Environment: Scientists say 90 percent of all seabirds have ingested plastic debris

One study found 200 bits of plastic in a single seabird

heron

A heron patrols the splash zone of a beach on the Florida Gulf Coast. @bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Plastic debris in the world’s oceans is now so widespread that about 60 percent of all seabirds have bits of plastic in their gut. Based on current trends, 99 percent of all seabirds will be affected by plastic ingestion by 2050, a team of international scientists said this week.

Based on a review of all studies published since the early 1960s, the scientists estimated that more than 90 percent of seabirds have alive today have eaten plastic of some kind. In 1960, plastic was found in the stomach of less than 5 per cent of individual seabirds, rising to 80 per cent by 2010.

“For the first time, we have a global prediction of how wide-reaching plastic impacts may be on marine species … and the results are striking,” said CSIRO researcher Dr. Chris Wilcox. “We predict, using historical observations, that 90 per cent of individual seabirds have eaten plastic. This is a huge amount and really points to the ubiquity of plastic pollution.” Continue reading

Doing the climate-change two-step in Alaska

 

If only speeches could stop global warming …

FRISCO — Secretary of State John Kerry probably expressed what many people feel about climate change when he took to the podium at the GLACIER conference in Alaska Monday, describing the helplessness that can take hold when faced with a seemingly insurmountable problem.

“I have struggled for years, as I’m sure many of you have, with how you adequately take an issue of this magnitude, this kind of challenge, and put it in terms that average folks can really grab onto, where it isn’t so intimidating,” Kerry said.

But that can’t be an excuse to do nothing, Kerry continued, describing the Alaska conference as an important stepping stone on the way to critical climate talk in Paris coming up in December.

“Everywhere I travel, leaders and average folks talk to me about the impacts of climate change and what they feel and see is happening to their lives in one particular part of the world or another. And the Arctic is so important for us to visit and understand because the Arctic is in many ways a thermostat … and yet we already see is having a profound impact on the rest of the planet,” he said.

Kerry also referred to concerns about melting permafrost, which could release heat-trapping gases in such great volumes that it could trigger runaway global warming far beyond and scenario currently represented in climate models.

“The bottom line is that climate is not a distant threat for our children and their children to worry about. It is now. It is happening now. And I think anybody running for any high office in any nation in the word should come to Alaska or to any other place where it is happening and inform themselves about this. It is a seismic challenge that is affecting millions of people today,” Kerry said, describing how Alaska is a poster child for those challenges.

“And unless the global community comes together to address this challenge, the dramatic climate impacts that we’re seeing in this part of the world will be a harbinger for every part of the world,” he said.

 

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

New Arctic oil exploration puts narwhals at risk

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Marine conservation advocates say new seismic airgun blasting in the Arctic Ocean threatens whales and other marine life. Photo courtesy NOAA.

Seismic blasting east of Greenland raises concerns about impacts to marine mammals

Staff Report

FRISCO — The Arctic Ocean north of Alaska isn’t the only area increasingly at risk from oil and gas exploitation. Oil companies are exploring the seabed off the eastern coast of Greenland, and the seismic blasting is likely harm whales and other marine life.

Oil companies use seismic equipment to map underground oil and gas reserves with airguns that emit 259 decibel blasts, a sound intensity would be perceived by humans as approximately eight times louder than a jet engine taking off. Continue reading

Environment: Texas study says kids exposed to highway pollution have lower grades

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How bad is highway pollution in your town?

El Paso research shows strong link between school performance and air pollution

Staff Report

FRISCO — A new children’s health study by researchers at the University of Texas at El Paso reinforces existing evidence that exposure to toxic air pollution from cars and trucks has a big effect on school performance.

The UTEP study found that fourth and fifth graders who are exposed to toxic air pollutants at home are more likely to have lower GPAs. The findings are based on an analysis of academic performance and sociodemographic data for 1,895 fourth and fifth grade children in the El Paso Independent School District. Continue reading

Is the EPA doing enough to protect bees?

Bumblebee love!

Bees are dying in huge numbers, and conservation groups are concerned the EPA is not doing enough to protect them. @bberwyn photo.

Beekeepers accuse pesticide industry of trying to ‘hijack’ public policy

FRISCO — The public comment period for proposed EPA rules on bee-killing pesticides may be over, but the battle over pesticide policies will continue, as conservation groups suspect that the pesticide industry may have exerted undue influence over the rule-making process.

Those concerns are reinforced by some of the country’s beekeepers, who say the proposed rule doesn’t do enough to address federal responsibility to address the impact of pesticides on bee deaths. The Pollinator Stewardship Council recently submitted a letter to the EPA detailing its concerns about the proposed new rule. Continue reading

Study eyes powerlines as factor in sage grouse decline

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Greater sage-grouse avoid powerlines, and the poles are used by perching raptors that target sage grouse nests. Photo via USGS.

Another piece in the sage grouse puzzle …

Staff Report

FRISCO — After closely studying a greater sage-grouse subpopulation on the Columbia Plateau in eastern Washington, wildlife biologists said that power lines may be a greater factor in habitat fragmentation than previously believed.

The new study found that transmission lines from hydroelectric dams and wind turbines affect greater sage grouse habitat by isolating fragile populations and limiting movement. The was published online this summer in the journal Landscape Ecology.

“With only a fraction of pre-settlement habitat left in the state for this species, it’s key that all of that habitat be connected in order for the population to be viable in the future,” said lead author Andrew Shirk, a research scientist with the University of Washington’s Climate Impacts Group. Continue reading

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