Sarah Whites-Koditschek: Mercury and Climate Change

Milwaukee Sentinel:

Sarah Whites-Koditschek, WPR

Sarah Whites-Koditschek, WPR

Watras and Rubsam walk onto frozen Little Rock Lake in Vilas County near their base at the University of Wisconsin’s Trout Lake Station. They are scientists for the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Center for Limnology and the state Department of Natural Resources.

After decades of water sampling on Little Rock Lake and two other nearby lakes, Watras concluded that climate change is causing fluctuations in the level of dangerous methylmercury in the environment. That finding added to the list of negative effects of climate change, which include making storms more powerful, increasing the Earth’s temperature and causing polar ice to melt, which causes sea levels to rise. Watras discovered that accumulations of the toxin in fish fluctuate as water cycles driven by climate change raise and lower lake levels. When the water levels go up, Watras found, levels of mercury can increase to unsafe levels in walleye, one of the state’s most prized game fish. When levels go down, concentrations in walleye go down to levels considered safe by the Environmental Protection Agency...

Mark Brigham, a hydrologist at the U.S. Geological Survey in Mounds View, Minnesota, said fluctuating mercury levels could make it harder to know whether fish are safe to eat. People who fish could easily underestimate or overestimate the risk at any given time. “It’s entirely possible that people, when they look at the fish consumption advisories for a given lake, they could be looking at advice that’s out of date or doesn’t reflect current conditions in the lake,” Brigham said.

Mike McFeely: Bigmouth Buffalo Centenarians

Duluth News Tribune:

053019.N.FF.MCFEELYCOLUMNTWO.JPG
Don’t call the bigmouth buffalo a “rough fish,” a common and derisive moniker slapped on species viewed as less desirable than the sainted walleye and other hotly pursued fish. “They are amazing,” said Alec Lackmann, a North Dakota State University researcher in the Department of Biological Sciences. “They are one of the most exceptional freshwater fish species in the world.”

Lackmann would know. He led an NDSU team that unearthed this amazing fact: Bigmouth buffalo can live to be more than 100 years old, making them the oldest age-validated freshwater fish in the world. Lackmann’s study included one specimen that was 112 years old, and most of the fish he researched were more than 80 years old. The oldest fish came from lakes near Pelican Rapids, Minnesota...

According to NDSU, the bigmouth buffalo is now known as the longest-lived freshwater teleost (ray-finned fish) and the oldest age-validated freshwater fish in the world. “This is a paradigm shift in how we’re looking at these fish and should open a discussion about their real value,” Lackmann said. “They should not be called ‘rough fish,’ which carries a negative connotation. They should be viewed as an ecological asset.”

Tessa Plint: The Extinct Giant Beavers

The Conversationist:

Illustration by Scott Woods/Western University

Illustration by Scott Woods/Western University

Giant beavers the size of black bears once roamed the lakes and wetlands of North America. Fortunately for cottage-goers, these mega-rodents died out at the end of the last ice age.

Now extinct, the giant beaver was once a highly successful species. Scientists have found its fossil remains at sites from Florida to Alaska and the Yukon.

A super-sized version of the modern beaver in appearance, the giant beaver tipped the scales at 100 kilograms. But it had two crucial differences. The giant beaver lacked the iconic paddle-shaped tail we see on today’s modern beavers. Instead it had a long skinny tail like a muskrat. The teeth also looked different. Modern beaver incisors (front teeth) are sharp and chisel-like; giant beaver incisors were bulkier and curved, and lacked a sharp cutting edge...

Towards the end of the last ice age 10,000 years ago, the climate became increasingly warm and dry and wetland habitats began to dry up. Although the modern beavers and the giant beaver co-existed on the landscape for tens of thousands of years, only one species survived. The ability to build dams and lodges may have given the modern beaver a competitive advantage over the giant beaver. With its sharp teeth, the modern beaver could alter the landscape to create suitable wetland habitat where it needed it. The giant beaver couldn’t.

