Surface water diversions in California’s Central Valley can be estimated based on readily available climate data, say researchers—a boon to efforts to track groundwater use.

Surface water diversions in California’s Central Valley can be estimated based on readily available climate data, say researchers—a boon to efforts to track groundwater use.

Valley groundwater pumping is calculated as the total water demand minus surface water deliveries. However, today’s water model relies on individually reported diversions across the entire valley, and compiling all these data is a slow process; by the time the numbers are crunched, assessments of groundwater use are already outdated. “It can take years,” says Jordan Goodrich of University of Waikato in New Zealand. “It’s one of the biggest problems we face in tracking the Central Valley water budget.” Overdrafting...
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Beaver dams may offer wildfire protection to western watersheds, in addition to providing better-known benefits such as groundwater recharge, wetland and habitat creation, and riparian restoration.

A new study by California State University Channel Islands professor Emily Fairfax analyzed satellite-derived vegetation indices of riparian areas and beaver dams mapped via Google Earth. At the same time, Fairfax analyzed data for large (over 30,000 acre) wildfires that had occurred between 2000 and 2018 in California, Wyoming, Colorado, Idaho, and Oregon, and compared the fate of beaver-dammed areas to areas without dams. Fairfax found that riparian corridors within 100 meters of beaver ponds were buffered from wildfires. “In...
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Smack in the middle of the unprecedented disruption of normal life brought on by the Covid-19 crisis comes a new report detailing the challenges sea level rise might bring to the Bay region without proactive planning.

 Released on March 26, Adapting to Rising Tides: Bay Area compares the effects of rising waters on communities, natural lands and critical regional systems. “Shoreline flooding from sea level rise and storm events will impact everyone in the Bay Area because the transportation systems we rely on, schools, childcare, and hospitals we depend on, jobs at which we work, and beautiful natural areas we love are at risk, and interconnected across the Bay,” says Dana Brechwald of the Bay Conservation and...
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A resurgence of dinoflagellates, which can cause harmful algal blooms, may be in the cards for some bays along the U.S. West Coast.

A resurgence of dinoflagellates, which can cause harmful algal blooms, may be in the cards for some bays along the U.S. West Coast. Scientists at UC Santa Cruz have been monitoring phytoplankton weekly at the town’s Municipal Wharf since 2002. In 2018, Alexis Fischer, then a postdoctoral fellow at UC Santa Cruz, augmented these observations with an Imaging FlowCytobot (IFCB) that photographed wharf phytoplankton hourly. She also developed a machine learning classification algorithm to automate identification of the organisms. In...
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The parallels between the Covid-19 pandemic and climate change—threat, shelter, sacrifice, inequity, resource limits, and inaction despite strong science—are striking, and that may be good news.

“We’re seeing profound changes in habits and behaviors, the mobilizing of massive resources and a level of global coordination that we haven’t seen before,” said Otto Scharmer, a social change advocate and lecturer at Massachusetts Institute of Technology in a recent radio interview for PRI’s The World. “This is highly relevant to climate action.” Since nobody is going anywhere, carbon emissions from transportation are down worldwide, giving us a very real glimpse of a greener feature. Some world leaders, meanwhile,...
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Good Policy, More Tests for Living Shores

By Ariel Rubissow Okamoto While more sea walls may soon be necessary to adapt to rising seas, softer, greener, nature-based shorelines will also be important buffers for our cities and waterfronts. Wetlands, oyster reefs, eelgrass beds, and other natural features of shores and shallows figure largely in a number of ambitious, multi-partner restoration projects over the last decade. To date, more than 10 such projects have been or are being restored around the Bay, encompassing more than 200 acres of...
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Speakers discuss forward-looking science in a rapidly changing environment, and the neuroscience of persuading people to care about climate change.

Climate Change Planning Mark Gold made the ultimate comment in his opening plenary at the State of the Estuary Conference: “The age of incrementalism, and not moving forward in a bold way, is not getting it done in terms of climate change.” Gold, deputy secretary for ocean and coastal policy for the California Natural Resources Agency, outlined the state’s newly revised strategic plan for a bluer economy, coastal resilience, and rapid response to fisheries emergencies. Following his talk, Geeta Persad...
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Flows and Ecosystem Function Dominate Delta Plan Amendment

With the Delta lagging behind the Bay on four of the State of the Estuary Report’s five indicators, the last long-range plan for restoring its ecological health abandoned, and the threats from climate change becoming ever more alarming, the need for a new regulatory vision for the region may never have been greater. A pending amendment to the Delta Plan, shared by Ron Melcer at the State of the Estuary Conference as part of a policy update session, is meant...
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Big Picture Review of Regional Science and Governance

Offshore, kelp forests were dwindling. Outside, hillsides were burning. Inside the Scottish Rite Center in Oakland, scientists and policy people were sharing the latest findings concerning the vital shallows in between: the San Francisco Estuary. The patient pursuit of knowledge, essential to smart action in a changing world, had chalked up a fruitful two years. Of the action itself, there was rather less sign. Felicia Marcus might speak to that better than anyone. As chair of the State Water Resources...
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A small but mighty wetlands project on the San Rafael waterfront is moving forward thanks to a $1 million planning and design grant from the San Francisco Bay Restoration Authority.

