Diggin’ Deeper into the Underworld of Grasslands: Unearthing the importance of native plants and root systems in grassland ecosystems — Audubon

Pasqueflowers. Photo: Josh Lefers/Audubon Great Plains

Click the link to read the article on the Audubon website (Anthony Hauck):

As a habitat certification program, Audubon Conservation Ranching works, primarily through the practice of well-managed rotational grazing, to stabilize grassland bird populations. As indicator species, grassland birds can represent the overall health of their environments. In this post, we’ll explore just how deep the environmental benefits beyond birds run.

Native grasslands are not just beautiful landscapes; they are vibrant ecosystems teeming with life, from the tips of swaying grasses to the intricate networks beneath our feet. One key player in the hidden world of grassland ecosystems is native plants and their root systems.

First, native plants – grasses, wildflowers, and select shrubs – have evolved over time to thrive in specific grassland habitats, their root systems playing a pivotal role in maintaining soil and soil health.

Soil Health

Native plant roots penetrate deep into the soil – sometimes up to four times deeper than the height of the plant itself – carving out channels and pores that improve soil structure, enhancing water infiltration and reducing erosion. For example, the central taproot of the native compass plant can extend 15 feet into the ground!

These extensive root systems help anchor the soil in place, preventing erosion and reducing sediment runoff into water bodies. This helps maintain water clarity and prevents the loss of valuable topsoil.

Water Filtration

The dense root systems of native plants act as natural filters, capturing and absorbing pollutants and excess nutrients that would otherwise enter water bodies. This filtration process helps improve water quality and reduces the risk of algal blooms and other water-related issues.

Graphic credit: Julie Rossman/Audubon

Organic Matter

As native plants grow, they shed organic matter through their roots, forming a rich and fertile soil layer. This organic matter acts as a food source for soil microorganisms, promoting their activity and nutrient cycling.

Native plants and their root systems facilitate the cycling of essential nutrients, such as nitrogen and phosphorus, by absorbing and releasing them back into the soil, making them available to other organisms.

Below-Ground Biodiversity

The root systems of native plants provide vital habitats and support a diverse array of organisms below the ground.

Native plant roots release sugars and other compounds that nourish a diverse community of soil microorganisms. These microorganisms, including bacteria and fungi, form symbiotic relationships with the roots, aiding in nutrient cycling, disease suppression, and soil health.

Native grasslands also support a rich diversity of invertebrates, such as earthworms, beetles, and ants, which rely on native plants for food, shelter, and reproduction. These invertebrates contribute to nutrient cycling, soil aeration, and other important ecosystem functions.

Native plants and their root systems are crucial for soil health, water quality, and below-ground biodiversity in the native and restored grasslands in which the Audubon Conservation Ranching program works. Birds are what we want to see, but the role of native plants and their intricate root systems shouldn’t go unnoticed – it’s hard at work, even when you can’t see it.

#Colorado takes first step to hold #CommerceCity refinery accountable for pollution: Colorado’s health department has issued a compliance advisory against Suncor — in what has become a familiar pattern — 9News.com

Denver, Colorado, USA – January 12, 2013: The Suncor Energy refinery in Denver, Colorado. Based in Calgary, Alberta, Suncor Energy is a Canadian oil and gas company with revenues of over 35 Billion Canadian Dollars. Photo credit: City of Boulder

Click the link to read the article on the 9News.com website (Cole Sullivan). Here’s an excerpt:

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment called the June 1 “compliance advisory” the first step in its enforcement process to hold the company accountable.  It details more than 100 alleged violations that occurred at the state’s only oil refinery from July 2021 to June 2022.  State regulators will meet with Suncor to discuss the issues and require fixes before determining if penalties should be levied against the company.  A Suncor spokesperson said the company self-reported the violations and is working with CDPHE to resolve the compliance advisory.

“The enforcement process can create meaningful, positive changes and outcomes,” a CDPHE spokesperson told 9NEWS. “For example, the division’s historic $9 million settlement announced in March 2020 resolved an enforcement action with Suncor.”


The compliance actions have become an annual routine for the company, with records from the state indicating orders and advisories every year since 2013.

“It hasn’t proven to help,” said Ean Thomas Tafoya, who directs the Colorado chapter of environmental justice group GreenLatinos. “They’ve had one of the largest [fines] in the state’s history and yet they continue to have violations and more issues at this facility.”

Hotspots H2O: Day Zero Threatens Uruguay’s Capital — Circle of Blue

Sunset in Montevideo, Uruguay. By Intendencia de Montevideo – https://montevideo.gub.uy/files/dji0554jpg, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=122735908

Click the link to read the article on the Circle of Blue website (Zara Gounden & Fraser Byers):

June 7, 2023

In Uruguay, a mounting crisis is unfolding as ‘Day Zero’ – when the public water supply is depleted – draws closer in Montevideo.

