
Healthy Soils Reduce Water Pollution
By Brett Walton – Circle of Blue – October 13, 2015
On a bright October morning in a hotel parking lot, Greg Scott turns on the rainfall simulator. The machine’s swiveling nozzle sprays fat drops on five soil samples held in trays a few feet below. Some soil is bare; other samples are planted with prairie grass, wheat, and other field crops. Within minutes dirty, sediment-saturated water begins flowing off the plots that are not anchored by vegetation. In the other trays, the drops soak into the ground. The little water that does run off the planted trays is much cleaner, the color of green tea. The lesson of the artificial cloudburst is clear: neglect the soil and water will suffer. For full story, click here.
Scientists say a dramatic worldwide coral bleaching event is now underway
By Chris Mooney – The Washington Post – October 8, 2015
For just the third time on record, scientists say they are now watching the unfolding of a massive worldwide coral bleaching event, spanning the globe from Hawaii to the Indian Ocean. And they fear that thanks to warm sea temperatures, the ultimate result could be the loss of more than 12,000 square kilometers, or over 4,500 square miles, of coral this year — with particularly strong impacts in Hawaii and other U.S. tropical regions, and potentially continuing into 2016. For full story, click here.
Pilot Project Tests Wetland vs. Nitrates
By Donnelle Eller – The Des Moines Register – September 13, 2015
About 1,000 acres of rich northwest farmland drain into a 10-acre wetland, where grasses, cattails and other vegetation help hardworking microbes remove nitrates from the water before they can enter the Des Moines River. The pilot project, one of five wetlands constructed at the same time the drainage systems were rebuilt, works to offset nitrate losses from the tile it connects with. With an aging tiling network that drains 12 million acres, the state faces a unique opportunity to construct the conservation practices needed to dramatically improve Iowa’s water quality, says Sean McMahon, executive director of the Iowa Agriculture Water Alliance. For full story, click here.
Male Frogs May Be Turning Female Thanks to Estrogen in Suburban Waste
By Douglas Main – Newsweek – September 7, 2015
A surprising study has found that frogs in suburban lakes tend to be mostly female, and suggests that urbanization and estrogenic wastes are likely turning male frogs female. In a study published September 7 in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers sampled hundreds of young frogs from 21 ponds in Connecticut, which were all geographically close but varied widely in terms of how developed their immediate surroundings were. The scientists, led by Yale University researcher David Skelly and doctoral student Max Lambert, were surprised to find that the extent of development was strongly linked to the proportion of females; ponds in forests contained lower proportions of females, whereas males were in the minority in some areas of the ‘burbs. For full article, click here.