Thursday, March 19, 2015

Invasive species use landmarking to find love in a hopeless place

Source: EcoWatch
Tiny populations of invasive species such as Asian carp start their domination of new ecosystems by hanging out at local landmarks, according to a new study published in the journal Theoretical Ecology this week.

Understanding how species use these local hotspots can play a key role in how officials approach population control for conserving endangered species and controlling invasive ones.

"We recently found that only ten Asian carp are needed to establish a population in the Great Lakes," said Kim Cuddington, an ecology professor from the University of Waterloo. "But then we asked, if there are so few individuals initially, how do they find a mate and create an ecological disaster?"
Read more from article source at Science Blog

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

CyanoTRACKER Study Blooms In Georgia Lakes

Cyanobacteria bloom. Copyright Michael R. Martin
Scientists at the University of Georgia have launched a new lake monitoring effort called CyanoTRACKER, according to a release from the school. The work is funded by the National Science Foundation and will rely on crowdsourced data to spot lakes in Georgia at risk from harmful algal blooms.
Much of the data collection will rely on social media sites like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram that citizen scientists in the state can use to help identify blooms. Those online venues will complement current remote sensing efforts of cyanobacteria outbreaks in Georgia, as well as take advantage of cloud computing and modeling software to automate data processing and collection.
"The idea is to use citizen participation to capture the initiation of these harmful algal blooms, which can be very dangerous to humans and cattle and even pets," said Deepak Mishra, associate professor of geography, in a statement. "The cyano bloom that affected communities around Lake Erie could happen here, so rapid continuous monitoring using community-driven, crowdsourcing, social network-triggered data capture is the idea. You can think of it as a neighborhood watch system for Georgia waters."
Read the rest of the article here.
Source: Lake Scientist

Rising Temperatures To Disrupt Oneida Lake’s Ecosystem

If temperatures continue to rise in New York’s Oneida Lake, it’s likely bye bye to the burbot fish there, according to a release from Cornell University. In addition to the local extinction of the cold water fish species, the shallow lake will become more vulnerable to algal blooms and lower oxygen levels, researchers say.

The predictions are being made following a study by scientists at Cornell who modeled the lake’s future using data on stream temperature and discharge, weather and lake temperature at varying depths. They modeled impacts of rising greenhouse gas emissions on the lake and took climatic snapshots of the years between 2041 to 2050 and 2090 to 2099.
For the year 2050, scientists predict that Oneida Lake’s temperatures will increase from April through November each year by about 2.5 degrees Fahrenheit. This increase has already been apparent in 2011 simulations and the differences are much starker for the end of the century. In 2099, lake temperatures at 2 meters deep are projected to increase by 3.70 degrees Celsius. At 10 meters deep, they are estimated to yield a rise of 3.37 degrees Celsius.
Researchers also expect that temperature differences between the lake’s layers will become greater and last longer than they have in the past.
"Increased stratification and water temperatures are likely to cause more eutrophic conditions in the future, including more cyanobacteria blooms," said Amy Lee Hetherington, a doctoral student in natural resources at Cornell and the study’s lead author, in a statement.
More blooms coincide with lower oxygen levels in Oneida Lake’s bottom layers that will have effects on species abundance and diversity. Cold water fish species, like the burbot, will suffer, as will creatures accustomed to living with the bottom-level oxygen levels of today.
Read the rest of this article in Lake Scientist and the original report in Ecological Modelling.
Source: Lake Scientist

Monday, March 16, 2015

Pollution Biggest Driver Of Nuisance Algal Blooms In European, North American Lakes

Cyanobacteria bloom, Mohegan Lake, NY. Copyright Michael R. Martin
Scientists at the University of Nottingham and McGill University have found that pollution is the biggest driver for nuisance algal blooms in European and North American lakes, according to a release from U. Nottingham. They analyzed blue-green algae concentrations in more than 100 lowland and alpine lakes to make the find.

The study is published in the journal Ecology Letters and its findings not only point to pollution as the central cause for a rise in blue-green algal blooms but also delve into the complications that climate change can bring about.

"We found that cyanobacterial populations have expanded really strongly in many lakes since the advent of industrial fertilizers and rapid urban growth," said Zofia Taranu, a doctoral student in the department of biology at McGill, in Laboratory Equipment. "While we already knew that cyanobacteria prefer warm and nutrient-rich conditions, our study is also the first to show that the effect of nutrients, such as phosphorus and nitrogen, overwhelm those of global warming."

"Our work shows that we need to work harder as a society to reduce nutrient discharges to surface waters," said Irene Gregory-Eaves, associate professor of biology at Mcgill and study co-author, to Laboratory Equipment. "Because diffuse nutrient loading is the main issue, we need to build collaborations to tackle this complex problem. For example, partnerships among freshwater scientists and farmers are starting to happen, and more of this needs to take place, so that we can strike a balance between maximizing crop yields and minimizing excess fertilizer applications."

