Green Roofs & Rain Gardens, Sunken Hazards, Fearful Phytoplankton, and History-yielding Marshes

A smorgasbord of Nooze this Wednesday: First, from Robert McClure reporting for EarthFix's special report on clean water, an in-depth look at some stormwater solutions - and why they aren't being utilized:

If Green Roofs and Rain Gardens Are So Great, Why Aren't There More?

The most pervasive water pollution source in American cities and suburbs is the contaminant-laced rainwater that sloughs off hard surfaces like streets and parking lots after a heavy rain, carrying with it the toxic debris of modern life.

This little-noticed form of pollution kills fish and other aquatic creatures, pollutes drinking-water supplies and scours away streambeds that fish such as salmon need to lay eggs. At least since the 1970s, scientists and engineers have been devising methods to intercept –- or better yet, never generate –- this so-called stormwater.

Yet these methods still are not widely mandated, making stormwater one of the leading reasons the Clean Water Act –- passed into law 40 years ago today -– has failed to meet its goal of making all American waterways fishable and swimmable... Read, hear and see more.

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Jeff Alexander, writing for the National Wildlife Federation, reports on a serious threat to the upper Great Lakes:

Sunken Hazard

Motorists who travel over the Mackinac Bridge in northern Michigan are treated to one of the most spectacular vistas in all the Great Lakes. The five-mile-long bridge crosses a vast expanse of cobalt water that extends far to the east and west, well beyond the reach of the naked eye. The view is sublime, breathtaking.

From the bridge, which peaks at 199 feet above the Straits of Mackinac, sightseers have a bird’s eye view of waters that mark the confluence of Lake Michigan and Lake Huron. What they cannot see from the bridge, or anywhere else, is a looming threat that could devastate the upper Great Lakes.

Just west of the Mackinac Bridge, below the water’s surface, lie two pipelines, called Line 5, that carry a total of 20 million gallons of crude oil and natural gas fluids each day from Superior, Wisconsin to Sarnia, Ontario. The pipelines were placed in the Straits of Mackinac in 1953—the year President Dwight Eisenhower took office and one year before McDonald’s opened its first burger joint...Read more.


Jennifer Frazer, writing for the Scientific American blog, investigates how one tiny creatures' sense of self-preservation is causing harmful algal blooms around the world:

Solar-Powered Plankton Take Monty Python Advice: Run Away

At least gazelles can run. But if you’re a tree, a blade of grass, or a hapless kohlrabi, there’s nothing you can do when the choppers, nippers, or clippers of your predator — aka “grazer” — approach. Such is the fate of most photosynthetic organisms, which we landlubbers tend to think of as plants. But not for all.

In the aquatic microbial world, there are photosynthetic organisms that apparently have another option when their grazers approach: flee.

Scientists at the Graduate School of Oceanography at the University of Rhode Island have found — and reported in a recent issue of PLoS ONE — that at least one marine phytoplankton can flee from its predators to low-saline refuges. There, their biology allows them to grow where their predators cannot, and potentially provides an explanation for the tendency of this species — Heterosigma akashiwo — to form harmful algal blooms in estuaries around the world... Read more.


And Tom Banse, reporting for NPR, takes a look at how the land itself can yield clues to the events of the past:

Coastal Marshes Yield History of Northwest Quakes, Tsunamis

PORTLAND - Native American legends collected on the Pacific Northwest coast speak of battles between supernatural beings that made the ground shake and caused great floods. Those stories can't tell us how often great earthquakes occur here or how high tsunami waves have reached. Now, researchers from Portland State University have found fresh evidence of tsunami waves more than 26-feet high that washed more than three miles inland.

A few years ago, Portland State archaeologist Sarah Sterling was working on a dig at an ancient tribal village site in Port Angeles, Washington called Tse-whit-zen. She noticed something curious.

She observed a series of gaps in a radio carbon sequence. Those gaps suggest the low-lying waterfront village was periodically abandoned every few hundred years. Sterling wondered if the explanation might be killer tsunamis... Read more.