Wetlands stopped $625 million in property damage during Hurricane Sandy. Can they help Houston?

By Nsikan Akpan – PBS Newshour – August 31, 2017
Wetlands are nature’s sponges during hurricanes. Those along the coast slow down storm surges, physically impeding water from sloshing onshore. Freshwater wetlands, lining rivers further inland, soak up torrential rain like a sewer.  For the first time, we have a sense of how much property damage these natural habitats can prevent during severe storms like Hurricane Harvey. Coastal wetlands thwarted $625 million worth of property damage during Hurricane Sandy in 2012, according to a study published Thursday in Scientific Reports. In more than half the zip codes along the East Coast, wetlands helped reduce the cost of damages by 22 percent. Even urbanized New York, where wetlands cover 2 percent of the land, saved about $138 million thanks to wetlands.  For full story, click here.  

Monarchs in western U.S. risk extinction, scientists say

By Laura Zuckerman – Reuters – September 7, 2017
Monarch butterflies west of the Rocky Mountains are teetering on the edge of extinction, with the number wintering in California down more than 90 percent from the 1980s, researchers said in a study published on Thursday. While much is known about the black-and-orange winged insects’ decadeslong population decline in the eastern United States, scientists have been unable to track the western variety accurately until the recent development of new statistical models. The new study, published in the scientific journal Biological Conservation, was funded by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which is considering giving monarch butterflies Endangered Species Act protections. For full story, click here 

URI researcher says invasive plants change ecosystems from the bottom up

Contact: Todd McLeish – University of Rhode Island – September 5, 2017
In a common garden at the University of Rhode Island, Laura Meyerson has been growing specimens of Phragmites – also known as the common reed – that she has collected from around the world. And while they are all the same species, each plant lineage exhibits unique traits. Now Meyerson, a professor of natural resources sciences, and Northeastern University Professor Jennifer Bowen have revealed that even when two different lineages grow side-by-side in the same ecosystem, the bacterial communities in the soil differ dramatically. It’s a discovery that will aid in understanding how plant invasions succeed and the conditions necessary for their success. For full story, click here

The Delta Is Sinking: Scientists Think Planting Rice Will Help

By Meredith Rutland Bauer – News Deeply Water Deeply – August 30, 2017
Bryan Brock stared out at a rice field on Twitchell Island, nestled between the meandering river paths of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. Brock, a senior engineer with California Department of Water Resources’ West Delta Program, rubbed his goatee and pointed at foot-tall emerald stalks. The plots were drenched in about 4in of water. Medium-grain rice was planted here in 2009 as a research project to see if rice could help the Delta survive the impacts of subsidence. The results have yielded both good and bad news. For full story, click here.

These new wetlands are designed to kill mosquitoes while educating students on nature

By James Bruggers – Courier-Journal – August 31, 2017 – Video
Tucked into the woods along Newburg Road, in what was once a natural channel of Beargrass Creek, work crews have been recreating a bit of nature. They're constructing two new wetlands for a total of 12,000 square feet of pond and marshland to be used by students and nature alike. One bulldozer even got stuck in the muck. More than a couple dozen people attended the project's open house at the Passionist Earth & Spirit Center, which partnered with the Sheltowee Environmental Education Coalition and the Louisville Metropolitan Sewer District to construct what one MSD official described as among just a few constructed wetlands in Louisville. "We're not going to have a beautiful relationship with the Earth until we get to know it," said Kyle Kramer, executive director of the center, explaining part of the center's environmental mission. The wetlands are also among the largest, according to project sponsors. For full article and to view video, click here.

Officials tour Blackwater marsh restoration project

By Dustin Holt – Dorchester Star – August 22, 2017
Federal and state officials visited Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge in Dorchester County Sunday, Aug. 20, to tour the Chesapeake Marshlands project. The $2.1 million project, though the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, The Conservation Fund and the National Audubon Society, began in 2016 by spreading more than 26,000 cubic feet of sediment taken from the Blackwater River over 40 acres to elevate the marsh surface near Maple Dam Road. The project is the largest wetland restoration effort ever undertaken in the refuge, and the first thin-layer project in the Chesapeake watershed. For full story, click here.