Restoration of the heavily eroded 20-acre Tiscornia Marsh at the mouth of the San Rafael Canal will use dredged sediment to create new habitat for the endangered Ridgeway’s rail and salt marsh harvest mouse, migratory shorebirds, and other marsh species. Meanwhile, improvement of an adjacent levee will enhance public access along a levee-top section of the Bay Trail and, perhaps most critically, provide flood protection for the nearby Canal District, a dense, low-income community that’s home to many Latino immigrants...
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Sea level rise combined with future coastal storms will be costlier and more destructive to California than earthquakes or wildfires.

A new study by United States Geological Survey researchers examines how future coastal storms and waves will affect California’s shoreline via erosion and flooding in conjunction with sea-level rise. And it puts numbers on the cost and people affected by California’s future storms and waves: about $150 billion in property and 600,000 people by 2100. “Bay Area communities account for two-thirds of the projected impacts across the state over the next century,” explains lead author Patrick Barnard. “Many communities, such...
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Bay-Delta Leaders Comment on Climate

Edited by Cariad Hayes Thronson These magazine pages share the opinions of various new leaders in the Estuary management world about climate change. “The biggest challenge is that it is difficult for people, including decision-makers, to plan for uncertain, long-range challenges. We know that in order to make the greatest impact we need to start now,” says BCDC’s Dana Brechwald. Climate change is forcing some regulatory agencies, including the State Water Resources Control Board and BCDC, to fundamentally shift the...
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A Tricky Ballet

By Michael Hunter Adamson Malea G., a fourth grader in Mr. Moore’s class at Bayview’s Malcolm X Academy Elementary School, shows me her Tower of Power. It’s a wooden, trapezoidal structure roughly two feet high and decorated with stickers naming personal qualities she’s proud of. I ask her which of these she might turn to when dealing with climate change. “Leadership,” Malea answers after a brief pause. “If there was a flood, someone would need to take charge.” Working in...
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Super-Shore: A Multi-Habitat Experiment at Giant Marsh

Interview anyone of any stripe about the Giant Marsh living shorelines project and the same two words will be in every other sentence: high tide. Each construction step of this California Coastal Conservancy-led effort to build new native oyster reefs interspersed with eelgrass off the Contra Costa County shore must consider the timing of tides. High enough to float a barge or Boston whaler into the shallows, do a day’s work, and get back out again on the next cycle....
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Sandra Scoggin has the qualities the San Francisco Bay Joint Venture needs in a leader at what she calls a ‘pivot point’ for the partnership.

In the early days, when the wetland protection and restoration landscape was less complex, the JV “could be everywhere and do everything.” Now it needs to be more strategic. “I’m a listener, a synthesizer, and I’m pretty good at herding diverse interests toward shared goals,” says Scoggin, who is taking over the 20-year-old wildlife habitat venture after 16 years in second seat. “The JV is built on deep and lasting relationships,” she says, both awe and pride in her voice....
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Dana Brechwald is trying to bring rising sea levels to the forefront of the conversation for Bay Area communities and their affiliated agencies.

Joining the Bay Conservation and Development Commission as Program Manager for the Adapting to Rising Tides ( ART) program last November, Brechwald oversees multiple projects assessing coastal areas that are vulnerable to sea level rise. “We’re working at every scale, from the federal level down to community members who will be affected by climate adaptation,” she explains. Brechwald and her team cover the gamut of a community’s assets — from transportation systems to areas set aside for more development or...
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Dave Halsing is in a race against sea level rise to restore the South Bay salt ponds.

 “The existential challenge is doing marsh restoration fast enough to get it into place and established before sea level rise really starts to kick in,” says Halsing, the new Executive Project Director for the massive, 15,000-acre South Bay Salt Pond Restoration Project. The thoughtful and reflective restoration manager is seizing the reins from previous director John Bourgeois to lead the 50-year, $1 billion effort that is the largest wetland restoration project on the West Coast. “I had to take a...
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Manuel Oliva’s career has been focused on climate change and conservation since his days as an engineering graduate student at the University of Maryland.

“I’ve done the entire spectrum, from the federal to the state to the NGO perspective,” says the incoming CEO of Point Blue, the Petaluma-based nonprofit focused on environmental conservation and research. “This gives me a really good overview on how to best support our work as an organization.” Most recently Oliva was an acting director of the Development Resources and Disaster Assistance Division at the USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service. His work there focused on climate-smart agriculture projects, such as working...
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Widening Gyre of Ocean Challenges

By Alastair Bland Last year, researches working with SF State’s Estuary and Ocean Science Center installed an array of instruments to track underwater parameters. John Largier, a UC Davis professor of oceanography, says he expects clear trends and patterns indicative of warming and acidifying waters to become apparent in the data in about a decade. With nations making painfully slow progress in reducing their emissions of greenhouse gases, Largier thinks local efforts to boost the resiliency of the Bay ecosystem...
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SOS for Finicky Native

By Lisa Owens Viani In 2016, restoration managers with The Nature Conservancy discovered that western sycamores planted along the Sacramento River had hybridized with the non-native London plane tree. The native sycamore is “kind of a messy tree,” says project manager Ryan Luster. “The branches break off and create cavities that wildlife love to use.” Concerns about the tree’s status first arose in the 1990s when the California Department of Fish and Wildlife found only 17 sycamore stands larger than...
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