Climate: Is the Great Barrier Reef doomed?

New study projects staggering coral losses as oceans warm

Coral Gardens: A school of surgeonfish cruise coral reefs near Palmyra Atoll.

A school of surgeonfish cruise coral reefs in the Pacific. Photo courtesy NOAA.

Staff Report

*More Summit Voice reporting on coral reefs

FRISCO —Even under a moderate climate change scenario, with just 1 to 2 degrees Celsius warming, the Great Barrier Reef may be doomed to become just a shadow of itself within a few decades, researcher said this week, warning of the cumulative impacts of warmer water, acidification, pollution and over-fishing.

In the short term, the combined effects of those impacts enable seaweed to over-run corals, in effect suffocating them. In the longer term, interactions among reef organisms would lead to dominance by other groups, including sponges and soft corals known as gorgonians. Continue reading

Climate: Melting glaciers adding dissolved carbon to world’s oceans

Scientists eye impacts to high-latitude marine ecosystems

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Melting glaciers, like the Dachstein in Austria, may be a big source of dissolved carbon with the potential to affect downstream ecosystems. bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

FRISCO — As if rising sea levels aren’t enough to worry about, U.S. Geological Survey scientists say melting glaciers may also adding significant amounts of carbon to the oceans, where it’s readily available to microscopic organisms at the base of the food chain.

By 2050, that carbon could total as much as 17 million tons, equal to about half of the annual flux of dissolved organic carbon from the Amazon River, the researchers reported in the journal Nature Geoscience, cautioning that their calculations are subject to revision.

The study aimed to better understand the role glaciers play in the global carbon cycle, especially as climate warming continues to reduce glacier ice stores and release ice-locked organic carbon into downstream freshwater and marine ecosystems. Continue reading

It’s official: 2014 was the warmest year on record

More heat ahead …

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Record warmth around the world in 2014.

Staff Report

FRISCO — 2014 ended up as the warmest year ever for planet Earth, but just by a whisker, edging out 2005 and 2010 by 0.07 degrees Fahrenheit. The new temperature record was driven by persistent warmth across the world’s oceans, which have been absorbing most of the heat trapped by greenhouse gas pollutants.

Heat absorbed in the oceans will fuel global warming for years to come, said Tom Karl, directory of NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center, which generates the monthly and annual climate reports for the U.S. and the world. With greenhouse gas emissions still rising, Karl said more record-warm years are ahead. Read the full report here. Continue reading

Antarctic sea urchins can handle some global warming

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Antarctic sea urchins may be able to adapt to global warming. Photo courtesy NOAA.

Lab testing measures response to rising temps, increasing acidification

Staff Report

FRISCO — Sea urchins around the Antarctic Peninsula are able to adapt to  warmer and more acidic seawater conditions expected by the end of the century, at least in a laboratory setting.

The study, led by scientists from the British Antarctic Survey and Bangor University, involved collecting 288 sea urchins and and transporting them to the British Antarctic Survey in Cambridge, UK. Continue reading

Climate: Increasing CO2 killing oyster larvae

Love oysters? Then you should be worried about global warming.

Love oysters? Then you should be worried about global warming and ocean acidification. bberwyn photo.

Natural buffering can’t keep up with increasing ocean acidification

Staff Report

FRISCO — Oysters at their earliest stages of development are already feeling the impacts of ocean acidification, scientists said this week, explaining that oyster larvae are sensitive to saturation state, rather than carbon dioxide or pH per se.

The saturation state is a measure of how corrosive seawater is to the calcium carbonate shells made by bivalve larvae, and how easy it is for larvae to produce their shells. A lower saturation rate is associated with more corrosive seawater. Continue reading

Can some Caribbean corals survive global warming?

Coral and other marine resources in the Florida Keys are at risk from an approaching oil plume.

Some corals are less sensitive to ocean acidification than others, according to a new study. Photo via NOAA.

Study say soft Gorgonian coral species can still calcify under elevated CO2 levels

Staff Report

FRISCO — Not all corals are equal when it comes to withstanding the ravages of global warming.

Some Caribbean soft corals, known as gorgonians, may be able to calcify and grow under elevated carbon dioxide concentrations. Those corals may be more resilient to the ocean acidification levels projected by the end of the 21st century than previously thought, according to a new study published in the journal Coral Reef. Continue reading

GAO report finds lagging response to ocean acidification

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Ocean acidification is an existential threat to many marine species and ecosystems.

Federal government has failed to implement several key steps required by 2009 law

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Federal agencies well recognize the environmental threats of increasing ocean acidification, but so far, the response has been lackluster at best, according to the Government Accountability Office.

In a report issued this week, the GAO said federal agencies have been slow in implementing several requirements of the 2009 Federal Ocean Acidification Research and Monitoring Act, including outlining the budget requirements for implementing the research and monitoring plan. Continue reading

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