Advancing aquatic vegetation management for fish

Lake and Reservoir Management Journal:

Untitled.jpeg
ABSTRACT
Despite the known linkage between aquatic plants and fish communities, research that quanti- fies the relationship between aquatic habitat and fisheries management is lacking, particularly for lakes. Lake management is often driven by recreational interests and fails to evaluate out- comes or identify conservation benefits. Effective management of vegetation to benefit fisheries will require information on how fish utilize aquatic plant stands, as well as how they are affected by changes in vegetation coverage or richness. Management strategies will need to account for both local and large-scale effects on aquatic plant habitat. Studies that assess the economic ben- efits of aquatic plants to fisheries will provide support for sustainable aquatic vegetation man- agement approaches. Finally, natural resources managers (including both aquatic botanists and fisheries biologists) will have to collaborate to identify priorities to implement and evaluate vege- tation management activities. Marine seagrass and fisheries research is presented as a means to provide guidance on aquatic plant inventory and monitoring, as well as potential research opportunities to better understand aquatic plant and fish relationships and the implications for lake management.

This article is available as a pdf for a limited time at this link.

John Meyers: Lake Volunteers Needed

Duluth Tribune:

1h-UscJaNu-eZKjD4WdWtn43RufOO85h6.jpg
The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency is looking for volunteers, nearly 700 of them, to measure water quality across many of the state’s lakes and rivers.

The PCA, which is tasked with both monitoring and protecting the state’s 12,000 lakes and 92,000 miles of streams, this year is asking for volunteers to monitor 676 high priority sites on rivers and lakes, including many in the Northland. Data gathered by volunteers is reported back to the agency and used to track the health of waterways.

Valerie Vande Panne: Battle for Rights of Lakes

EcoWatch:

IMG_0176.JPG
In February, the voters of Toledo, Ohio, passed a ballot initiative that gives Lake Erie and those who rely on the lake’s ecosystem a bill of rights. The idea is to protect and preserve the ecosystem so that the life that depends on it — humans included — can have access to safe, fresh drinking water.

On the surface, it seems pretty logical: Humans need water to survive, and if an ecosystem that is relied on for water—in this case, Lake Erie — is polluted (in this case, with algae), then the Lake Erie Bill of Rights (or LEBOR) would ensure the rights of humans would come before the polluters (in this case, big agriculture).

Except, that’s not what’s happening.

Rather, in a perhaps unsurprising move, the state of Ohio has at once both acknowledged rights of nature to exist, and taken them away, with a line written in, of all things, the state budget: “Nature or any ecosystem does not have standing to participate in or bring an action in any court of common pleas.”

Jonathan M. Gitlin: Bike Lanes Need Physical Protection

Ars Technica:

GettyImages-1137547533-800x497.jpg
A study from Monash University in Australia suggests that merely painting bike lanes onto the roads may be counterproductive. The researchers conducted an observational study, gathering data from 60 cyclists in Melbourne, Australia. For a week or two, the cyclists were equipped with sensors and cameras to capture data over the course of their riding. GNSS satellite navigation was used for location, ultrasonic sensors measured the passing distances of objects as the cyclists rode, and cameras allowed the researchers to classify passing events—was the bicycle passed by a vehicle, did the pass happen while the cyclist was in a bike lane, and so on. Over the study period (between April and August 2017) there were 422 trips covering a total of 3,294 miles (5,302km), 91 percent of which were on-road.

Across the entire data set, the researchers identified 18,527 instances where a vehicle overtook a cyclist. Of these, 1,085 happened with less than 39 inches’ (100cm) passing distance between bike and vehicle, a distance that’s considered “close” under Australian law. The majority of passes occurred in areas with 37mph speed limits (60km/h), with an average passing distance of 75 inches (190cm). But those distances were much closer in areas with lower limits (66 inches/168cm in 40km/h zones, 67 inches/170cm in 50km/h zones). Somewhat worryingly, drivers were also more likely to get closer (60 inches/154cm) to cyclists when passing in 100km/h (62mph) zones.

Rebecca Hersher: PFAS Health Effects

NPR:

pfas-2_custom-9f513971411229a5980acecd9b1a8f94daf97e1e.jpg
Scientists are ramping up research on the possible health effects of a large group of common but little-understood chemicals used in water-resistant clothing, stain-resistant furniture, nonstick cookware and many other consumer products.

