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Global warming aids spread of invasive fish in Mediterranean Sea

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A juvenile rabbitfish, an invasive species blamed for wiping out huge areas of ocean habitat. Photo courtesy Zafer Kizilkaya.

Ocean ecosystems at risk from fish that kills algal forests

Staff Report

FRISCO — The spread of invasive tropical fish into previously temperate waters is also affecting the Mediterranean Sea, according to Australian scientist monitoring the spread of rabbitfish which have already devastated algal forests in the eastern Mediterranean Sea.

Global warming may help the fish spread into the entire Mediterranean Basin, researcher warned in a new paper published in the Journal of Ecology (Authors: Dr. Adriana Vergés, of the University of New South Wales, Australia, and Dr. Fiona Tomas of the Mediterranean Institute for Advanced Studies in Spain). Continue reading

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Microplastic pollution widespread in St. Lawrence River

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A NASA Earth Observatory image shows ice formations on the St. Lawrence river.

Microbeads are pathway for other environmental contaminants

Staff Report

FRISCO — Microplastics have long documented as a growing environmental threat to oceans, and European researchers recently warned of similar problems in Italian lakes, and now, Canadian scientists say they’ve found 2-millimeter plastic microbeads widely distributed along the bottom of the St. Lawrence River.

The team of researchers from McGill University and the Quebec government published their study this month in the Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences.

The paper explains that the pollution probably comes from cosmetics, household cleansers, or industrial cleansers, to which they are commonly added as abrasives. Owing to their small size and buoyancy, they may readily pass through sewage treatment plants.  Microplastics are a global contaminant in the world’s oceans, but have only recently been detected in the surface waters of lakes and rivers. Continue reading

Climate: Ocean acidification may be stunting coral growth

Mapping coral diseases is helping researchers determine the cause. Photo courtesy NOAA.

Coral growth is slowing dramatically along parts of the Great Barrier Reef. Photo courtesy NOAA.

Will the world’s coral reefs simply dissolve as oceans become more acidic?

Staff Report

FRISCO — Scientists monitoring the Great Barrier Reef said they’ve tracked a “perilous” 40 percent slowdown in coral growth rates since the 1970s.

The trend may be linked with increasing ocean acidification, according to the new study led  by researchers with the Carnegie Institution for Science.

The researchers compared current measurements of the growth rate of a section of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef with similar measurements taken more than 30 years ago. Continue reading

Environment: Pesticide pollution rising in urban streams

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About half the nation’s streams are polluted by pesticides at a level of concern for aquatic life.

90 percent of urban streams show signs of contamination

Staff Report

FRISCO — A huge number of rivers and streams around the country are still polluted with pesticides that can kill bugs and other aquatic organisms at the base of the food chain.

Streams in agricultural areas are polluted at about the same level as they were 1990s, but pesticide pollution is increasing in urban streams, according to a U.S. Geological Survey study spanning about 20 years. Continue reading

Climate: More flooding, less snow in Vermont

August 2014 global temperatures were more than 1 degree Fahrenheit above the 20th century average. Map courtesy NASA.

August 2014 global temperatures were more than 1 degree Fahrenheit above the 20th century average. Map courtesy NASA.

Down-scaled climate modeling suggests sugar maples will probably persist for a while

Staff Report

FRISCO — New downscaled climate models for Vermont suggest that the state will probably be able to produce maple syrup in the coming decades, but the distribution of best habitat for sugar maples will shift, and average temperatures will increase by 5 degrees Fahrenheit by 2050.

By late in the century, Vermont’s average temperature will increase by 8 degrees Fahrenheit, adding 43 days to the growing season — and 10 additional days with temps above 90 degrees in Burlington, while snowfall is likely decrease by 50 percent at six major ski resorts, according to a team of scientists who recently published states-specific projections in the Journal of Applied Meteorology and Climatology. Continue reading

Global warming driving invasive lionfish northward

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The lionfish are coming, for better or worse.

New study takes detailed look at changing ocean temperatures

Staff Report

FRISCO — Careful study of ocean temperatures shows how tropical fish are likely to expand northward along the Atlantic coast into the temperate ocean zone off the Carolinas. Invaders could include the poisonous lionfish, which is already causing problems on coral reefs in the Caribbean.

Researchers with NOAA and the University of North Carolina-Wilmington combined year-round bottom water temperature data with 2006-2010 fish community surveys in water depths from 15 to 150 feet off the coast of North Carolina. The study revealed that the fish community was primarily tropical in the deeper areas surveyed, from 122 to 150 feet, with a winter mean temperature of 21 degrees Celsius (69.8 degrees Fahrenheit).

Many of the native tropical fishes, usually abundant in shallow, somewhat cooler reefs, tended to remain in the deeper, warmer water, suggesting that temperature is a main factor in controlling their distribution. The findings were published in the September issue of Marine Ecology Progress Series. Continue reading

Report claims Florida’s fast-track permitting for boat launches ignores impacts to manatees

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Florida manatees. bberwyn photo.

Feds consider changing manatee status from endangered to threatened

Staff Report

FRISCO — Gentle, slow-moving manatees are still facing serious threats from motorboats in Florida waterways and should continue be be listed as endangered, according to conservation advocates.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is considering down-listing manatees, but the move doesn’t make sense, considering that boat collisions are still the leading cause of death, as detailed in a new report issued by the Center for Biological Diversity.

The conservation group charges that federal and state officials have issued permits for thousands of new docks, boat ramps and piers without considering the cumulative effects on the marine mammals who favor the same near-shore waters used by Florida’s recreational boaters. Continue reading

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