Pondering an important decision? Chances are that you will consider drawing up a list of pros and cons of the options. The pros-and-cons list enjoys a long and storied history, going back at least as far as 1772, when Benjamin Franklin advised his friend and fellow scientist Joseph Priestley to “divide half a sheet of paper by a line into two columns, writing over the one Pro, and over the other Con.” But how useful is a pros-and-cons list, really? It’s only fitting to consider the pros and cons of this pop
One day, gardeners might not just hear the buzz of bees among their flowers, but the whirr of robots, too. Scientists in Japan say they’ve managed to turn an unassuming drone into a remote-controlled pollinator by attaching horsehairs coated with a special, sticky gel to its underbelly.
The system, described in the journal Chem, is nowhere near ready to be sent to agricultural fields, but it could help pave the way to developing automated pollination techniques at a time when bee colonies are suffering precipitous declines.
In flowering plants, sex often involves a threesome. Flowers looking to get the pollen from their male parts into another bloom’s female parts need an envoy to carry it from one to the other. Those third players are animals known as pollinators — a diverse group of critters that includes bees, butterflies, birds and bats, among others.
Animal pollinators are needed for the reproduction of 90% of flowering plants and one third of human food crops, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service. Chief among those are bees — but many bee populations in the United States have been in steep decline in recent decades, likely due to a combination of factors, including agricultural chemicals, invasive species and climate change. Just last month, the rusty patched bumblebee became the first wild bee in the United States to be listed as an endangered species (although the Trump administration just put a halt on that designation).
Thus, the decline of bees isn’t just worrisome because it could disrupt ecosystems, but also because it could disrupt agriculture and the economy. People have been trying to come up with replacement techniques, the study authors say, but none of them are especially effective yet — and some might do more harm than good.
“One pollination technique requires the physical transfer of pollen with an artist’s brush or cotton swab from male to female flowers,” the authors wrote. “Unfortunately, this requires much time and effort. Another approach uses a spray machine, such as a gun barrel and pneumatic ejector. However, this machine pollination has a low pollination success rate because it is likely to cause severe denaturing of pollens and flower pistils as a result of strong mechanical contact as the pollens bursts out of the machine.”
Scientists have thought about using drones, but they haven’t figured out how to make free-flying robot insects that can rely on their own power source without being attached to a wire.
“It’s very tough work,” said senior author Eijiro Miyako, a chemist at the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology in Japan.
Helping to protect our community. The Cleary Bros. tree crews are always ready to help!
SONOMA, Calif. (AP) — More than 40 percent of California has emerged from a punishing drought that covered the whole state a year ago, federal drought-watchers said Thursday, a stunning transformation caused by an unrelenting series of storms in the North that filled lakes, overflowed rivers and buried mountains in snow.
The weekly drought report by government and academic water experts showed 42 percent of the state free from drought. This time last year, 97 percent of the state was in drought.
Southern California, also receiving welcome rain from the storms, remains in drought but has experienced a dramatic reduction in the severity. Just 2 percent of the state, a swath between Los Angeles and Santa Barbara, remains in the sharpest category of drought that includes drying wells, reservoirs and streams and widespread crop losses. Forty-three percent of the state was in that direst category this time a year ago.
California will remain in a drought emergency until Gov. Jerry Brown lifts or eases the declaration he issued in January 2014, while standing in a bare Sierra Nevada meadow that one of the state’s driest stretches on record had robbed of all snow.
State officials said this week that Brown will likely wait until the end of California’s winter snow and rain season to make a decision on revising the drought declaration.
For Northern California, at least, the onslaught of storms that brought the Sierras their heaviest snow in six years and forced voluntary evacuations of thousands of people as rivers surged will likely make it a much clearer call for the governor, water experts said.
“It’s hard to say we have a drought here right now,” said Jay Lund, director of the Center for Watershed Sciences at the University of California at Davis, an area near Sacramento that was awash after its heaviest rain in 20 years.
Lund spoke on his way back from taking students to see flood gates on the Sacramento River, opened by state officials Tuesday for the first time in 12 years to ease pressure on river banks and levees.