Read the complete story here
Source: Lake Scientist

Restoring Threatened Mussels To Freshwater Could Cut E. Coli Contamination

Man-made filtration systems often do a great job of protecting human health, but natural filtration systems can be equally if not more impressive than the ones people devise. Anodonta californiensis, a threatened mussel species, has shown its value as a filtration system that removes E. coli bacteria as water flows through it, according to Chemical and Engineering News.
Reintroducing a threatened freshwater mussel species to streams and estuaries could help remove harmful bacteria from the water, according to a new laboratory study (Environ Sci. Technol. 2015, DOI: 10.1021/es5033212).
The findings suggest that increasing mussel numbers could improve not only ecosystems, but also human health, says David C. Love, an environmental health scientist at Johns Hopkins University. The data are "yet another reason to want more shellfish restoration in our local streams, rivers, and estuaries," says Love, who wasn’t involved in the study.
Unfortunately, numbers of many bivalve species are dwindling across the U.S. because of habitat destruction, threats from invasive species, and pollution. One species in trouble is Anodonta californiensis, a native of the western U.S. These mussels are among the species that government officials are returning to Mountain Lake in San Francisco as part of a lake restoration project at the former Presidio military base.
Laboratory tests of the mussel’s ability to remove E. coli from water showed that it outperformed an EPA-approved filter at trapping E. coli. The mussel removed 90 percent of the bacteria from water pumped into aquariums, compared with no change in E. coli levels for aquariums using only the filters. The E. coli level in water is a significant monitoring parameter because it is a common indicator of the level of fecal contamination in the water.
Sources: Environmental Monitor & Chemical and Engineering News

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Lake Tahoe more vulnerable to quagga mussel invasion than previously thought

Experts had long hoped that low-calcium waters could shield Lake Tahoe from the invasive quagga mussel, but it appears they won’t make much difference, according to the Reno Gazette-Journal. Scientists at the University of Nevada, Reno dispelled that hope by discovering that the mussels could thrive in the lake.
The prime spots for quagga mussels to move in are the ones where other aquatic invasives are already present, say scientists at the university. In these areas, the mussels could easily live and reproduce.
Read the article in Environmental Monitor and complete story in Reno Gazette-Journal
Source: Daniel Kelly, Environmental Monitor

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Webcast on March 18 - Watershed Approach Handbook

EPA has announced a webcast on March 18 from 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. Eastern on a recently released handbook funded by the EPA called "Watershed Approach Handbook: Improving Benefits Associated with Wetland and Stream Restoration and Protection Projects." The webcast will give listeners a broad overview of the handbook, which was developed to advance the use of a "watershed approach" in the selection, design, and siting of wetland and stream restoration and protection projects, including projects required by compensatory mitigation. The handbook provides a framework for how to carry out the watershed approach, defines a range of different approaches, and offers examples of how these approaches have been applied across the country. The webcast will also feature a case study from Wisconsin. Download the Handbook here. Visit EPA's Watershed Academy here. Register for the Webcast here.
Source: Water Headlines

Tuesday, March 10, 2015


For Immediate Release: 3/10/2015
State of New York | Executive Chamber
Eurasian milfoil, Mountainview Lake. Copyright Michael R. Martin
53 Conservation Groups, Owners Associations, Local and State Governments Sign Agreement to Preserve Clean Water, Increase Recreation Opportunities and Promote Tourism
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced an unprecedented agreement among 53 New York State agencies, municipal governments, property owners, lake associations, conservation groups, sporting groups and businesses to prevent the introduction and spread of aquatic invasive species in the Adirondack region. The agreement will help preserve clean water, increase recreation opportunities and promote tourism in Upstate New York.

"In addition to being one of our State’s greatest natural treasures, the Adirondacks are a major economic asset for communities across Upstate New York, and today we are taking an important stand to protect the region from the threat of aquatic invasive species," Governor Cuomo said. "Preventing the spread of these invasive species is crucial to safeguarding the Adirondack waters both today and for the future, and that will ensure that visitors can continue to experience the Park’s natural beauty. Working alongside our dozens of partners, we will help protect the region for years to come."

A recent study by the Adirondack Park Invasive Plant Program found that if invasive species are allowed to spread, they could cost the Adirondack economy up to $900 million. This includes annual losses in visitor spending, and agriculture and primary forest production value as well as losses in property value that will affect the tax base and borrowing ability for property owners on an ongoing basis.
To prevent this, the 53 parties pledge to work together to develop a new region-wide aquatic invasive species prevention pilot program to proactively prevent the introduction and spread of aquatic invasive species in Adirondack waters. The program will include stewardship, data collection, education, boat inspections and when necessary, decontamination of boats and trailers. Additional entities can sign onto the agreement going forward.
In his 2015 Opportunity Agenda, Governor Cuomo announced the Protected Landscapes and Thriving Communities initiative to foster the Adirondack’s tourism economy, conserve the Forest Preserve and help communities thrive. A core component of this initiative is preventing the spread of invasive species. To support this effort, the Governor proposed a $1 million increase to the Environmental Protection Fund in the next fiscal year to fight the spread of invasive species.
The agreement announced today supports the Clean, Drain and Dry standard for all boats entering and exiting the region and its waters. Under the agreement, a regional boat and trailer inspection and decontamination program is planned for 2015 that will build upon the successful efforts undertaken on Lake George and other lakes in the region.

