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Conservation Science for a Healthy Planet

Tag Archive: water

  1. New Map of Worldwide Croplands Supports Food and Water Security- USGS

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    November 14, 2017 see full USGS press release here

    ….With the global population nearing the 7.6 billion mark and expected to reach 10 billion by 2050, it is of increasing importance to understand and monitor the state of agriculture across the world in great detail. This new research is useful to international development organizations, farmers, decision makers, scientists and national security professionals.

    This map is a baseline and starting point for higher level assessments, such as identifying which crops are present and where, when they grow, their productivity, if lands are left fallow and whether the water source is irrigated or rain fed,” said Thenkabail. “Comparisons can be made between the present and past years as well as between one farm and another. It is invaluable to know the precise location of croplands and their dynamics to lead to informed and productive farm management.”

    …Not only does this map and accompanying data have significant food security implications, but it is also critical as a baseline for assessing water security. Nearly 80 percent of all human water use across the world goes towards producing food, and this research provides insight on “crop per drop,” which is an assessment of the amount of crops produced per unit of water….

  2. Finally, a focus on saving the great forests of the Sierra. But is it too late? SacBee Editorial

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    • “There is an urgent need to reform policy and management to ensure that Californians continue to benefit from these forests for generations to come,” a new Public Policy Institute of California report says
    • Reducing forest density could have the side benefit of increasing run-off by as much as 9 percent, filling streams and rivers for the good of fisheries and for residential, agriculture and industrial use, the PPIC report says.

    Sacramento Bee Editorial  September 21, 2017 read full SacBee editorial here

    We Californians take for granted the great forests of the Sierra Nevada. It is where we ski and hike, and breathe fresh air, and it’s the primary source of our water.

    It’s all at risk. Drought and bark beetle infestation are the proximate cause of death of more than 100 million trees in California since 2010. But the forests were weakened by climate change, combined with mismanagement that includes well-intentioned wildfire prevention efforts and logging in past decades of old-growth trees, which are most resistant to fire and disease.

    [Governor] Brown and the Legislature approved another $225 million in cap-and-trade revenue, reserved for the fight against climate change, for forests. That underscored one of California’s inconvenient truths. Like refineries, diesel engines and cars powered by internal combustion, burning and decaying forests spew greenhouse gases.

    In April, the Governor’s Tree Mortality Task Force reported that the 2013 Rim Fire at Yosemite emitted 12.06 million tons of carbon dioxide, three times more than all the greenhouse gas reductions achieved that year in all other sectors in California. Worse, the detritus decomposing in the burn area will unleash four times that amount of greenhouse gas in coming decades.

    In much of the 15 million acres of mountains from Kern to Siskiyou counties, forests are choking with 400 sickly trees per acre, four times the number in healthy forests. Tools to heal the forests are at hand, but forest management is fraught.

    …Some environmentalists oppose logging, while some conservative politicians advocate unraveling environmental restrictions to allow for far more logging. Neither extreme is helpful. Flexibility is needed. The Clean Air Act could, for example, allow for the use of prescribed fires.

    …Reducing forest density could have the side benefit of increasing run-off by as much as 9 percent, filling streams and rivers for the good of fisheries and for residential, agriculture and industrial use, the PPIC report says.

    The report says the cost of wise forest management might not be astronomical. In time, it might pay for itself, assuming mills are retooled or built to accommodate smaller and mid-size timber. Such mills could provide jobs in parts of the state where unemployment is chronically high.

    …Our re-engineered state of 40 million people faces many problems. The water delivery system is oversubscribed and antiquated. Billions of dollars should be spent to reinforce California against floods.

    But there is cause for optimism. Laird last month announced the Tahoe-Central Sierra Initiative with other top officials, and some significant environmental groups are joining longtime advocates to focus on Sierra restoration. There is some support in Congress for wiser forest management.

    And now comes an infusion of state money, not to be taken for granted, and none too soon.

  3. Plastic fibres found in tap water around the world, study reveals

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    • Tests show billions of people globally are drinking water contaminated by plastic particles, with 83% of samples found to be polluted
    • Almost 300m tonnes of plastic is produced each year and, with just 20% recycled or incinerated, much of it ends up littering the air, land and sea. A report in July found 8.3bn tonnes of plastic has been produced since the 1950s, with the researchers warning that plastic waste has become ubiquitous in the environment.

    by   Sept 5 2017 Guardian UK read full article here

    Microplastic contamination has been found in tap water in countries around the world, leading to calls from scientists for urgent research on the implications for health.

