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Startling Footage of California Reservoirs Shows Devastating Impact of Epic Drought
If you're wondering how much damage four years of an epic drought can wreck, look no further than the condition of California's depleted reservoirs. In new footage of the Folsom, Oroville and Shasta reservoirs—captured by the California Department of Water Resources (CA-DWR) on July 20—it's genuinely startling to see how little water remains.
The CA-DWR wrote on Facebook that Folsom Lake measured at 34 percent of capacity, Lake Oroville at 35 percent and Lake Shasta at 45 percent.
Jay Famiglietti, senior water scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory and a professor at UC Irvine, estimated that California's reservoirs have only about a one-year supply of water remaining.
These before-and-after images from the CA-DWR illustrate the extent of the drought's damage even further. (But don't be too alarmed, "reservoirs provide only a portion of the water used in California and are designed to store only a few years' supply," the Los Angeles Times noted).
Meanwhile, conditions across the drought-wracked region are continuing to break records. Temperatures in the Northwest are in the 90s-100s, at 10 to 15 degrees above normal and even 20 degrees in a few locations, according Accuweather.
Additionally, in a new study cited by Climate Central, "the amount of rain that California has missed out on since the beginning of its record-setting drought in 2012 is about the same amount it would see, on average, in a single year."
"To dig out of the drought in just one winter, the state would have to see 200 percent of its normal yearly rain, to cover both that year's rain and make up the missing amount," Climate Central reported.
There's hope that El Niño will bring some relief, however the DWR is uncertain if the rain will reverse any damage already done to the reservoirs.
“Scientists say there's a 90-percent chance of a strong one forming in the Pacific this winter, but will rain fill Northern California reservoirs?" the department asked. “State Climatologist Mike Anderson says this drama's ending is still unwritten: 'Unfortunately, even a strong El Niño doesn't correlate to a particular outcome for California.'"
What does drought look like? Check out these pics of Shasta Lake, Folsom Lake and Lake Oroville. #saveourwater pic.twitter.com/Zedgib3InX
— CA - DWR (@CA_DWR) July 22, 2015
On an encouraging note, water-conscious west coasters are making strides in cutting back on water usage, and Californians are exceeding the 25 percent cutback mandated by Gov. Jerry Brown.
The state's water board announced that despite the record-breaking heat in June, Californians continued to conserve water, reducing water use by 27.3 percent. Additionally, urban water suppliers exceeded the statewide conservation goal, saving 59.4 billion gallons (182,151 acre-feet), as compared to the same time in 2013.
“Californians understand the severity of the drought and they are taking action, as shown by the numbers released today," said Felicia Marcus, chair of the State Water Resources Control Board.
"We didn't know if the positive showing in May was due in part to cooler temperatures. This report shows that residents knew they had to keep conserving even during the summer heat and they kept the sprinklers off more than they would in a normal year," she continued. "That's the right attitude as we head into August and September heat—in the drought of the century with no certain end date."
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Farms with just one or a handful of different crops encourage fewer species of pollinating and pest-controlling insects to linger, ultimately winnowing away crop yields, according to a new study.
Up to half of the detrimental impacts of the "landscape simplification" that monocropping entails come as a result of a diminished mix of ecosystem service-providing insects, a team of scientists reported Oct. 16 in the journal Science Advances.
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"Our study shows that biodiversity is essential to ensure the provision of ecosystem services and to maintain a high and stable agricultural production," Matteo Dainese, the study's lead author and a biologist at Eurac Research in Bolzano, Italy, said in a statement.
It stands to reason that, with declines in the sheer numbers of insects that ferry pollen from plant to plant and keep crop-eating pests under control, these services will wane as well. But until now, it hasn't been clear how monocultures affect the number and mix of these species or how crop yields might change as a result.
Aiming to solve these questions, Dainese and his colleagues pulled together data from 89 studies cutting across a variety of landscapes, from the tropics of Asia and Africa to the higher latitudes of northern Europe. They tabulated the number of pollinating and pest-controlling insects at these sites — both the absolute number of individuals and the number of species — along with an assessment of the ecosystem services the insects provided.
In almost all of the studies they looked at, the team found that a more diverse pool of these species translated into more pollination and greater pest control. They also showed that simplified landscapes supported fewer species of service-providing insects, which ultimately led to lower crop yields.
The researchers also looked at a third measure of the makeup of insect populations — what they called "evenness." In natural ecosystems, a handful of dominant species with many more individuals typically live alongside a higher number of rarer species. The team found as landscapes became less diverse, dominant species numbers dwindled and rare species gained ground. This resulting, more equitable mix led to less pollination (though it didn't end up affecting pest control).
"Our study provides strong empirical support for the potential benefits of new pathways to sustainable agriculture that aim to reconcile the protection of biodiversity and the production of food for increasing human populations," Ingolf Steffan-Dewenter, one of the study's authors and an animal ecologist at the University of Würzburg in Germany, said in the statement.
The scientists figure that the richness of pollinator species explains around a third of the harmful impacts of less diverse landscapes, while the richness of pest-controlling species accounts for about half of the same measure. In their view, the results of their research point to the need to protect biodiversity on and around crops in an uncertain future.
"Under future conditions with ongoing global change and more frequent extreme climate events, the value of farmland biodiversity ensuring resilience against environmental disturbances will become even more important," Steffan-Dewenter said.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Mongabay.
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