On May 31 the National Administration of State Sanitary Works (OSE) announced that, without significant rainfall, the city of Montevideo would run out of water by June 22. The capital city of 1.4 million residents has plunged into uncertainty, triggering demonstrations.

Desperate officials are taking extraordinary measures in response. The OSE is alleviating dependence on the country’s largest freshwater reserve, the Paso Severino, by adding salt water from the River Plate estuary into the public water supply.

Montevideo’s water emergency joins a growing list of major metropolitan areas affected by extreme weather events that lead to dire water shortages. The El Nino Southern oscillation in the Pacific, in combination with the effects of climate change, have led to a global surge in such Day Zero events.

In Cape Town, South Africa. Day Zero scarcity hounded the city in recent years. Public protests demanded more responsible water resource management and a shift in water allocation from agriculture, which was initially granted 40% of the total water reserves during the drought.

Last year, Day Zero occurred in Monterrey, Mexico. Taps in the city went dry. Tanker trucks became the primary means to provide water to communities. Public demonstrations over water shortages also occurred in major cities in Brazil, Iran, and India.

Montevideo’s strategy to add salt water to supplement and extend its fresh water supply may be globally unique. But – the high levels of sodium and chloride in the region’s tap water are more than double the limits suggested by the World Health Organization (WHO). Uruguay has waived taxes on imported bottled water, and doctors have been empowered to provide prescriptions for free bottled water to pregnant women and individuals with chronic illnesses. OSE has even begun drilling for groundwater inside city parks to provide nearby hospitals with reliable supplies.

Despite such urgent actions, organizers such as Federico Kreimerman, president of the workers union at OSE, called for a greater response to limit the effects of the drought. Speaking to Reuters, Kreimerman blamed the current circumstances on a confluence of factors – low rainfall, industrial overuse, and weak public investment. On Twitter he wrote: “The government cannot make it rain, but it can take measures so that workers are not the losers. Waive fees, regulate bottled water. Otherwise, the water crisis will increase social inequalities.”

WEBINAR: The #Colorado #Water Plan in Action — Water Education Colorado #COwaterplan

Click the link for all the inside skinny on the Water Education Colorado website:

June 28, 3:00-4:30 p.m.

Join us next Wednesday, June 28 at 3 p.m. for a webinar on putting the Colorado Water Plan into action! 

The update to the Colorado Water Plan, published earlier this year, relies on people across the state to get things done and implement it. What sort of work fits in with the plan? What support is there to get this work done? And what projects have already been successful in advancing the goals of the plan? 

During the webinar, we’ll hear about action areas in the plan and how those overlap with funding opportunities. Plus we’ll hear from representatives from different parts of the state and take a look at a variety of projects — including a focus on collaborative water sharing in the Arkansas River Basin, forest health work in the Yampa River Basin, stream management planning and agricultural infrastructure improvements in the Rio Grande Basin, and water reuse, conservation and storage in the Metro area — that have already been implemented before diving into a discussion about moving forward. 

With speakers:
Russ Sands, Colorado Water Conservation Board
Julie Baxter, City of Steamboat Springs
Daniel Boyes, Rio Grande Headwaters Restoration Projects
Lisa Darling, South Metro Water Supply Authority
Scott Lorenz, Colorado Springs Utilities

This webinar is FREE for WEco members
Not a member? Join to support our mission and to take advantage of this and many other benefits.

Final Report: Practical #PFAS Treatment with Sawdust — Environmental Protection Agency

PFAS contamination in the U.S. October 18, 2021 via ewg.org.

Click the link to access the report on the EPA website:


This project aims to develop a new functionalized sawdust anion exchange resin for PFAS removal and to develop new cost-effective treatment processes using functionalized sawdust (FS). The hypothesis of this research is that cellulose-based sawdust can be functionalized into anion exchange resin, which can remove negatively charged PFAS in drinking water. This research will improve water management practices, and technical methods to minimize the PFAS risks to human, ecosystem and the environment. The specific research objectives of the proposed work are to: 1) Functionalize sawdust into biomass-based anion exchange resin; 2) Determine PFOA and PFOS removal from drinking water using functionalized sawdust column tests. The first objective helps students to understand the natural biomass (sawdust) from planet can be used for cleaning drinking water, which is related to people’s health. The second objective helps student to understand how much of PFAS existing in tap water, which is related to the polymer production from industries. This will help students to recognize the critical balance between prosperity of industry and protection of human health and the ecosystem. This project enables the student team to identify the community issues in our drinking water system. Undergraduate students will be trained in the area of sustainability, analytical chemistry, process design and environmental protection.