    Scores of tap water samples from more than a dozen nations were analysed by scientists for an investigation by Orb Media, who shared the findings with the Guardian. Overall, 83% of the samples were contaminated with plastic fibres.

    The US had the highest contamination rate, at 94%, with plastic fibres found in tap water sampled at sites including Congress buildings, the US Environmental Protection Agency’s headquarters, and Trump Tower in New York. Lebanon and India had the next highest rates….

    ….The new analyses indicate the ubiquitous extent of microplastic contamination in the global environment. Previous work has been largely focused on plastic pollution in the oceans, which suggests people are eating microplastics via contaminated seafood….

    A magnified image of clothing microfibres from washing machine effluent.
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    A magnified image of clothing microfibres from washing machine effluent. One study found that a fleece jacket can shed as many as 250,000 fibres per wash. Photograph: Courtesy of Rozalia Project

    Microplastics are also known to contain and absorb toxic chemicals and research on wild animals shows they are released in the body…His research has shown microplastics are found in a third of fish caught in the UK…

    …The scale of global microplastic contamination is only starting to become clear, with studies in Germany finding fibres and fragments in all of the 24 beer brands they tested, as well as in honey and sugar. In Paris in 2015, researchers discovered microplastic falling from the air, which they estimated deposits three to 10 tonnes of fibres on the city each year, and that it was also present in the air in people’s homes….

     

     

  4. Dynamic conservation for migratory waterbirds – new publication co-authored by TNC, Cornell, Point Blue

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    Coauthored by scientists from: The Nature Conservancy of California, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Point Blue Conservation Science (Matt Reiter, Sam Veloz, Catherine Hickey and Nathan Elliott) and University of Melbourne.

    Abstract: In an era of unprecedented and rapid global change, dynamic conservation strategies that tailor the delivery of habitat to when and where it is most needed can be critical for the persistence of species, especially those with diverse and dispersed habitat requirements. We demonstrate the effectiveness of such a strategy for migratory waterbirds.

    We analyzed citizen science and satellite data to develop predictive models of bird populations and the availability of wetlands, which we used to determine temporal and spatial gaps in habitat during a vital stage of the annual migration. We then filled those gaps using a reverse auction marketplace to incent qualifying landowners to create temporary wetlands on their properties. This approach is a cost-effective way of adaptively meeting habitat needs for migratory species, optimizes conservation outcomes relative to investment, and can be applied broadly to other conservation challenges.

  5. Urban land transformation and electricity production impact river ecosystems on much larger scale

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    • The results indicate that urban land transformation and electricity production together affect seven percent of U.S. streams, which influence habitats for more than 60 percent of all North American freshwater fish, mussel, and crayfish species.

    August 23, 20 DOE/Oak Ridge National Laboratory  Read full ScienceDaily article here

    New mapping methods can help urban planners minimize the environmental impacts of cities’ water and energy demands on surrounding stream ecologies.

    Using streamflow data from the U.S. Geological Survey, the researchers mapped changes to natural hydrology to assess how infrastructure development and competition over water resources affects the environment at a national scale.

    The results indicate that urban land transformation and electricity production together affect seven percent of U.S. streams, which influence habitats for more than 60 percent of all North American freshwater fish, mussel, and crayfish species.

    …In the five cities, urban land transformations negatively affected more stream length overall than any other factor considered, including electricity production. The introduction of roads, buildings, and other impervious surfaces alters the natural water cycle, displaces water supplies for downstream communities and can threaten the loss of rich and diverse aquatic species.

    …”Both the source and solution to global environmental challenges may lie in the hands of cities. Unfortunately, the changes we discuss are highly transformative, not cheap,” McManamay said. “Our goal here is to give cities a way to look at the big picture, so to speak, and to generate metrics that will help them move toward more environmentally sound policies as they continue to develop.