Meat industry blamed for largest-ever 'dead zone' in Gulf of Mexico

By Oliver Milman – The Guardian – August 1, 2017
The global meat industry, already implicated in driving global warming and deforestation, has now been blamed for fueling what is expected to be the worst “dead zone” on record in the Gulf of Mexico. Toxins from manure and fertiliser pouring into waterways are exacerbating huge, harmful algal blooms that create oxygen-deprived stretches of the gulf, the Great Lakes and Chesapeake Bay, according to a new report by Mighty, an environmental group chaired by former congressman Henry Waxman. It is expected that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (Noaa) will this week announce the largest ever recorded dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico. It is expected to be larger than the nearly 8,200 square-mile area that was forecast for July – an expanse of water roughly the size of New Jersey. For more information, go here.

Destruction of small wetlands leads to more algal blooms, Ontario study finds 

By Nicole Thompson – The Hamiton Spectator – July 23, 2017
The board, an appeals body for state regulatory decisions, heard arguments last week from several environmental groups seeking a permanent injunction on construction. They described 61 spills of drilling mud, including one of 160,000 gallons into an exceptional value wetland, and drilling damage to wells that forced 15 families to evacuate their homesThe board, an appeals body for state regulatory decisions, heard arguments last week from several environmental groups seeking a permanent injunction on construction. They described 61 spills of drilling mud, including one of 160,000 gallons into an exceptional value wetland, and drilling damage to wells that forced 15 families to evacuate their homes. "We have more and more agriculture and organizations that are leading to nutrient pollutions in our land, and at the same time, we are losing these wetlands that filter these pollutants and prevent them from reaching the downstream waters," said Nandita Basu, an author of the study and an engineering professor at the University of Waterloo. Wetlands cover about 14 per cent of the country's total land area, according to Environment Canada. In southern Ontario, 68 per cent of the original wetlands have been lost to development like agriculture and housing. For full story, click here.

Treated Fracking Wastewater Contaminated Watershed, Study Finds

Yale Environment 360 – July 17, 2017
A study in the Marcellus Shale region of western Pennsylvania has shown that even after being treated, wastewater from hydraulic fracturing operations left significant contamination in a waterway downstream of treatment plants. Researchers from Penn State University, Colorado State University, and Dartmouth College studied sediments from Conemaugh River Lake — a dammed reservoir east of Pittsburgh — and found that they were contaminated with endocrine-disrupting chemicals called nonylphenol ethoxylates; polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, which are carcinogens; and elevated levels of radium. The study, published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology, said that the highest concentrations of these pollutants were found in lake sediment layers deposited five to ten years ago during a peak period of fracking wastewater disposal. The high radium levels were found as far as 12 miles downstream of treatment plants. For full article, click here.

NRCS Soil Survey Manual Updated

USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service – 2017
The 2017 Soil Survey Manual has been printed and is ready for distribution. The newly updated Soil Survey Manual, USDA Handbook No. 18, provides the major principles and practices needed for making and using soil surveys and for assembling and using related data. The Manual serves as a guiding document for activities of the National Cooperative Soil Survey (NCSS). Previously published in 1937, 1951, and 1993, the Soil Survey Manual is one of the defining documents for soil survey in the world. To read more and download Manual, click here.

A dam could derail the Chesapeake Bay cleanup

By Darryl Fears – The Washington Post – July 4, 2017
The $19 billion bid to clean the Chesapeake Bay and restore its health rests on a simple plan: cut the amount of nutrient waste — involving nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment — that causes most of the bay’s pollution. For nearly seven years since the cleanup started, the federal government and six states in the bay’s watershed have reduced municipal sewer overflows that pour nitrogen and phosphorus into rivers that feed into the bay, and cut the fertilizers and other nutrients that run off from hundreds of farms. They also counted on the Conowingo Dam to block massive amounts of sediment in the Susquehanna River from smothering bay grasses that nurture marine life. But that part of the plan has gone very wrong. For full story, click here.

Pesticides Are Harming Bees — But Not Everywhere, Major New Study Shows

By Dan Charles – The Salt – June 29, 20176
In the global debate over neonicotinoid pesticides, the company that makes most of them has relied on one primary argument to defend its product: The evidence that these chemicals, commonly called "neonics," are harmful to bees has been gathered in artificial conditions, force-feeding bees in the laboratory, rather than in the real world of farm fields. That company, Bayer, states on its website that "no adverse effects to bee colonies were ever observed in field studies at field-realistic exposure conditions." For full story, click here.