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances are generally referred to by their plural acronym, PFAS. PFAS are resistant to water, oil and heat, and their use has expanded rapidly since they were developed by companies in the mid-20th century. Today, PFAS’ nonstick qualities make them useful in products as diverse as food wrappers, umbrellas, tents, carpets and firefighting foam. The chemicals are also used in the manufacture of plastic and rubber and in insulation for wiring. In short, they are all around us. And as a result, they’ve found their way into the soil and, especially in some regions, into our drinking water.

”We’re finding them contaminating many rivers, many lakes, many drinking water supplies,” says Linda Birnbaum, director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and the National Toxicology Program. “And we’re finding them not only in the environment, but we’re finding them in people.” “Essentially everyone has these compounds in our blood,” she explains.

We always find what we dumped in.

Greg Stanley: Ice and Walleyes Signal Changing Climate

Star Tribune:

warm042119-05.jpg
Across Minnesota, lakes are losing up to four days of ice every 10 years, according to the state climatology office. And it’s not just Minnesota: Rivers and lakes across the continent are tending to freeze later and thaw earlier. “You think of all the ways people interact with lake ice — skating, fishing derbies, iceboats,” said John Magnuson, an ecologist and limnologist at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. “And already, in some of these lakes you have about a month less to do it.”

... at the University of Wisconsin, the first school in the country to study the chemistry and makeup of inland lakes, scientists have been keeping that data for decades. The university has tracked ice coverage on Wisconsin lakes since the 1850s. In those days, ice harvesters needed to know when they could venture out on a lake to cut large frozen blocks to sell during summer; parents and school superintendents waited for ice roads that would connect Lake Superior’s Apostle Islands to the mainland.

The longer the data go back, the clearer the pattern becomes: Lakes have less ice now, said Magnuson, who is semiretired after decades with the school’s limnology office. Lake Mendota in Madison gets 30 days less ice coverage — a full month — than it did during the Civil War, the data show. And the thaws have been accelerating, Magnuson said. Six of Lake Mendota’s 10 earliest ice-outs have happened since the late 1990s.

Ice coverage is not just a function of temperatures in the spring and fall. It reflects two larger factors: the area’s average annual temperature and the depth of the lake. Every body of water is continually heating up through the summer. The deeper the lake, the more volume it has to collect and store that heat. The more warmth a lake stores, the longer it takes to freeze, Magnuson said.

For the first time, some of the deepest lakes in southern Wisconsin are starting to have years when they don’t freeze at all. As temperatures continue to climb, that will happen to more and more lakes in Minnesota as well, Magnuson said. The magic number seems to be about 47 degrees Fahrenheit. Once the average temperature for an entire year reaches that point, lakes that have historically frozen over every year start to see some years where they remain open.

David Freid: How New Zealand's Whanganui River Became a Legal Person

The Atlantic:

Whanganui_River.jpg
For more than 700 years, the Maori, the indigenous people of New Zealand, fought to maintain their spiritual connection to the Whanganui River. Mostly, it was a losing battle: Rapids were dynamited, gravel was extracted, and water was drained and polluted. Promises were broken. Generations of Maori looked on as awa tupua—their river of sacred power—was treated as a means to an end or, worse, as a dumping ground.

Then, in 2017, something unprecedented happened. The New Zealand government granted the Whanganui River legal personhood—a status that is in keeping with the Maori worldview that the river is a living entity. The legislation, which has yet to be codified into domestic law, refers to the river as an “indivisible, living whole,” conferring it “all the rights, powers, duties, and liabilities” of an individual.

David Freid’s short documentary The River Is Me seeks to understand how the landmark legislation came to pass, its significance for the Maori, and how the river’s new legal status will be enforced in future litigation. In the film, Freid interviews many experts on the subject, including the Maori leader and treaty negotiator Gerrard Albert and Chris Finlayson, the former attorney general of New Zealand who worked with the Maori to pass the legislation.

Alan Guebert: Corporations Have Rights; Why Not a Lake?

Farm & Food File:

If the ballot box is the ultimate source of power in the United States, then voters in Toledo, Ohio, used that power Feb. 26 to create what’s now being called a “Bill of Rights” for their wide, blue neighbor, Lake Erie. That vote, if it withstands court challenges (one was filed immediately after the referendum passed) gives any Toledo citizen legal standing to sue any person or corporation on behalf of Lake Erie over its “right” to be clean and environmentally healthy.

