Wetland Science News
Chesapeake Bay Program – July 30, 2015
Between 2013 and 2014, underwater grass abundance in the Chesapeake Bay rose 27 percent, marking a 27,600-acre increase from the last decade’s low and an achievement of 41 percent of our 185,000-acre goal. Scientists attribute this boost in bay grasses to the rapid expansion of widgeongrass in moderately salty waters, even in areas where vegetation has not been observed before. Scientists have also observed a modest recovery of eelgrass in very salty waters, where the hot summers of 2005 and 2010 led to dramatic diebacks. For full blog post, click here.
By Carl Zimmer – The New York Times – July 30, 2015
We humans can drive species toward extinction by hunting them or destroying their habitat. But we can also threaten them in a more subtle but no less dangerous way: by making them sick. In the early 1900s, humans introduced malaria-spreading mosquitoes to Hawaii, and many native bird species were decimated. More recently, a fungus introduced to the United States from Europe has proved lethal to several species of bats. Now, scientists and wildlife managers are struggling to prevent the next infectious disaster. A recently discovered fungus is killing salamanders in Europe. It is likely spread by the pet trade and could soon arrive in North America, home to about half of all salamander species. For full story, click here.
Contacts: Marisa Lubeck and Michael Anteau – U.S. Geological Survey – July 15, 2015
The drainage of small wetlands can decrease wildlife habitat and may contribute to flooding in the Prairie Pothole Region (PPR), according to a recent U.S. Geological Survey study. USGS scientists analyzed data on 141 large PPR wetlands in North Dakota from the 1930s through 2010, and found that they have increased significantly in size. Most of the increases in surface water were due to drainage of smaller wetlands, likely for more efficient agricultural production. This drainage moves surface water into fewer wetlands, making them larger and degrading their abilities to reduce regional flooding and provide productive habitat for animals. Small wetlands in the PPR are economically and environmentally important because they help recharge local and regional groundwater. They also provide habitat for 50 to 80 percent of North American ducks. For full story, click here.
By Tiffany Crawford - The Vancouver Sun - July 9, 2015
Researchers at the University of B.C. say the world’s monitored seabird populations have dropped 70 per cent since the 1950s. Michelle Paleczny, a UBC master’s student and researcher with the Sea Around Us project, says the drop indicates that marine ecosystems are not doing well. Paleczny and co-authors of the study, published in PLOS ONE, a journal published by the Public Library of Science, compiled information on more than 500 seabird populations from around the world, representing 19 per cent of the global seabird population. They found overall populations had declined by 69.6 per cent, equivalent to a loss of about 230 million birds in 60 years, according to a UBC news release. For full story, click here.
By the Calgary Eyeopener – CBC News – July 17, 2015
The energy industry touts its ability to reclaim lands as a selling point in the PR battle over strip mining in the oilsands, but ecologist Kevin Timoney argues the wetlands companies leave behind are defective and destructive. Timoney looked at an area approximately 100 kilometres long and 50 kilometres wide in northeast Alberta near Fort McMurray and discovered significant issues with reclaimed land. Reclamation is required by law in Alberta for mining operations. His primary concerns for these sites are the reduced numbers of native plants and the increased levels of non-native weeds when compared to natural wetlands; the reduced biomass when compared to natural wetlands; the homogeneity of the reclaimed wetlands spread over the landscape; and the elevated concentrations of contaminants and salts in the soil. For full story, click here.
By Gabriel Popkin – University of Wyoming – July 1, 2015
A University of Wyoming professor has made a discovery that answers a nearly 100-year-old question about water movement, with implications for agriculture, hydrology, climate science and other fields. After decades of effort, Fred Ogden, UW’s Cline Chair of Engineering, Environment and Natural Resources in the Department of Civil and Architectural Engineering and Haub School of Environment and Natural Resources, and a team of collaborators published their findings in the journal Water Resources Research this spring. The paper, titled “A new general 1-D vadose zone flow solution method,” presents an equation to replace a difficult and unreliable formula that’s stymied hydrologic modelers since 1931. For full story, click here.
PHYS.org – June 23, 2015 – Video
A University of Michigan researcher and his colleagues are forecasting a slightly below-average but still significant "dead zone" this summer in the Chesapeake Bay, the nation's largest estuary. The 2015 Chesapeake Bay forecast calls for an oxygen-depleted, or hypoxic, region of 1.37 cubic miles, about 10 percent below the long-term average. The forecast was released today by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which sponsors the work. Farmland runoff containing fertilizers and livestock waste is the main source of the nitrogen and phosphorus nutrients that cause the annual Chesapeake Bay hypoxic region, which is also known as a dead zone. For full story and to view video, click here.