Climate change, runoff and love-struck lampreys

Every week, the Freshwater Society posts a digest of regional, national and international news articles and research reports on water and the environment. Go to the Freshwater web site to read the latest digest, or click on the links below to read the original articles.

Climate change alters conservation strategies
At the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, sea-level rise threatens to drown the brackish marsh on which migrating shorebirds depend. In Northern California, the shrinking snowpack has reduced stream flows that sustain the delta smelt, a federally threatened fish species. Higher summer temperatures in northern Minnesota have depressed the birthrates of the area’s once-populous moose, and just 20 inhabit the Agassiz National Wildlife Refuge that was designed in part to shelter them.

As climate change begins to transform the environment in the United States and overseas, policymakers and environmentalists are realizing that the old paradigm of setting aside tracts of land or sea to preserve species that might otherwise disappear is no longer sufficient.
–The Washington Post

EPA to begin endocrine-disruptor screening
The success of one of the most ambitious and contested federal science programs in years may rest on the delicate shoulders of a one-pound albino breed of rat known as Sprague Dawley. In a hotly debated move, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has selected this unassuming rodent as the primary test animal for a vastly complex and comprehensive new chemical-evaluation program. The effort is designed to investigate many of the most vexing public-health questions of the day: Are you putting yourself, your children, or even your children’s children at risk when you microwave food in plastic containers? What is contributing to hormone-related killers like breast, uterine, and testicular cancer? And are common garden sprays—like the one you use to keep the aphids off your hybrid tea rose—affecting your unborn baby’s developing brain?

The EPA initiative, called the Endocrine Disruptor Screening Program, is set to begin testing some of the 87,000 chemicals identified by a federal advisory panel for their potential to interfere with the body’s endocrine, or hormone, system.
–Discover Magazine

DNR to host Rochester forum on ag practices
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources will host a public forum on agricultural practices in shoreland areas from noon to 5 p.m., Wednesday, Feb. 4, at the Mayo Civic Center’s Riverview Room in Rochester.

Aimed at soliciting input from farmers and producers as well as agency officials and local government staff, the forum is part of the DNR’s effort to update shoreland management standards for the state’s lakes and rivers.
–Minnesota DNR news release

Runoff benefits some marine life, study shows
In many coastal regions, runoff from farms and sewers has caused widespread deaths of marine life. But fisheries off Egypt’s Mediterranean coast appear to be thriving from a similar nutrient-laden brew, scientists reported.
–The New York Times

Judge narrows pollution suit against 3M
The pollution case against 3M Co. keeps getting smaller.

A Washington County judge has thrown out several more pieces of the case, in which a group of residents claim traces of chemicals made by 3M hurt them.

District Judge Mary Hannon decided the chemicals did not cause physical injury or even emotional distress.
–St. Paul Pioneer Press

EPA plans cap on nutrients in Florida waters
Saying Florida’s rivers and lakes are threatened by its growth, the federal government plans to set new limits on nitrogen and phosphorous allowed in waterways.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency rules will cap the kind of water pollution that led state and Northeast Florida officials to approve a $600 million plan to help the St. Johns River last year.
–The Jacksonville Times-Union

California city considers reusing wastewater
Escondido is considering reclaiming wastewater for use as drinking water to augment its water supply.
In addition, the inland city stands to save hundreds of millions of dollars by avoiding upgrades to its sewage treatment plant and an ocean outfall pipe if the plan succeeds.
–San Diego Union-Tribune

Rate of extinctions overstated, research shows
A RARE piece of good news from the world of conservation: the global extinction crisis may have been overstated. The world is unlikely to lose 100 species a day, or half of all species in the lifetime of people now alive, as some have claimed. The bad news, though, is that the lucky survivors are tiny tropical insects that few people care about. The species that are being lost rapidly are the large vertebrates that conservationists were worried about in the first place.
–The Economist

Stimulus money sought for nuclear clean-up
Miles of tainted groundwater. Dozens of burial sites, silently brimming with dangerous radioactive waste. Weapons-grade plutonium still to be shipped off the nation’s most contaminated nuclear site.

The Hanford Nuclear Reservation in southeast Washington presents no shortage of work toward cleaning up the site, work that is expected to continue for decades, but managers say they will miss 23 deadlines this year because budgeted funds were insufficient.
–The Associated Press

Synthetic pheromone tricks sea lampreys
A synthetic chemical version of what male sea lampreys use to attract spawning females can lure them into traps and foil the mating process of the destructive invasive species, according to Michigan State University scientists.

Pheromones, chemical scents used to attract a mate, are well-documented in the insect world. Weiming Li, MSU professor of fisheries and wildlife, has focused much of his career on the well-developed sense of smell of the sea lamprey. In 2002, after four years of painstaking research, Li and his team published results detailing their isolation and identification of the chemical that male lampreys use to attract females.
–Michigan State University news release

States, EPA seek E. coli in Ohio River
Six states bordering the Ohio River are joining the Environmental Protection Agency in the largest study of its kind to identify and reduce dangerous levels of bacteria that plague the waterway.

Unsafe levels of fecal coliform, or E. coli, have been identified in about 500 miles of the 981-mile river, which stretches from Pittsburgh to the Mississippi River at Cairo, Ill.
–The New York Times

Ballast water drives spread of invasives
Crisscrossing the seas on global trade routes, cargo ships suck up billions of tons of water to provide a steadying weight, and then dump that water back into the ocean when it’s time to take on new cargo. Each year, ocean-faring vessels from overseas discharge enough of this ballast water in US waters to fill about 20,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools.
–The Boston Globe