Category: Colorado

Colorado River pulse flow released surge of greenhouse gases

New growth in delta could offset CO2 released from riverbed

Colorado River delta
The Colorado River Delta captured in a 2004 image from the International Space Station. Via NASA Earth Observatory.
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Supported by the Colorado River District.

Staff Report

Human management of natural ecosystems always has unintended consequences, and the Colorado River is no example. After decades of intense dam building and diversions, the mighty river is a mere shadow of it former self, reduced to a trickle in some places and polluted by return flows in others. Along its entire length, ecosystems, including riparian zones and native fish, have suffered, with some of the biggest impacts in the Colorado River delta.

In an effort to restore at least some key reaches of the river, scientists and water managers have teamed up to try mimic some of the Colorado’s natural functions, with controlled releases of water to build up beaches. Those efforts culminated in early 2014 during an eight-week experiment that unleashed a mighty torrent of water from Morelos dam (on the border with Mexico and the USA).

The huge surge (130 million cubic metres) of water raised river levels down to the delta, which has been starved of water for decades. Scientists closely monitored how the release — and potential future releases — affect agricultural crops and natural plant and animal life of the lower delta.

But the pulse flow had another side effect. As the water washed over earth and rocks that had been dried out for many years, it dissolved carbon and sent a surge of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Continue reading “Colorado River pulse flow released surge of greenhouse gases”

Morning photo: Subway doodles

iPhone edits


Since everybody on the subway in Vienna stares into their “Handy” pretty much the entire time they’re on board a train, I thought I would do the same during a recent jaunt to Heiligenstadt. But rather than texting or checking email, I played with a couple of photo apps to put together this short plant-oriented set. The three edited shots are from Vienna, including the great, green chestnut leaves; the other two pics are from a slot canyon in southern Austria, the Heiligengeistklamm, so I could’ve called this set from the holy gorge to the holy city. What can I say — it’s a Catholic country.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife targets illegally stocked pike in Green Mountain Reservoir with a bounty for anglers

Northern pike
Colorado Parks and Wildlife is offering a $20 bounty for northern pike caught in Green Mountain Reservoir. Photo courtesy CPW.

Non-native predators could threaten endangered species in Colorado River

Staff Report

Colorado wildlife managers will try to curb expansion of non-native northern pike in Summit County’s Green Mountain Reservoir by paying anglers a $20 bounty for each fish they deliver to the Heeney Marina.

The illegally introduced fish are taking a toll on trout in the reservoir north of Silverthorne and could escape to the Blue River and make their way to the Colorado River. That could add to the challenges of trying to recover four endangered native Colorado River fish species, according to Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

“The (pike) were dumped in there several years ago by someone who selfishly didn’t consider the serious consequences we are now dealing with,” said CPW aquatic biologist Jon Ewert. “People should know that illicit stocking is a problem not only for ethical reasons but legal reasons as well. Anyone caught doing it faces severe penalties.” Continue reading “Colorado Parks and Wildlife targets illegally stocked pike in Green Mountain Reservoir with a bounty for anglers”

Colorado cities, counties to lobby state on climate change

New organization to push for more aggresive steps to curb greenhouse gases

Is Colorado a hotspot for global warming?
Is Colorado a hotspot for global warming?

Staff Report

Nine Colorado cities and counties are forming a new group that aims to push the state to take more aggressive action to slow climate change.

The new group, Communities for Climate Action, will lobby the state government and participate in state agency proceedings to to represent local interests in climate protection, energy efficiency, and clean energy, according to Stephen Saunders, president of the Rocky Mountain Climate Organization, which is administering the new organization.

Saunders said the coalition’s goals could include support for pro-climate bills in the State Legislature, advocating for an effective state plan to comply with the federal Clean Power Plan and lobbying Gov. John Hickenlooper to urge more aggressive state climate actions. Continue reading “Colorado cities, counties to lobby state on climate change”

Ocean acidification puts Dungeness crab fishery at risk

Study shows how changing ocean chemistry slows life cycle

Dungeness crab
Ocean acidification will slow the reproductive cycle of Dungeness crabs, according to a new study. Photo courtesy NOAA.

Staff Report

Ocean acidification could take a bite out of the economically important Dungeness crab fishery along the Pacific Northwest coast. As the oceans absorb more CO2 from the atmosphere, the increasingly corrosive water is likely slow development and reduce survival of the crab’s larval stages, according to new research by  the NOAA Fisheries Northwest Fisheries Science Center in Seattle.

Ocean acidification is one of the most serious effects of increasing CO2 emissions from fossil fuel combustion. Based on what we know about emissions trends, the average pH of surface waters off the Pacific Northwest Coast is expected to drop to about 7.8, and even more when periodic upwelling carries deep water to the surface. Acidification has already been found to slow coral growth, impair shark feeding, and speed the spread of invasive species, among other impacts.

The study, recently published in the journal Marine Biology, shows that the crab larvae hatched at the same rate regardless of pH, but those that hatched at lower levels showed signs of slowed development. The researchers suggested that the lower pH may reduce the metabolic rate of embryos. That could extend their vulnerable larval period, or could jeopardize the timing of their development in relation to key food sources, the scientists said. Continue reading “Ocean acidification puts Dungeness crab fishery at risk”

Groundwater a huge factor in sustaining Colorado River flows

New study helps resource managers plan for climate change

Evening clouds along the Yampa River in northwestern Colorado.
Groundwater is a huge factor in assessing climate change impacts on the Colorado River. @bberwyn photo.
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Resource managers need as much information as possible about Colorado River flows to make sustainable management decisions.

Staff Report

Resource managers grappling with the vexing question of how to allocate Colorado River water to the thirsty cities, ranches and farms of the Southwest have some new food for thought. A new U.S. Geological Survey study published this week in the journal Water Resources Research shows that more than half the streamflow in Upper Colorado River Basin originates as groundwater.

The information is especially important in the context of how climate change — through increased temperatures and evaporation, as well as changing precipitation patterns — will affect the river. One recent study, for example, showed that warmer spring temperatures are reducing flows independently of winter precipitation. In 2014, another study found that groundwater depletion threatens the sustainability of the Colorado River. Continue reading “Groundwater a huge factor in sustaining Colorado River flows”

Activists slow fracking juggernaut in western Colorado

State BLM officials call for new studies on Mesa County project

fracking rig in Colorado
A fracking rig in Garfield County, Colorado. @bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

Conservation groups and community advocates in western Colorado have slowed the fracking juggernaut at least temporarily, as federal land managers last week decided to redo an environmental study for a controversial plan to drill 108 new wells on 52,000 acres near the Grand Mesa. Under the proposed master development plan, the wells could produce up to 8.7 million barrels of oil over the next 20 years.

The agency said it made the decision based on the fact that the environmental study for the fossil fuel development project didn’t include any analysis of hydraulic fracturing, likely because of some behind-the-scenes maneuvering by the developers and Bureau of Land Management officials. But when the Western Colorado Congress and the Western Environmental Law Center challenged the plan, state BLM officials reversed course. Continue reading “Activists slow fracking juggernaut in western Colorado”