    Ryan A. McManamay et al. US cities can manage national hydrology and biodiversity using local infrastructure policy. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2017; 201706201 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1706201114

  6. Measuring the Benefits of Regenerative Agriculture- TomKat Ranch and Ag Tech

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    • once the benefits of regenerative ranching can be fully quantified – through soil carbon measurements, forage density, and more [working with Point Blue and others]– it could become a mainstay of both ranching and soil management.
    • Holistic or planned grazing can lead to to increased forage production, soil fertility, resistance to drought, water retention, and sequestration of carbon into the soil..
    • TomKat Ranch is betting that the rise of precision agriculture and big data technologies could help prove the financial viability of regenerative ranching, as well as the environmental benefits/

    August 9 2017 read full article at AgFunder News/Successful Farming

    Regenerative agriculture is a method of farming that aims to restore the fertility of the soil and the overall health of the land it’s conducted on….consistent with sustainable agriculture practices, … limiting the use of synthetic inputs like pesticides and fertilizers and limiting tillage of the soil, which can negatively impact soil health. Often, regenerative agriculture involves livestock.

    This might seem confusing if you’ve read the countless headlines that livestock farming is the biggest culprit of greenhouse gas emissions – according to the FAO it accounts for 18% of emissions – but there is a school of thought that’s gathering momentum and evidence that managing livestock in certain ways not only can reduce the negative impact of livestock farming on the environment but also can actually regenerate the land and have a positive impact….’

    Through what’s called holistic planned grazing, or rotational grazing, ranchers strategically move their cattle around the land so that no one area is too depleted, yet every inch of rangeland is trimmed and fertilized by the cows.

    These methods can lead to increased forage production, soil fertility, resistance to drought, water retention, and the sequestration of carbon from the atmosphere into the soil, among other benefits.

    TomKat Ranch, a proponent of regenerative ranching, is betting that the rise of precision agriculture and big data technologies could help prove the financial viability of regenerative ranching, as well as the environmental benefits. The idea of adding only what is absolutely necessary to an agricultural process is a fundamental principle behind precision farming, and TomKat is working to apply these principles to cattle grazing.

    Kevin Watt, land and livestock manager at TomKat Ranch in California, thinks that once the benefits of regenerative ranching can be fully quantified – through soil carbon measurements, forage density, and more – it could become a mainstay of both ranching and soil management.

    “When you’re doing something that is regenerative, you’re basically saying that your productive asset should not be losing value. Your productive asset should be gaining value, and that appeals to everybody,” Watt told AgFunderNews….We caught up with Watt at the Forbes Agtech Summit in Salinas, California, to find out what kind of technology he’ll need to make his case and what challenges are standing in the way…

    …”We have onsite conservation scientists from Point Blue Conservation Science doing very meticulous technician-driven soil tests, vegetation surveys, and wildlife surveys that we can compare to our very rigorous management records and see what strategies grow us more grass, which ones grow us more beef, which ones keep our streams running longer. For every 1% of soil organic matter change or growth, we get an extra 25,000 gallons of water per acre being stored. That’s a USDA figure so people know about this.

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    We’ve learned that if you can get that feedback from your landscape, whether or not you share a philosophical interest in environmentalism or humane treatment of animals, you start to see that it really makes sense to evolve with your landscape; to see what the ROI is on every one of your management choices. That’s why precision ranching could be so transformative…”

  7. For Birds & People — Water, Carbon, and Education, Point Blue E-News July 28 2017

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    July 2017 Point Blue E-News

    Data-Driven Water Management
    It takes science and partnership to figure out the best way to manage limited supplies of fresh water in California’s Central Valley for humans and wildlife. A recent paper co-authored by Point Blue scientists shows a worrisome mismatch in flooded habitat and shorebird spring migration. This has important implications for how government agencies and NGO partners manage water on refuges and in agricultural fields.

    Coming soon, thanks to further funding from NASA, we’ll be analyzing more satellite data with our newly hired Quantitative Ecologist, Dr. Erin Conlisk. Our goal is to figure out when and where to put water to achieve the greatest benefit for wetland-dependent wildlife while also recharging groundwater and providing recreational opportunities. Stay tuned for results!

    Meadows & Climate Change
    Our science is helping to determine if restored Sierra meadows can store enough carbon to help slow climate change while also benefitting birds and other wildlife. The outcome could help direct more funds from California’s cap-and-trade program toward meadow restoration, and it looks promising! Read this wonderful Audubon article highlighting Point Blue’s collaborative work.

    Climate Science Education: New Tools!
    Today’s young people need climate science knowledge to help build a better future for themselves and the next generations. That’s why we’ve created and disseminated a climate-smart riparian restoration curriculum, which you can find here. We’ve also added a number of our science resources to the Bay Area Climate Literacy and Impact Collaborative database for Bay Area educators here. We invite you to use these resources and share them with others. Together we are educating and inspiring the next wave of climate-smart conservation leaders!