The common insecticide poisoning our rivers and wetlands

By Vincent Pettigrove – PHYS.org – June 28, 2017
Urban streams and wetlands play an important role in the proper functioning of our cities. They protect our houses from floods, provide green spaces for recreation, trap and breakdown pollutants and provide valuable habitats for many native plants, insects, reptiles, amphibians and birds. In Melbourne, like in many cities across the world, much of our native wetland has been drained for housing and other infrastructure, and our creeks and rivers turned into concrete channels. But in recent decades, as the value of these habitats has become clear, there has been a concerted effort to reverse this trend, and hundreds of 'constructed' wetlands have been built. Protecting these wetlands and the life they support is vital, but our research has uncovered a nearly four-fold rise in the last five years in the presence of a particularly toxic chemical in wetland sediments. Moreover it would seem the chemical, bifenthrin, an insecticide, is killing our aquatic life. For full story, click here

Constructed Wetlands Show Promise in Managing Nutrients

By NCGA – KTIC Radio – June 21, 2017
Wetlands are among the most productive ecosystems in the world, comparable to rainforest and coral reefs. Now, modern agriculture is trying to capture some of nature’s wetland magic as a means to manage nutrients on the farm. State and national corn organizations’ staff that work on water quality issues recently toured the Franklin Research & Demonstration Farm near Lexington, Illinois, to learn more about how research into “constructed wetlands” might provide another serious tool to help farmers manage nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorous. For full story, click here.

Professor proposes using artificial intelligence to predict aquatic ecosystem health

York University – May 31, 2017
Lassonde School of Engineering Professor Usman Khan‘s research on the measurement of aquatic ecosystem health has been published in the journal Water. In the paper, Khan proposes an approach based on artificial intelligence to predict dissolved oxygen in an urban river environment. Dissolved oxygen concentration in a water body is the most fundamental indicator of overall aquatic ecosystem health. Having a sophisticated measuring system to assess the health of these precious reserves is essential. For full story, click here.

Effective restoration of aquatic ecosystems

Phys.org – May 25, 2017
Despite having increased human wellbeing in the past, intense modifications by multiple and interacting pressures have degraded ecosystems and the sustainability of their goods and services. For ecosystem restoration to deliver on multiple environmental and societal targets, the process of restoration must be redesigned to create a unified and scale-dependent approach that integrates natural and social sciences as well as the broader restoration community. For full story, click here.

Trump Budget Would Wallop EPA's Climate and Environment Programs 

By Georgina Gustin and Marinanne Lavelle – InsideClimate News – May 20, 2017
Details of President Donald Trump's 2018 budget proposal, leaked this week, reveal that the administration appears determined to wallop environmental programs, including many that tackle climate change. It would cut Environmental Protection Agency funding by nearly one-third, slash spending on renewable energy innovation, and eliminate the Greenhouse Gas Reporting program, among other programs. For full story, click here.

What’s the Average Methane Isotope Signature in Arctic Wetlands?

By Terri Cook – EOS – May 4, 2017
Although methane (CH4) is a potent greenhouse gas, the relative contributions of its various sources to the global budget are still poorly constrained. In wetlands, different metabolic and transport processes, as well as the variety and extent of vegetation, affect the rate at which methane is emitted as well as its isotopic composition. Although these processes are known to produce varied isotopic signatures on local scales, it is uncertain whether wetland emissions that reach the broader atmosphere have a more coherent signature. For full story, click here.

Lesson On Vernal Pools Begins By Making One

By Andrea F. Carter – The Falmouth Enterprise – April 25, 2017
Lawrence School students wearing hard hats were on-site Monday, April 24, to help construct a vernal pool wetland at the school. The pool will be a living laboratory, home to invertebrates and amphibians. Vernal pools are shallow bodies of water with their own cycle, filling up with the autumn and early winter rains and drying up by the end of summer. At only two feet or less deep, they are not a welcome habitat for fish, which are predators of the species that thrive in the pools. For full story, click here.

Mystery pest wiping out wetlands at the mouth of the Mississippi River

By Tristan Baurick – NOLA.com - Times-Picayune – April 4, 2017
An unprecedented invasion of tiny bugs near the mouth of the Mississippi River is killing vast swaths of wetland grass considered critical to the health of Louisiana's coast. State and university scientists are scrambling to figure out how and why the pest, which could be a European or Asian import, arrived in south Louisiana, and what can be done to halt its progress. Since fall, marshlands in south Plaquemines Parish have suffered large-scale die-offs of roseau cane, a tall-growing grass that's native to Louisiana and prime habitat for fish and other wildlife. The cane's roots hold marshlands in place. Its disappearance could speed the already rapid erosion of the coastline. For full story, click here.