Lake Erie’s newly conferred/newly challenged rights have farmers in northwest Ohio deeply concerned because they have long been seen as a key source of the phosphorus run-off that fuels late-summer, toxic algae blooms in the lake, that also serves as Toledo’s public water source. But it’s not just Toledo. The toxic blooms, according to press reports, threaten the water supply of 12 million American and Canadian citizens living near Lake Erie and jeopardize more than $1 billion a year spent in Ohio on lake tourism.

Jason Bittel: Dragonfly Migrations

onEarth:

JUDY GALLAGHER  VIA FLICKR

JUDY GALLAGHER VIA FLICKR

According to a study published by the Royal Society last fall, common green darners, which are found from Cuba to Canada, make a long, complex journey that takes three generations and spans a distance of more than 1,500 miles. Scientists are still trying to figure out exactly how they do it, but temperature seems to play a key role in telling the animals when to move. Unfortunately, this means climate change could well wreck the whole event even before we fully understand it. Worse, it would leave much of eastern North America without an important member of its food web.

The news that dragonflies migrate probably won’t shock people who study insects, says the study’s senior author, Colin Studds, a wildlife ecologist at the University of Maryland. “We’ve had an inkling of how many insects migrate,” he says. “There are moths, there are beetles, and there are probably about 20 species of dragonflies that we have expected of migration. But we don’t know much about it other than that it’s a phenomenon.”

Judith Weis: Phragmites - A Useful Native & Non-Native Plant

The Conversation:

But despite its bad reputation, Phragmites provides many benefits that are generally unknown and unappreciated. After studying salt marsh ecology and the impacts of stressors, including invasive plants, for many years, I have concluded that removing this invasive species wherever it is found – especially along vulnerable coastlines – is a very expensive and often foolish procedure.

Phragmites actually is native in the United States, but the native form comprises only a minor component of the high marsh – the zone that typically is above water. A new genetic variety arrived many decades ago and invaded brackish marshes.

In Europe and Asia, where Phragmites is also native, it is valued as an important wetland species. In China, where Spartina alterniflora has arrived, marsh scientists and managers are concerned with the effects of that invader replacing their beloved Phragmites. Human attitudes toward invasive species can be a bit subjective.

Avoiding the Invasive Trap: Policies for Aquatic Non-Indigenous Plant Management

User:Darkone; From Wikimedia Commons

User:Darkone; From Wikimedia Commons

ABSTRACT
Many aquatic invasive species (AIS) management programs are doing important work on preventing non-indigenous species movement to our wild places. Attitudes and perspectives on aquatic non-indigenous species and their management by ecologists and the public are fundamentally a question of human values. Despite eloquent philosophical writings on treatment of non-indigenous species, management agency rhetoric on ‘invasive’ species usually degenerates to a good versus evil language, often with questionable results and lost conservation dollars. We assess and learn from an established AIS program. We discuss an ethic framework and operational directives to minimise the trap of a binary classification of species into bad or good, and we advocate for a principled pragmatic approach to minimise conflicts. We make a case for not labelling species and instead focusing on managing nuisance conditions and protecting ecosystem health.

Paper link or here

Alma Gullermoprieto: Sunday Car Ban

National Geographic:

JUAN CRISTÓBAL COBO

JUAN CRISTÓBAL COBO

It’s like falling in love all over again; every Sunday without fail, and holidays too, the inhabitants of the car-choked, noise-filled, stressed-out city of Bogotá, 8,660 feet up in the thin air of the Andes, get to feel that the city belongs to them, and not to the 1,600,000 suicidal private cars, 50,000 homicidal taxis, nine thousand gasping buses, and some half-million demented motorcycles that otherwise pack into the buzzing capital of Colombia.

The weekly miracle occurs at an event you could call the Peaceful Community Gathering on Wheels, but is actually named the Ciclovía, or Bicycle Way. Starting at seven in the morning and until two in the afternoon, vast stretches of the city’s principal avenues and highways are turned over to everyone looking to enjoy a bit of fresh air. All kinds of transportation are welcome—bicycles, roller skates, scooters, wheelchairs, skateboards—as long as they are not motor-driven.

