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Rattlesnake Ridge landslides continues to move, albeit slowly

A 20-acre slab of Rattlesnake Ridge continues its downward slide near Union Gap, but at a significantly slower rate, officials say.

An adjunct geology professor at Washington State University said the slide is likely to grind to a halt long before it ever hits Interstate 82 or the Yakima River.

Stephen Reidel.
Reidel

Stephen Reidel, a research professor of geology at WSU’s Tri-Cities campus, said rocks from the slide falling into the nearby Columbia Asphalt quarry are likely to form a buttress that will stop the slide in its tracks.

“If you just take a look at it, the rocks fall down the hill to the quarry,” Reidel said. “It is as far as it is going.”

State and county officials, as well as scientists, have been monitoring the slide since October 2017, when a crack was first spotted in the ridge near Union Gap.

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Yakima Herald

A new way to curb global warming hides beneath the Earth’s surface

Marc Kramer.
Kramer

Marc Kramer, an associate professor of environmental chemistry at Washington State University Vancouver, has discovered that one-fourth of carbon within the Earth’s soil is bound to minerals about six feet below the surface. This revelation could lead to new ways to deal with the influx of carbon due to global warming.

Kramer estimates that 600 billion metric tons (known as gigatons) of carbon is currently underneath the Earth’s surface — that amount is more than twice the carbon added into the atmosphere since the Industrial Revolution. Most of this carbon is underneath the world’s wettest forests, which unfortunately, won’t absorb as much carbon as atmospheric temperatures continue to rise.

This “major breakthrough” discovery, as Kramer called it, is a starting point for the process of moving atmospheric carbon underground as climate change and global warming progresses. However, there is still major work to be done.

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earth.com

To help wildlife move, researchers map both natural and legal boundaries

Wildlife need to move to survive: to find food, reproduce and escape wildfires and other hazards. Yet as soon as they leave protected areas like national forests or parks, they often wind up on a landscape that is very fragmented in terms of natural boundaries and human ones.

To help create more corridors for wildlife movement, a team led by Washington State University environmental studies graduate student Amanda Stahl has developed a way to map not only the vegetation but also the types of legal authority governing the landscape. In a paper published online in the journal Conservation Biology on Feb. 14, the researchers apply their new mapping system to the areas next to streams in Okanogan County in northeastern Washington.

Alex Fremier.
Fremier
Amanda Stahl.
Stahl

Stahl and her co-authors, Alexander Fremier, WSU associate professor for the School of the Environment, and University of Idaho Law Professor Barbara Cosens, studied habitat maps and dozens of legal documents applying to Okanogan County stream areas. They developed two weighted scales for each area of land, giving them a rating based on the naturalness and another based on the strength of the legal authority governing it. For example, if there were only voluntary recommendations in place to restore the habitat next to the stream that would be a weaker legal authority rating in comparison to wetlands that are protected through mandatory permitting and reporting under the Clean Water Act.

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Phys.org

WSU Insider

Scientists document collapse of the white-lipped peccary

White-lipped peccaries have declined by as much as 87% to 90% from their historical range in Central America, signaling a population collapse of a key species in the region, according to a study published recently in the journal Biological Conservation. The research was conducted by a team of 50 scientists from 30 organizations including Washington State University, the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and El Colegio de Frontera Sur.

A pig-like animal that is an important food source for large animal predators and humans alike, the white-lipped peccary (Tayassu pecari) also plays a critical ecological role by dispersing seeds and creating water holes that benefit other animals. The study found that current IUCN estimates underestimated the population decline. The study results are a 63% drop from the current IUCN range estimates for the region.

Daniel Thornton.
Thornton

“White-lipped peccary populations are in more of a critical condition than previously thought,” said lead author Dan Thornton, assistant professor in the School of the Environment at Washington State University. “While these results are sobering, they also offer a roadmap on how to conserve this iconic, ecologically important species.”

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Science Daily

WSU Insider

U.S. News ranks WSU Global Campus online degrees among nation’s best for 2020

Three online programs at Washington State University have been ranked among the best in the nation by U.S. News & World Report.

WSU is the only university in Washington state to rank in the top 25 of U.S. News’ Best Online Bachelor’s Degree Programs.

WSU’s Global Campus offers 20 undergraduate and 12 graduate degrees in many disciplines, as well as numerous minors and certificates. New degrees this year include a BA in Anthropology, BS in Biology, BA in English, BS in Earth and Environmental Sciences, and BA in Political Science. Additional degree programs are currently in development.

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WSU Insider