Manatees taken off U.S. endangered list, conservationists cry foul

By Ian Simpson – Reuters – March 30, 2017
Manatees were taken off the U.S. Interior Department's list of endangered species on Thursday and reclassified as threatened, a move condemned by conservationists who say it weakens protections for the giant marine mammal, also known as a sea cow. The relisting recognizes a population rebound by the West Indian manatee, a native of the Florida coastline whose range extends from the southeastern United States through the Caribbean basin. Its numbers have soared to more than 6,600 in Florida alone from a few hundred in the 1970s, the Interior Department said. For full story, click here.

Zika mosquito genome mapped – at last

By Cassandra Willyard – Nature – March 23, 2017
As the Zika virus raced across the Western Hemisphere in 2015 and 2016, geneticists eager to battle the outbreak felt crippled. The genome sequence of the Aedes aegypti mosquito that spreads Zika was incomplete and consisted of thousands of short DNA fragments, hampering research efforts. For full story, click here.

Black rail population sinking fast as rising sea level drowns its habitat

By Karl Blankenship – Bay Journal – March 12, 2017
Getting to know the Eastern black rail has always been tough. The sparrow-size bird lives deep in marshes that are hard to access, and it is most active in the wee hours of the morning. Even then, it tends to scamper through dense vegetation, rather than fly — some call it a “feathered mouse.” “We know almost nothing about this species,” said ornithologist Bryan Watts, director of the Center for Conservation Biology in Virginia. “It’s very tiny and incredibly secretive. Even most bird watchers have never seen this species before.” Now, even hearing their call is unlikely. Its habitat, a delicately balanced zone deep within coastal marshes, is being flooded by the rising waters. And the Eastern black rail is disappearing fast — potentially becoming the first victim of sea level rise around the Chesapeake Bay and other areas of the East Coast. For full story, click here.

Wintering ducks connect isolated wetlands by dispersing plant seeds

Utrecht University – February 22, 2017
Plant populations in wetland areas face increasing isolation as wetlands are globally under threat from habitat loss and fragmentation. Erik Kleyheeg and Merel Soons of Utrecht University show that the daily movement behavior of wintering mallards is highly predictable from the landscape they live in and that their daily flights contribute to maintaining the connections between wetland plant populations across increasingly fragmented landscapes. The researchers and co-authors are publishing their results today in the academic journal Journal of Ecology. For full story, click here.

Trump administration puts off listing bumble bee as endangered

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.

How Trump’s travel ban could hurt science

By Sarah Kaplan – The Washington Post – January 30, 2017
Ubadah Sabbagh felt goose bumps rise on his skin Saturday morning as he scrolled through the reports that immigrants from the Middle East — people just like him — were no longer being allowed into the United States. Sabbagh, 23, is a student at Virginia Tech, working on his PhD in neuroscience. He's also a green-card holder, and a citizen of Syria — one of the seven countries named in President Trump's executive order banning travelers from certain nations. What would this mean for him? What would it mean for his labmate, a “fantastic scientist” studying at VT on a student visa from Iran, one of the other affected countries? What would it mean for the American scientific community, which is composed of nearly 20 percent immigrants, and which depends on collaboration with researchers from all over the world? For full story, click here.

Chesapeake losing its oyster reefs faster than they can be rebuilt

By Timothy B. Wheeler – Bay Journal – January 29, 2017
The Chesapeake Bay has an oyster problem — but more fundamentally, it has a shell problem. Put simply, there aren’t enough oyster shells available to support a large-scale restoration of the Bay’s depleted bivalve population. And the way things are going, there may not even be enough to sustain the wild fishery a whole lot longer, at least in Virginia. For full article, click here.

Seventeen Playas Restored in Four States as Part of Demo Project

Playa Lakes Joint Venture – January 27, 2017
In December, PLJV finished a two-year playa restoration project, funded by the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Climate Adaptation Fund that filled pits in 17 playas in four states. Of those, 14 playas are on US Forest Service National Grasslands: four on Kiowa National Grassland in New Mexico, nine on Comanche National Grassland in Colorado, and one on Rita Blanca National Grassland in Texas. The other three playas include private land in collaboration with USFWS Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program in Colorado, and two in collaboration with the Oklahoma Commissioners of the Land Office. For full story, click here.

Study tracks ‘memory’ of soil moisture

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.

