Environment: Conservation activists call on President Obama to create Alaska marine preserves

 That was certainly not the case on June 17, 2013, the date that the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite acquired this rare, nearly cloud-free view of the state. The absence of clouds exposed a striking tapestry of water, ice, land, forests, and even wildfires.


On June 17, 2013, the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite acquired this rare, nearly cloud-free view of Alaska. The absence of clouds exposed a striking tapestry of water, ice, land, forests, and even wildfires. Click here to visit the NASA Earth Observatory page for more info.

‘Fragile and unraveling’ ecosystems need protection

Staff Report

FRISCO — With President Barack Obama highlighting climate change during a visit to Alaska, conservation activists are renewing their call for the designation of Marine National Monuments in Alaskan waters.

Far from being a frigid wasteland, the region’s ocean and coastal ecosystems are among the most productive in the world. But marine mammal, seabird, and fish populations are in decline, including some that have become threatened or endangered species. And threats from climate change overfishing, pollution, increased shipping, and offshore oil drilling. are growing. Continue reading

Global warming: Outlook for coral reefs gloomy, scientists say at Prague conference

‘We will have algal-dominated, rubble-strewn, slowly eroding limestone benches’

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Limiting global warming to 2 degrees Celsius may not be enough to save ocean ecosystems, according to scientists.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Even if this year’s COP21 talks in Paris result in a global climate treaty, it may not be enough to save the world’s coral reefs. A global temperature increase of 2 degrees Celsius — targeted by the talks — means most reefs could be dead by mid-century, according to presentations at the Goldschmidt conference in Prague.

Speaking to the world’s major gathering of geochemists, Professor Peter F Sale (University of Windsor, Canada) spelled out the stark choice facing climate scientists in the run-up to the Paris conference.

“Even if Paris is wildly successful, and a treaty is struck, ocean warming and ocean acidification are going to continue beyond the end of this century,” Sale said.

“I find it very unlikely that coral reefs as I knew them in the mid-1960s will still be found anywhere on this planet by mid-century. Instead, we will have algal-dominated, rubble-strewn, slowly eroding limestone benches,” Sale said. Continue reading

Climate: Deep oceans likely to feel CO2 legacy for centuries

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Melting sea ice around Greenland. @bberwyn photo.

‘If we do not implement emissions reductions measures in line with the 2 degrees Celsius target in time, we will not be able to preserve ocean life as we know it’

Staff Report

FRISCO — Removing CO2 from the atmosphere as a last-ditch effort to avoid dangerous climate change probably wouldn’t be enough to ameliorate impacts to the world’s oceans, where the legacy of carbon pollution will likely play out for centuries to come in the form of deep ocean heat and increasing acidification.

These changes would linger even if the atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration were to be restored to pre-industrial levels at some point in the future, according to a new Nature Climate Change paper from an international team including Ken Caldeira, of the Carnegie Institution. This is due to the tremendous inertia of the ocean system. Continue reading

Climate study projects big impacts to phytoplankton

Scientists ‘shocked’ by scope of changes

Scientists working in the Gulf of Mexico are tracking BP's spilled oil as it works its way up the food web, from bacteria to plankton. PHOTO COURTESY NOAA.

Scientists say there will dramatic changes in ocean plankton communities by the end of the 21st century. Photo courtesy NOAA.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Global warming is likely to have a big effect on the abundance and diversity of ocean phytoplankton, with some species dying out and other flourishing, researchers said after completing a study that tries to anticipate the impacts of ocean acidification.

Since pre-industrial times, the pH of the oceans has dropped from an average of 8.2 to 8.1 today, and by end of the century, could drop to 7.8 — much lower than any levels seen in open ocean marine communities today. Continue reading

Climate: Ocean acidification threatens Alaska’s burgeoning shellfish hatchery industry

Costly seawater treatment may be needed by 2040

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Shellfish are particularly vulnerable to ocean acidification. @bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Ocean water around parts of Alaska is acidifying so fast that shellfish hatcheries may soon have to use costly treatment systems to continue commercial operations.

“Our research shows there could be significant effects from ocean acidification on Alaska’s emerging shellfish hatchery industry in a matter of two and half decades,” said Jeremy Mathis, Ph.D., an oceanographer at NOAA’s Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory and a co-author of the study, published this week in PLOS ONE.

“We need to continue to partner with industry and other stakeholders to make sure we’re providing the environmental intelligence needed by industry to answer key questions and make decisions to meet these challenges,” Mathis said. Continue reading

Climate: Conservation group tries new path to limiting CO2 emissions

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Increasingly corrosive ocean waters pose a serious threat to shell-building species and other marine life.

‘Future generations will look back and wonder why we didn’t do everything we could to save the world’s oceans …’

Staff Report

FRISCO — Citing the growing threat to the world’s oceans, environmental advocates want the federal government to regulate carbon dioxide under the Toxic Substances Control Act.

The regulations have been used to limit emissions of other harmful chemicals, including chlorofluorocarbons, PCBs and asbestos.

“Time’s running out to avoid a mass extinction of wildlife in our oceans,” said Miyoko Sakashita, oceans director with the Center for Biological Diversity. “It may not look like a toxic chemical, but when there’s too much CO2 in the ocean, it turns seawater corrosive and dissolves the protective shells that marine animals need to survive,” Sakashita said. Continue reading

Climate: Ocean acidification could reach critical level in key Alaska fishing grounds before mid-century

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Pteropods swimming in the Scotia Sea, where scientists have also tracked the impacts of ocean acidification. Photo courtesy British Antarctic Survey.

Impacts likely to ripple through ocean ecosystem

Staff Report

FRISCO — Parts of the Arctic Ocean are acidifying so fast that some marine species may see their ability to build and maintain shells threatened as early as 2030, according to new research by NOAA, the University of Alaska, and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

The study, published in the journal Oceanography, shows that surface waters of the Chukchi and Beaufort seas could reach a critical level of acidity within 15 years, with the Bering Sea reaching the threshold by 2044. Continue reading

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