Channel Islands: Harnessing Fog on Santa Rosa Island

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Detailed Description

The familiar marine fog of Southern California’s coasts evokes more than just beauty and emotion — it also brings life. At the remote and hauntingly gorgeous Channel Islands National Park off the coast of Los Angeles, USGS scientists are helping the National Park Service understand how the loss of native plants has changed the natural water cycle of these islands. Scientists are studying how these plants capture life-giving water from the daily fog to quench these isolated landscapes. The research is helping park managers restore native plants after decades of human impact, in hopes to bring life-giving moisture back to this National Park.

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Image Dimensions: 480 x 360

Date Taken:

Length: 00:02:27

Location Taken: CA, US

Transcript

What happens here on Santa Rosa Island is
that late in the afternoon during the summer

months as the land cools down, the fog moves
in from the ocean, and blankets the landscape,

and then moves off during the next day as
the land heats up.

In the olden days, before the ranching, there
were shrubs here on the island and they captured

the fog moisture.

The shrubs would stick their leaves and twigs
up in the air, and droplets of fog would condense

on these leaves and twigs and drip to the
ground.

Those plants are gone now and that capacity
has been lost, and so instead of watering

the ground during the night, the fog just
blows by the island and doesn't deposit moisture

here and the soils are dry.

So a seed that falls on the ground is falling
on a dry place.

Our thrust right now then is look at how can
we harness fog to nourish plants?

It's kind of a chicken and an egg situation
where if you don't get the fog, you don't

get the plants, but you need the plants to
get the fog, and so we have to jump start

the system by figuring out how to capture
fog.

We're also looking with rain gauges that we've
adapted to fog monitors to find out how much

fog moisture actually drips down through the
canopies of various kinds of trees, and how

much drips down through artificial structures
that we've been putting out.

So our thinking is that we can identify these
places where there's pretty reliable fog.

We can capture it by putting up mesh netting,
fencing structures, cages, whatever, to allow

the fog to condense and plant plants at the
bases of those structures, and thereby have

the fog water our plants for us, we will be
a long ways along toward jump starting recovery

out here.