    Thanks for your continued, generous support of Point Blue’s science.

  8. Climate change to deplete water basins used for irrigation in US

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    Posted: 12 Jul 2017 08:04 AM PDT  read full ScienceDaily article here

    Certain hotspots in the country will experience severe reductions in crop yields by 2050, due to climate change’s impact on irrigation, a new study by climate scientists, economists, and agriculture experts finds. The most adversely affected region, according to the researchers, will be the Southwest. Already a water-stressed part of the country, this region is projected to experience reduced precipitation by midcentury. Less rainfall to the area will mean reduced runoff into water basins that feed irrigated fields.

    Production of cotton, the primary irrigated crop in the Southwest and in southern Arizona in particular, will drop to less than 10 percent of the crop yield under optimal irrigation conditions, the study projects. Similarly, maize grown in Utah, now only yielding 40 percent of the optimal expected yield, will decrease to 10 percent with further climate-driven water deficits.

    In the Northwest, water shortages to the Great Basin region will lead to large reductions in irrigated forage, such as hay, grasses, and other crops grown to feed livestock. In contrast, the researchers predict a decrease in water stress for irrigation in the southern Plains, which will lead to greater yields of irrigated sorghum and soybean.

    Elodie Blanc, Justin Caron, Charles Fant, Erwan Monier. Is Current Irrigation Sustainable in the United States? An Integrated Assessment of Climate Change Impact on Water Resources and Irrigated Crop Yields. Earth’s Future, 2017; DOI: 10.1002/2016EF000473

  9. Toilet to tap? Some in drought-prone California say it’s time

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    By Devika G. Bansal Bay Area News Group 

    As drought and water shortages become California’s new normal, more and more of the water that washes down drains and flushes down toilets is being cleaned and recycled for outdoor irrigation. But some public officials, taking cues from countries where water scarcity is a fact of life, want to take it further and make treated wastewater available for much more — even drinking. “This is a potential new source of water for California,” said former Assemblyman Rich Gordon. “We need to find water where we can.”

    ….Water recycling is more the norm in countries like Singapore, Israel, Saudi Arabia and Australia, which have long had water shortages. Israel reclaims about 80 percent of its wastewater, while Singapore reclaims almost 100 percent. The reclaimed water is extensively used to irrigate agricultural lands and recharge aquifers in Israel, while most of Singapore’s water is used for industrial purposes.

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    ….To address the public perception issue, former Assemblyman Gordon was able to pass Assembly Bill 2022 last year. It enables water agencies in the state to distribute bottles of advanced purified recycled water for educational purposes….

  10. .5 C warming boosted extreme weather; impacts well outside bounds of natural variability

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    June 30, 2017  see full article at phys.org here

    Half a degree Celsius [.5C] of global warming has been enough to increase heat waves and heavy rains in many regions of the planet, researchers reported Friday. Comparing two 20-year periods—1960-79 and 1991-2010—between which average jumped 0.5 C (0.9 F), scientists found that several kinds of extreme weather gained in duration and intensity.

    The hottest summer temperatures increased by more than 1 C (1.8 F) across a quarter of Earth’s , while the coldest winter temperatures warmed by more then 2.5 C (4.5 F). The intensity of extreme precipitation grew nearly 10 percent across a quarter of all land masses, and the duration of hot spells—which can fuel devastating forest fires—lengthened by a week in half of land areas.

    These changes were well outside the bounds of natural variability, according to the study, published in the journal Nature Climate Change….

    ….”With the warming the world has already experienced, we can see very clearly that a difference of 0.5 C really does matter,” said co-author Erich Fischer, a scientist at ETH Zurich in Switzerland. Earlier research based on computer models, also led by Schleussner, concluded that 2 C of would—compared to 1.5 C—double the severity of crop failures, water shortages and heatwaves in many regions of the world. It also found that holding the rise in temperature to 1.5 C would give coral reefs—the cornerstone of ecosystems that sustain half-a-billion people and a quarter of marine wildlife—a fighting chance of adapting to warmer and more acidic seas….

    Carl-Friedrich Schleussner et al. In the observational record half a degree matters, Nature Climate Change (2017). DOI: 10.1038/nclimate3320