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Conservation Science for a Healthy Planet

Tag Archive: water

  1. Satellites reveal bird habitat loss in California- Point Blue joint publication

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    New publication co-authored by Point Blue scientists

    Posted: 27 Mar 2017 01:49 PM PDT See full ScienceDaily article here

    Reduced seasonal flooding of wetlands and farm fields in California’s Sacramento Valley threatens a key stopover site for migratory shorebirds, a new study shows. Landsat satellite images reveal that flooded habitat is most limited during peak spring migration when the birds urgently need resting and feeding sites. Near the peak of migration, an area of seasonally flooded land twice the size of Washington, D.C. has been lost since 1983….

    The researchers’ analysis of historical biweekly NASA Landsat satellite images of the valley reveals that flooded habitat near the peak time of spring migration has shrunk by more than twice the size of Washington, D.C. over the last 30 years.

    “On average, we’re losing an area about four times the size of Central Park each year, during a critical window of time in late March,” said Danica Schaffer-Smith, a doctoral student at Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment, who conducted the study with researchers from the nonprofit Point Blue Conservation Science.

    More than half of all shorebird species in the Western hemisphere are now in decline, Schaffer-Smith noted….

    …During the worst of the recent drought years, conservation organizations [The Nature Conservancy, Point Blue Conservation Science, CA Rice Commission, Cornell Lab of Ornithology and others] joined forces to launch BirdReturns, a payment-for-services program that compensated farmers for flooding their fields to provide additional habitat for birds, Schaffer-Smith said. The new study’s findings could help guide the future timing and location of such initiatives.

    “Years of drought have heightened scrutiny of water use in California to the point that even rice farmers have begun to explore a switch to drip irrigation to conserve water, but these fields provide important habitat where wetlands have been lost,” she said. Schaffer-Smith and her colleagues published their peer-reviewed paper this month in the journal Remote Sensing of Environment. The study is freely available online through May 3, 2017.

    “Satellite imagery can help us get the biggest bang for our buck by targeting conservation initiatives in a specific window of time at key locations,” she said. “Landsat is the longest running Earth observation satellite system we have, and free access to this data enables researchers to look at the effects of seasonality, climate cycles, and long-term trends in land-use change.”

    Danica Schaffer-Smith, Jennifer J. Swenson, Blake Barbaree, Matthew E. Reiter. Three decades of Landsat-derived spring surface water dynamics in an agricultural wetland mosaic; Implications for migratory shorebirds. Remote Sensing of Environment, 2017; 193: 180 DOI: 10.1016/j.rse.2017.02.016

    Note: Dr. Matt Reiter is a Point Blue Quantitative Ecologist and Blake Barbaree is a Point Blue Avian Habitat Ecologist. Danica is supported by a PhD fellowship from NASA that Dr. Matt Reiter helped her with in early 2013.

  2. Climate-Smart Land Trusts: Accelerating Nature-Based Solutions to Secure our Future

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    The California Council of Land Trusts hosted the 2017 California Land Conservation Conference from March 7-9, 2017 at UC Davis.

    Ellie Cohen, Point Blue President and CEO was a keynote speaker.  A pdf of Ellie’s presentation can be found here: Accelerating Nature-Based Solutions- Climate-Smart Land Trusts CCLT Keynote March 7 2017

    You can see a pdf of the full program here.

  3. 2016: A Good Year for State’s Trailblazing Climate & Agriculture Programs

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    reprinted from CalCAN  Jan 16 2017

    progress in 2016… highlights:


  4. Cartoons

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     : California cartoons : Meyer Cartoons


     : California cartoons : Meyer Cartoons


     : California cartoons : Meyer Cartoons


  5. What does the new federal water bill mean for California? For one, a big win for farmers

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    December 12, 2016 5:48 PM Sacramento Bee

    Read full article here

    …Upending a fragile, decades-long balance between human needs and the environment, Congress passed a wide-ranging water bill last weekend that is likely to result in greater pumping of Northern California water to farms and cities in the San Joaquin Valley and Southern California. The bill, co-authored by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., passed with bipartisan support in both houses of Congress, despite furious opposition from Feinstein’s longtime Senate ally, fellow Democrat Barbara Boxer….

    If Obama signs the bill, which is no sure thing, it could put the federal government on a collision course with California regulators. The state has strong laws in place to protect endangered species and Delta water quality. The State Water Resources Control Board, which has broad authority over the allocation of water coursing through the Delta, already has begun updating its standards for water quality and restricting the amount of river flows that can get pumped south….

    …A White House spokesman said last week that Obama has concerns about the language regarding Delta pumping and some other sections in the bill. But the bill also has popular provisions – such as $170 million to address the crippled drinking-water system in Flint, Mich. – that would be sacrificed if Obama issues a veto.

    Along with the pumping provisions, the bill would funnel money into an array of California water projects. Among them: $415 million for watershed restoration and other environmental aid for Lake Tahoe; up to $335 million for two proposed reservoirs in California, including the Sites reservoir north of Sacramento; $880 million for flood-control projects on the American and Sacramento rivers in Sacramento; and $780 million for flood-control projects in West Sacramento….

  6. Wildfire management vs. fire suppression benefits forest and watershed

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    Long-term experiment in Yosemite shows managing fires can help make forest more resilient to fire

    October 24, 2016  UC Berkeley ScienceDaily

    An unprecedented 40-year experiment in a 40,000-acre valley of Yosemite National Park strongly supports the idea that managing fire, rather than suppressing it, makes wilderness areas more resilient to fire, with the added benefit of increased water availability and resistance to drought….

    …”When fire is not suppressed, you get all these benefits: increased stream flow, increased downstream water availability, increased soil moisture, which improves habitat for the plants within the watershed. And it increases the drought resistance of the remaining trees and also increases the fire resilience because you have created these natural firebreaks,” said Gabrielle Boisramé, a graduate student in UC Berkeley’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and first author of the study….

    …”We know that forests are deep-rooted and that they have a large leaf area, which means they are both thirsty and able to get to water resources,” Thompson said. “So if fire removes 20 percent of that demand from the landscape, that frees up some of the water to do different things, from recharging groundwater resources to supporting different kinds of vegetation, and it could start to move into the surface water supplies as stream flow.”…

    Gabrielle Boisramé, Sally Thompson, Brandon Collins, Scott Stephens. Managed Wildfire Effects on Forest Resilience and Water in the Sierra Nevada. Ecosystems, 2016; DOI: 10.1007/s10021-016-0048-1