Summary/Accomplishments (Outputs/Outcomes):

In this Phase I project, functionalized sawdust has been chemically synthesized with epichlorohydrin and dimethylamine and characterized by Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy. The kinetic and isothermal adsorption experiments with FS have been performed and samples have been collected for liquid chromatography coupled to quadrupole time-of-flight mass spectrometry (LC-QToF) analysis. It has been observed that the functionalized sawdust can remove 93% of PFOA and 84% of PFOS in batch process. For the adsorption kinetics, the adsorption sorption rate constant of PFOA and PFOS is 0.1739 g/mg/h and 0.1022 g/mg/h respectively. The initial adsorption rate of PFOA and PFOS is 15.12 mg/g/h and 7.25 mg/g/h, respectively. The results suggested that the adsorption of PFOA and PFOS on FS was very fast and majority of adsorption can be completed within 2 h. The results have been summarized in the 2020 Progress Report.

Adsorption isotherm is critical to evaluate the sorption capacity of adsorbents as well as understand the PFAS and FS interactions. For the adsorption isotherm, series concentrations (ranging from 5-250 mg/L) of PFOA and PFOS solutions were absorbed with 0.2 g FS, respectively. The bottles were maintained on the shaker (200 rpm) for 120 h. The residual concentration of PFAS compounds have been quantified by LC-QToF analysis. As showed in Fig. 1, two commonly used models, the Langmuir and Freundlich were adopted to describe the experimental data and assess the adsorption behavior of the PFAS on each media. The adsorption isotherms show that the FS possesses high adsorption capacity 209.26 mg/g for PFOA and 161.80 mg/g for PFOS according to the Langmuir fitting (Table 1). The Langmuir adsorption model is based on the assumption of a structurally homogeneous adsorbent, monolayer adsorption and equivalent adsorption sites. The Freundlich model assumes adsorption on a heterogeneous surface. A good fit with the Langmuir model indicated monolayer adsorption of PFAS on the FS. The adsorption isotherm results in this study suggested that the synthesized FS showed high adsorption capacity for PFOA and PFOS removal…


Our goal for the Phase I project is to develop a new functionalized sawdust anion exchange resin for PFAS (especially PFOA and PFOS) removal and to develop new cost-effective treatment processes using FS. To achieve this goal, the commercial sawdust has been functionalized by reaction with epichlorohydrin and dimethylamine. FTIR was used to characterize the functional groups changes along with the functionalization reactions. It can be observed that functional groups (such as hydroxyl group) have been significantly changed after functionalization, which indicated the occurrence of functionalization reactions. To assess the efficiency of FS in PFAS removal, we also adsorption kinetic and adsorption isotherm of PFOA and PFOS in batch process.  Based on the adsorption kinetics, we found that adsorption of PFOA and PFOS on FS was very fast and majority of adsorption can be completed within 2 h in batch condition. Based on Langmuir and Freundlich model, we also determine adsorption isotherms to assess the adsorption behavior of the PFAS on each media. The result suggested that the synthesized FS showed high removal efficiency and high adsorption capacity for PFOA and PFOS removal according to the Langmuir fitting. Through this study, we believe that we have successfully synthesized sawdust-based anion exchange resin, which possessed high adsorption capacity of PFOA and PFOS removal from water system. We recommend that more PFAS compounds should be tested with this new developed technology and a techno-economic analysis is needed to assess the cost of advantages of FS for PFAS removal.  

Tribes seek greater involvement in talks on #ColoradoRiver #water crisis — The Los Angeles Times #COriver #aridification

The Colorado River cuts through Lees Ferry in the Navajo Nation en route to the Grand Canyon. Photo credit. Gonzo fan2007 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3631180

Click the link to read the article on the Los Angeles Times website (Ian James). Here’s an excerpt:

Leaders of several tribes say they continue to be left out of key talks between state and federal officials, and they are demanding inclusion as the Biden administration begins the process of developing new rules for dealing with shortages after 2026, when the current rules are set to expire.

Gila River Indian Community (GRIC) Gov. Stephen Roe Lewis advocates early engagement of tribes in the decision-making process. (Source: Water Education Foundation)

“They’ve met, they’ve discussed, they’ve made decisions that we only find out afterwards,” said Gov. Stephen Roe Lewis, leader of the Gila River Indian Community in Arizona. “And the 30 tribes — and I’ve heard this from my fellow tribal leaders — they are very frustrated by that, especially as we look at a post-2026 process moving forward.”

During the upcoming talks, Lewis said he and other Native leaders want to see the federal government include representatives of the 30 tribes whenever they convene a meeting with all seven states. He said this approach wouldn’t stop state representatives from meeting among themselves. Lewis raised the concern at a conference in Boulder, Colo., last week, saying that as work begins on a post-2026 plan, “it’s no longer acceptable for the U.S. to meet with seven basin states separately, and then come to basin tribes, after the fact.” He said when leaders of the tribes met with Interior Secretary Deb Haaland last year, she made a commitment “that we would be at the table when these highest-level decisions were being made.”


The Interior Department said the process of developing new rules to replace the 2007 guidelines will involve “robust collaboration” between the seven states, tribes, other stakeholders and Mexico…For the next two months, until Aug. 15, the Interior Department and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation will accept comments from the public on how the existing rules should be changed to “provide greater stability to water users and the public throughout the Colorado River Basin.”

Map credit: AGU