New Technique Quickly Predicts Salt Marsh Vulnerability

U.S. Geological Survey – January 24, 2017
Scientists working on a rapid assessment technique for determining which US coastal salt marshes are most imperiled by erosion were surprised to find that all eight of the Atlantic and Pacific Coast marshes where they field-tested their method are losing ground, and half of them will be gone in 350 years’ time if they don’t recapture some lost terrain. The US Geological Survey-led research team developed a simple method that land managers can use to assess a coastal salt marsh’s potential to survive environmental challenges. The method, already in use at two national wildlife refuges, uses any one of several remote sensing techniques, such as aerial photography, to gauge how much of an individual marsh is open water and how much of it is covered by marsh plants. By comparing the ratio of ponds, channels and tidal flats to marsh vegetation, land managers can determine which marshes stand the best chance of persisting in the face of changing conditions. For full news release, click here.

New Paper Explains Consequences of Plant Disappearance in Salt Marshes on the Atlantic Coast

American Phytopathological Society (APS) – January 24, 2017
An important new research paper, titled “Response of Sediment Bacterial Communities to Sudden Vegetation Dieback in a Coastal Wetland,” examines the consequences of plant disappearance and changes in salt marsh soil communities following Sudden Vegetation Dieback (SVD). The paper, published in Phytobiomes, an open-access journal of The American Phytopathological Society, is written by Wade Elmer, Peter Thiel, and Blaire Steven, scientists at the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station in New Haven. The setting for this study was the marshes of Connecticut’s Hammonasset Beach State Park. These marshes, which produce large amounts of plant biomass, have been beneficial to Connecticut’s coastal ecosystems by providing protection from erosion, habitats for native birds and fish, and absorption of fertilizer runoff. For full news release, click here.

Managing 246 million acres: new science-based tools support Bureau of Land Management’s landscape approach

U.S. Geological Survey – January 19, 2017
The U.S. Geological Survey and the Bureau of Land Management today released a collaborative report with new information and tools to support effective management of millions of acres of BLM public lands.  The report underscores the value of a landscape approach to management, and shows that the BLM manages some of the largest areas of intact public lands in the west. “By evaluating multiple resource uses within and across landscapes through a science-based approach,” said USGS lead author Sarah Carter, “managers will be able to think bigger and plan better than ever before to provide multiple benefits for current and future generations of Americans.” This report provides BLM with tools to advance a landscape approach to planning and management on the 246 million acres of western public lands they manage for the benefit of the American public. The report will also inform future BLM planning, monitoring and conservation initiatives, including the development of a coordinated nationwide multiscale monitoring effort. To read more and download the report, Multiscale Guidance and Tools for Implementing a Landscape Approach to Resource Management in the Bureau of Land Management, click here.

SER Launches New Certification for Ecological Restoration Practitioners

Society for Ecological Restoration – January 18, 2017
The Society for Ecological Restoration (SER) is pleased to announce the world's first certification program for ecological restoration practitioners and practitioners-in-training. Certification is intended to encourage a high professional standard for practitioners who are designing, implementing, overseeing, and monitoring restoration projects throughout the world. For full press release, click here.

Supporting wetland protection across the nation

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.

Adaptive management of soil conservation is essential to improving water quality

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.

Is Wetlands Restoration Worsening Flooding?

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.

The Best Science Books of 2016

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.

New map reveals shattering effect of roads on nature

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.

Slime, Shorebirds, and a Scientific Mystery

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.

An Ecosystem's Lifeblood, Flowing Through Gravel

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.

1.3 Million Awarded for Community-Based Projects to Improve Health and Ecosystem of Long Island Sound

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.

Investors press meat producers to cut water pollution

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.

Ghost Forests: How Rising Seas Are Killing Southern U.S. Woodlands

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.

Two-thirds of the world's vertebrate wildlife could be gone by 2020, report warns

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.

Study suggests people prefer conservation as way to protect drinking water

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.

Taking Down Dams and Letting the Fish Flow

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.

Researchers examining effectiveness of stream restoration

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.

It's the diversity of pesticides, not the types or doses, that may be killing bees

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.

Researchers Develop Mathematical Model for Managing Wetlands

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.

Yosemite's endangered frogs show signs of rebound

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.

'We can't replace nature': Oilsands wetland reclamation a mixed success

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.

Gene editing might help conserve species. But should it?

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.

Official Web Soil Survey Available - Soil Science Annual Data Refreshes in October

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.

Good intentions alone won’t grow new mangroves

By Brandon Keim – Anthropocene – March 29, 2017
Perhaps no single ecosystem is more emblematic of nature’s benefits to humans than mangrove forests. Lining tropical and subtropical coastlines worldwide, they’re nurseries for countless species and protect inland areas from hurricanes and storms. They’re an environmental feature beyond our wildest technical capacities. In just the last half-century, though, more than half of all mangrove forests were lost to development. 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.