Guy Kovner, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Marine scientists are scrambling to determine the extent and cause of a disease that is killing starfish along the West Coast, including Sonoma County.
The affliction, called sea star wasting disease, has killed up to 95 percent of the stars in some tide pool populations ranging from southeast Alaska to Santa Barbara in a manner similar to scenes from a horror movie.
“They essentially melt in front of you,” said Pete Raimondi, chairman of the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at UC Santa Cruz’s Long Marine Lab.
via Wasting disease devastating starfish along Sonoma Coast | The Press Democrat.
The sea star wasting map is online at
Mary Callahan, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Scientists looking for clues to the origins of life on Earth have discovered new life forms right here in Sonoma County that may shed light on how life evolved — and how it might be detected elsewhere in the universe.
A three-year study of alkaline ponds at The Cedars, a vast but remote serpentine area north of Cazadero, has uncovered microorganisms never before detected, existing in the kinds of harsh conditions believed to reflect those that first gave rise to life, scientists say.
Researchers hope studying these unique microbes and how they function may impart information about the biochemical reactions that imbued inorganic substances on early Earth with the spark of life.
via Remote Sonoma County landscape offers microscopic peek at life's beginnings | The Press Democrat.
Jared Huffman, SFGATE
In "Dirty Harry," Clint Eastwood memorably asked, do you "feel lucky?" It made for great theater, but it’s no way to manage North Coast salmon. Unfortunately, that’s been the policy of the U.S. Department of Interior toward the near-record run of chinook salmon that is migrating up the Trinity and Klamath rivers. Instead of a comprehensive strategy to fulfill its duty to protect this iconic fishery, the department is rolling the dice. So far, the salmon have been lucky.
A decade ago, they were not so lucky. In 2002, the same conditions we are experiencing this year – large salmon returns, a dry year, and over-allocated Klamath River water unable to satisfy all competing needs – produced a massive fish kill. Insufficient river flows brought death to thousands of salmon and economic disaster for tribes, fishermen, and communities up and down the West Coast.
via For Northern California rivers, luck is not a plan – SFGate.
Derek Moore, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
The recent discovery of hundreds of young coho salmon in a tributary of the Russian River near Jenner is being hailed by biologists as a breakthrough in the decade-long effort to restore the critical habitat and nurse the endangered fish back to health.
Approximately 450 coho were counted in the upper reaches of Willow Creek this summer, an astounding number given that virtually none of the fish have been seen in the waterway for the better part of two decades.
Run-off from logging and farming, coupled with the end of dredging efforts that were aimed at preventing road flooding, had turned the nearly-nine mile waterway flowing from Coleman Valley to the Jenner estuary into a meandering mess.
via Discovery of young coho salmon in Russian River tributary heralded | The Press Democrat.
Tracie Cone, SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS
SEQUOIA NATIONAL FOREST — In parts of California’s Sierra Nevada, marshy meadows are going dry, wildflowers are blooming earlier and glaciers are melting into ice fields.
Scientists also are predicting the optimal temperature zone for giant sequoias will rise hundreds and hundreds of feet, leaving trees at risk of dying over the next 100 years.
As indicators point toward a warming climate, scientists across 4 million acres of federally protected land are noting changes affecting everything from the massive trees that can grow to more than two-dozen feet across to the tiny, hamsterlike pika. But what the changes mean and whether humans should do anything to intervene are sources of disagreement among land managers.
via Sierra a 'living lab' for climate change – San Jose Mercury News.
Felicity Barringer, THE NEW YORK TIMES
ARCATA, Calif. — It took the death of a small, rare member of the weasel family to focus the attention of Northern California’s marijuana growers on the impact that their huge and expanding activities were having on the environment.
The animal, a Pacific fisher, had been poisoned by an anticoagulant in rat poisons like d-Con. Since then, six other poisoned fishers have been found. Two endangered spotted owls tested positive. Mourad W. Gabriel, a scientist at the University of California, Davis, concluded that the contamination began when marijuana growers in deep forests spread d-Con to protect their plants from wood rats.
via Marijuana Crops in California Threaten Forests and Wildlife – NYTimes.com.
James Knight, NORTH BAY BOHEMIAN
In the mid-1990s, a family of beavers found their way up Sonoma Creek and settled in Glen Ellen. Although they were the first beavers that had been seen here since the animals were extirpated decades earlier, they got the same welcome that is traditionally offered to beavers: they were trapped and killed.
But recently, dams have again been observed in Sonoma Creek, and evidence suggests that some intrepid beavers have jumped watersheds and are headed toward the Laguna de Santa Rosa. The beavers are back, and this time, they just might get a fair chance.
via Beaver Fever | News | North Bay Bohemian.
Samantha Kimmey, POINT REYES LIGHT, 05/30/2013
A handful of what looks like damp, grayish cereal sits in a plastic tub on Hog Island Oyster Company owner Terry Sawyer’s desk. It looks like small cornflakes, or maybe cooked quinoa. But actually these are spat: many hundreds of tiny “seed” oysters, each barely a millimeter wide. The hope is that each spat will grow into a tasty treat on the half-shell—but most of this batch is already dead.
Like many terrestrial farmers, Mr. Sawyer buys his seed from distributors. In recent years, however, it has become harder to get and harder to grow. Since 2006, West Coast oyster hatcheries have suffered catastrophic collapses, which have led to widespread shortages. The reason? Ocean acidification, a phenomenon that many call the evil twin of climate change.
via Impacts of ocean acidity feed oyster grower’s research | The Point Reyes Light.
Press Release, County of Sonoma
The Sonoma County Permit and Resource Management Department announced it will hold an informational public workshop in Santa Rosa to seek input on proposed amendments to the Zoning Code to incorporate existing General Plan policies. Stream setbacks were established in the adopted Area and Specific Plans and in the General Plan 2020. Zoning code changes will not result in any new setbacks, not previously adopted.
What: Informational Public Workshop to seek input on proposed amendments to the Zoning Code to incorporate existing General Plan Policies
When: Wednesday, May 22, 20134:00 pm to 6:00 pm
Where: Sonoma County Permit and Resource Management Department2550 Ventura Avenue, Santa Rosa CA 95403
Zoning requirements for properties with streams will be amended to be consistent with the Sonoma County General Plan 2020, any applicable Area Plan and the County’s existing Building and Grading ordinances.
via Sonoma County Updates Stream Protection Zoning For Consistency with General Plan 2020 | Press Releases | County of Sonoma.
THE MERCED SUN-STAR
It’s hard to fathom that such a tiny creature can have so large an impact on our food supply. But honeybees are essential components in the production of fully one-third of the food U.S. residents eat — from almonds and cherries to broccoli and cabbage, from peaches and apples to coffee and grapes, from brussels sprouts and cashews to onions and lemons.
Bees pollinate crops worth $20 billion to $30 billion annually in the United States alone. According to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, bees pollinate 71 of the 100 crops that provide 90 percent of human food.
Without these essential pollinators, the crops would bear no fruit.
via Our View: Demise of U.S. bees demands urgent action – Our View – MercedSun-Star.com.