« Return to this article

for people who care about the West

Delta flood’s carbon footprint, floodplain fallout and purple fungi fighters

HCN.org news in brief.

 

THE COLORADO RIVER'S CARBON FOOTPRINT  
To reinvigorate the dry Colorado River Delta and restore native plant life, the U.S. and Mexico agreed to release over 100,000 acre-feet of water from the Morelos Dam in 2014, part of the Minute 319 pact. The flooding worked: The Delta is greener than it has been in decades. But a new study by research teams from Yale University and the universities of Florida, Washington and Arizona also reveals it had an unintended consequence: The rush of water caused the ground to rapidly emit methane and carbon dioxide stored beneath the riverbed for years. It’s unclear how much carbon was released in total or whether the increased plant growth made up for the greenhouse gases released. In the future, the researchers hope to quantify that and also look at how flood pulses compare to a steady flow in rivers like the Colorado. As the U.S. and Mexico negotiate more Delta restoration efforts, their findings could help inform those water-planning decisions.
-Lyndsey Gilpin

A view of the Colorado River Delta where it meets the Sea of Cortez.
NASA

Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis: A fungus also known as chytrid that is responsible for the collapse or extinction of some 200 species of amphibians.

Janthinobacterium lividum: A type of bacteria that could save amphibians from the effects of chytrid.

Historically, boreal toads were abundant in high-altitude Rocky Mountain streams, but in the past several decades, populations have plummeted, thanks in large part to a fungal infection called chytrid. The toad could receive endangered species protection, but in the meantime, University of Colorado Boulder researcher Valerie McKenzie is testing out a potential fix: spraying toads with a distinctively purple bacterium that could help them ward off chytrid. She’s running field tests this summer, in what she’s calling Operation Purple Rain.
-Krista Langlois    

FLOODPLAIN FALLOUT 
A FEMA program that provides affordable insurance to homeowners and businesses in flood- plains is rolling out new regulations in Oregon, due to a lawsuit. The National Flood Insurance Program has been accused of encouraging development in flood-prone zones and imperiling endangered species. The new rules could temporarily stop floodplain development in many Oregon communities.
-Anna V. Smith

18 threatened and endangered species impacted by development on Oregon floodplains.

251 communities within floodplain zones that would be severely impacted by a potential moratorium on development and redevelopment under new regulations.

85 percent of the Willamette River’s historic floodplain that has been drained and developed, just one of the many major floodplain zones that have been altered for urban and agricultural reasons.

Development on floodplains can raise flood levels, especially when buildings and parking lots replace natural vegetation that used to absorb water.
FEMA

QUOTED 

I facilitate astonishment. I didn’t join the Park Service for money; I get paid in gasps.

 —Shelton Johnson, the National Park Service’s best-known African-American park ranger, on why he has resisted promotion in order to continue playing an active role in telling the story of the Buffalo Soldiers. Even after 33 years, his federal pay grade is equivalent to entry-level in a lot of other fields.  
-Glenn Nelson

Shelton Johnson
Glenn Nelson
 

OVERLOOKED HORSE-PACKERS  
In an opinion piece, Maddy Butcher argues that the outdoor recreation community ignores people who get out on horseback, as opposed to on foot or by bike. “We love and make use of our public lands, but we get no respect, either on the trail or in the trade,” Butcher writes. The Back Country Horsemen of America spent over 300,000 volunteer hours on trail maintenance last year, but at major industry events, Butcher says, riders get little attention, despite being loyal, deep-pocketed consumers. On the trail, she argues, hikers and fast-moving mountain bikers often fail to slow for horses.
-Maddy Butcher

You say

Craig Reppe: “Considering that vast miles of wilderness trails are open to horseback travel, but closed to mountain bike use, I fail to understand your position.”

Carolyn Hopper: “I’d rather watch the butterflies that sip the moisture from horse droppings than get run over by a bicycle. And I love to ride horseback.”

Nala Bear: “Rather than hate on one another, try recognizing we all have impact, rather than pointing fingers at everyone else and casting blame.”