The opened gates were spilling a 2-mile torrent of excess water onto public lands in the Sacramento Valley, alongside the equally raging Sacramento, the state’s largest river.
More storms Thursday raised fears of mudslides in Southern California and clogged commutes statewide. The Russian River in Northern California’s wine region was among the tributaries still in flood. Residents in the resort town of Guerneville used canoes and kayaks to get around flooded areas, and even inside their inundated homes.
Forecasters said rain and snow would continue into Thursday afternoon. But the heaviest of the back-to-back systems fueled by an “atmospheric river” weather phenomenon had passed after delivering the heaviest rain in a decade.
“Everything is on the way down,” said Steve Anderson, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service office in Monterey.
The past week’s storms were enough to double the snowpack in parts of the Sierras, runoff from which provides Californians with much of their year-round water supply. Stations up and down the mountain chain were reporting twice the amount of normal rain and snow for this time of year.
The state’s reservoirs were brimming above average for the first time in six years.
“It’s been so wet in some places this winter we would do pretty well even if it tapered off right now,” said Daniel Swain, a fellow at the University of California at Los Angeles whose weather blog has been a closely watched chronicle of the drought.
Water experts look at factors including soil moisture, stream levels and snow pack in determining drought, said Claudia Faunt, a San Diego-based hydrologist with the U.S. Geological Survey.
At the peak of the drought in 2014 and 2015, urban Californians were under a mandatory 25-percent water conservation order from Brown. Dozens of threatened native species suffered as waterways shriveled. More than 100 million trees in the Sierra Nevadas died, foresters said.
California’s underground water reserves have been so depleted by extra pumping in the drought that they would take decades, at a minimum, to replenish, experts said.
In a state as sprawling and varied as California, “where we are in a drought is complicated,” Faunt said.
Whether the state should extend the current emergency conservation regulation or let it expire was the focus of a workshop before the State Water Resources Control Board on Jan. 18.
Citing dramatically improved conditions, water agency representatives from throughout the state voiced support for letting the regulation expire in February. They emphasized, however, that urban water suppliers remain committed to helping their customers shift to permanent changes to improve water use efficiency on an ongoing basis.
Water suppliers also reiterated their support for the “stress-test” approach outlined in the current regulation, and many said they would continue monthly water use reporting and data collection if requested by the State Water Board. They encouraged the board to thank the public and shift the focus to the long term.
Their comments followed a presentation in which State Water Board staff recommended that the board extend the current regulation for another 270 days and revisit it in May when the rainy season is largely over and the water supply picture is clear. The staff also recommended that water suppliers update their stress tests to reflect changing conditions.
ACWA and numerous water suppliers said the emergency regulation had served to focus public attention on the drought, but has outlived its purpose. Much progress has been, they noted, and residents have changed how they view and use water. Continuing the emergency regulation could create credibility issues and confuse the public, they said.
“It’s clear that water agencies and Californians have stepped up in a big way in response to the emergency regulation,” ACWA Director of State Regulatory Relations Dave Bolland told State Water Board members. “Continuing to message that we are in a crisis or emergency is problematic for a lot of agencies…. It’s time to move on to the long-term, sustainable practices agencies are now focused on.”
Bolland and others said it would be appropriate for water suppliers to continue submitting monthly reports, but noted that could be done under a different mechanism than the emergency regulation. They also noted that the state will soon consider regulations requiring just that under the long-term conservation framework state agencies are finalizing as directed by Gov. Jerry Brown in his May 2015 executive order.
The State Water Board did not take formal action on the staff recommendation. Board staff indicated proposed regulatory language would likely be released the following week, with action likely at the Feb. 7 meeting.
Several Board members indicated they were interested in continuing the data collection and monthly reporting that has taken place under the emergency regulation.
Prior to the workshop, the State Water Board heard an update on the Save Our Water program’s successful 2016 efforts presented by ACWA Deputy Executive Director for External Affairs and Member Services Jennifer Persike and Department of Water Resources Public Affairs Director Ed Wilson. The program is focusing in 2017 on evergreen messaging and promoting a California lifestyle shift. Board members made several positive comments about the program and its results.
Submitted by Lisa Lien-Mager on Wed, 01/18/2017