Isolated wetlands impact water quality despite fewer protections

Copyright Michael R. Martin
Researchers at Indiana University say wetlands in isolated areas play big roles in providing clean water and other environmental benefits, according to a release from the school. This is in spite of the fewer regulatory protections for isolated wetlands to other similar wetlands.

"Geographically isolated wetlands provide important benefits such as sediment and carbon retention, nutrient transformation and water-quality improvement, all of which are critical for maintaining water quality," said John Marton, assistant scientist at IU Bloomington’s School of Public and Environmental Affairs. Continued losses of the isolated wetlands could cause serious harm to North American waters.

Read the complete story at Environmental Monitor

Sunday, March 08, 2015

Small predator diversity is an important part of a healthy ecosystem

Halloween darter - copyright Michael R. Martin
Biodiversity, including small predators such as dragonflies and other aquatic bugs that attack and consume parasites, may improve the health of amphibians, according to a team of researchers. Amphibians have experienced marked declines in the wild around the world in recent decades, the team added.

Read more at Science Blog

Largest dam removal in U.S. history results in restored habitat, massive sediment release

The habitat impacts of removing a dam are often as great as installing one — though not always in ways that are easy to predict. When the largest dam removal in U.S. history wrapped up at Washington’s Elwha River in 2014, it raised questions about the short- and long-term effects of such a huge undertaking.

Now, a series of studies by the U.S. Geological Survey, Reclamation, Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe, University of Washington and various state and federal agencies are providing answers and insight into the effects of dam removal. The five papers appear in the peer-reviewed journal Geomorphology.
Source: Envirnmental Monitor. Read the Complete Article here.

Saturday, March 07, 2015

Methylmercury Found in 25 Percent of U.S. Waters Tested

A 2014 U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) report, Mercury in the Nation’s Streams - Levels, Trends and Implications, presents a comprehensive assessment of mercury contamination in streams across the United States. It highlights the importance of environmental processes, monitoring, and control strategies for understanding and reducing stream mercury levels. The report summarizes selected stream studies conducted by the USGS since the late 1990s, while also drawing on scientific literature and datasets from other sources.
Copyright Michael R. Martin

Previous national mercury assessments by other agencies have focused largely on lakes. Although numerous studies of mercury in streams have been conducted at local and regional scales, recent USGS studies provide the most comprehensive assessment of streams across the United States and yield insights about the importance of watershed characteristics relative to mercury inputs. The report also summarizes information from other environments (e.g., lakes, wetlands, soil, atmosphere, glacial ice) to help readers understand how mercury varies in space and time.

Methylmercury is a toxic organic compound that bioaccumulates in the food web. The highest concentrations can be found in predator fish such as bass, mackerel, northern pike, shark, swordfish and tuna, and potentially in humans who consume large quantities of affected predator f ish. Methylmercury is created by combining inorganic mercury (released into the atmosphere by certain industrial activities) with natural processes and sources, particularly where mercury enters aquatic ecosystems and becomes methylated by anaerobic organisms in low-oxygen environments, such as wetlands.

Mercury contamination in fish is the primary reason for issuing fish consumption advisories; these exist in every state. Much of the mercury originates from combustion of coal and can travel long distances in the atmosphere before being deposited. This can result in mercury-contaminated fish in areas with no obvious source of mercury pollution.

Read the Complete Article in Nonpoint Source News Notes

Many Sampled Streams Exceed Aquatic Life Benchmarks for Pesticides

Although pesticide levels seldom exceeded human health benchmarks, pesticides continue to be a concern for aquatic life in many U.S. rivers and streams in agricultural and urban areas, according to a new U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) study published last September. The 2014 study analyzed data collected over two decades (1992–2011). More than a half billion pounds of pesticides are used annually in the U.S. to increase crop production and reduce insect-borne disease.

USGS collected water samples nationwide from 182 streams and rivers during 19922001 and from 125 streams and rivers during 2002–2011. USGS collected the samples throughout the year, including during both high-flow and low-flow conditions. Sampling was most intensive during the time of highest pesticide use and runoff— generally weekly or twice monthly for a 4- to 9-month period.
Copyright Michael R. Martin

The level of pesticides in water is largely influenced by the surrounding land uses. Water analyses showed that the proportion of streams with one or more pesticides exceeding an aquatic life benchmark was similar between the two decades for streams and rivers draining agricultural and mixed-land use areas, but much greater during the 2002–2011 period for streams draining urban areas. Exceedances in urban streams increased from 53 percent during the first decade of monitoring to 90 percent during the second decade, largely as a result of the greater presence of fipronil and dichlorvos.

Read Complete Story in Nonpoint Source News Notes