Feargus O'Sullivan: Eliminating Cars Parking

CityLab:

This week, Amsterdam is taking its reputation for pro-bike, anti-car polices one step further by announcing that it will systematically strip its inner city of parking spaces. Amsterdam transit commissioner Sharon Dijksma announced Thursday that starting this summer, the city plans to reduce the number of people permitted to park in the city core by around 1,500 per year. These people already require a permit to access a specific space (and the cost for that permit will also rise), and so by reducing these permits steadily in number, the city will also remove up to 11,200 parking spaces from its streets by the end of 2025.

The cleared spaces won’t be left empty, however. As room for cars is removed, it will be replaced by trees, bike parking, and wider sidewalks, allowing Amsterdammers to instantly see and feel the benefits of what will still be a fairly controversial policy among drivers.

Aaron Renn: Struggling Cities

CityLab:

940.jpg
Too often, states try to help these cities through massive spending or tax giveaways. The disgraceful Foxconn and Amazon HQ2 site selection processes are emblematic of what goes on every day across America. Massachusetts included Pittsfield in its list of proposed Amazon HQ2 sites, for example, and Atlantic City, New Jersey, also put in a bid. But decades of subsidies haven’t worked and won’t work.

Instead, deeply challenged smaller post-industrial cities should do the basics: Local governments must address their often huge unfunded liabilities and get to structurally balanced budgets. They should reform their governance where necessary, especially by eliminating corruption. And, they need to start rebuilding core public services, especially public safety but also parks, etc. Make no mistake, this will require help from federal and state governments, and may involve painful steps like bankruptcy and prosecutions.

AP: Trumpeter Swans died from Lead Poisoning

A University of Minnesota diagnostic lab report shows that dead trumpeter swans found at Sucker Lake in Vadnais Heights, Minn., earlier this month died of lead poisoning.

The Pioneer Press reported that the Vadnais Lake Area Water Management Organization, which investigated the swan deaths, originally thought the swans had died of malnutrition.

The report said the lead toxicity is likely from fishing sinkers that accumulate in the sediment. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources estimates that 40 percent of Minnesota trumpeter swan deaths are caused by lead poisoning. Experts say one pellet can kill an adult trumpeter swan.

About 10 dead swans were found at the Vadnais Heights lake.

We keep loosing lead sinkers in our lakes and we think it has no consequences. Crazy.

Weston Pew: Use a Pilgrimage to Find Your Way

Center for Humans & Nature:

Pew_pic2.JPG
As I stare out across the social and environmental landscape of our time, I am reminded of a quote by Dr. Bob Moorehead, pastor and author of Words Aptly Spoken:

”The paradox of our age is that we have bigger houses but smaller families; more conveniences, but less time; We have more degrees, but less sense; more knowledge, but less judgment; more experts, but more problems; more medicines, but less healthiness; we’ve been all the way to the moon and back but have trouble crossing the street to meet the neighbor. We’ve built more computers to hold more information to produce more copies than ever but have less communication; we have become long on quantity, and short on quality. These are the times of fast foods but slow digestion; tall man but short character; Steep profits but shallow relationships. It’s a time when there is much in the window, but nothing in the room.”

This quote speaks to how we in the modern world have lost ourselves in the dream of progress. In the desire for ever more comfort and things, we seem to have forgotten something essential to our very existence: Life itself is a miracle; and such a miracle can only be fully expressed through the practice of living in right relationship to ourselves, our communities, the natural world, and the cosmos itself.

Alissa Walker: How to ID Lead Paint

Curbed:

Lead paint is extremely prevalent in older, historic houses—especially homes that haven’t been renovated. I figured we might have lead paint in our house, given its age. If the paint is in good condition, there isn’t much risk. However, when lead paint is deteriorating, you can ingest it...

If the paint is in good shape, sometimes all that’s needed is encapsulation, meaning sealing or painting over the older layers of lead paint. If the paint is chipped or flaking, or found in places that are frequently used, like hinges and windows, the more expensive abatement process is the best option. Our county’s public health department provided a list of accredited inspectors and abatement firms, and the EPA also has a resource center.