Posted on October 27, 2015 by Bob Berwyn
A NASA satellite captured a large bloom of phytoplankton off the coast of New York and New Jersey in Aug. 2015. Photo courtesy NASA Earth Observatory.
More research needed to track trends
Scientists tracking the northward track and seasonal shift of potentially harmful plankton are warning that the trends do not bode well for ecosystems and human health.
Presenting recent findings at an international conference, biologists said the future may bring more harmful algal blooms and called for changes in research priorities to better forecast these long-term trends.
The intense toxic phytoplankton blooms off the west coast of North America this summer appear to be associated with unusual warming-related conditions. Scientists also suspect such blooms may be a factor in a die-off off endangered right whale calves off the coast of Argentina.
“Does this large scale harmful algal bloom provide a window into the future?” said Dr. Vera Trainer of NOAA Fisheries’ Northwest Fisheries Science Center. “While it still is unclear, there is reason for substantial concern.” Continue reading
Filed under: Environment, Marine biology, ocean conservation | Tagged: climate change, Environment, harmful algal blooms, oceans | Leave a comment »
Posted on October 26, 2015 by Bob Berwyn
This is a right whale calf washed up at Peninsula Valdes, Argentina. New research indicates a likely connection between the deaths of hundreds such calves starting in the mid-2000s and blooms of the toxic algae Pseudo-nitzschia. Photo courtesy Andrea Chirife, Southern Right Whale Health Monitoring Program.
Study examines juvenile right whale deaths off coast of Argentina
Biologists suspect that blooms of toxic algae may have been responsible for a sudden surge in mortality among young right whales off the coast of Argentina during the past decade.
The baby whales started dying in increasing numbers in 2005, with the average number of deaths per year at Peninsula Valdes jumping more than 10-fold — from fewer than six per year before 2005 to 65 per year from 2005 to 2014.
The area is an important calving ground for southern right whales, and researchers had never seen such a dramatic spike in deaths. Even more striking, 90 percent of the deaths from 2005 to 2014 were very young calves fewer than three months old. The mystery killer appeared to be targeting the nearly newborn, sometimes more than 100 calves of the endangered species each year. Continue reading
Filed under: biodiversity, endangered species, Environment, Marine biology, ocean conservation | Tagged: Environment, marine mammals, oceans, toxic algae blooms | 1 Comment »
Posted on October 19, 2015 by Bob Berwyn
‘The politics of ocean protection are too often disconnected from the science and knowledge that supports it …’
In a perfect world, anywhere from 10 to 50 percent of the world’s oceans would have some type of protection to help sustain ecosystems and critical resources. But while recent decades have brought some progress in ocean conservation, we’re still far from the targets set by scientists, according to a new study published in the journal Science.
Right now, about 1.6 of the world’s oceans have strong protections, lagging far behind terrestrial conservation efforts. In the new study, researchers with Oregon State University point out that numerous international policy agreements call for protection of 10 percent of coastal and marine areas by 2020. Continue reading
Filed under: Environment, Marine biology, ocean conservation | Tagged: Environment, marine protected areas, ocean conservation, oceans | 1 Comment »
Posted on October 14, 2015 by Bob Berwyn
Study warns of ‘top-down’ ecosystem changes
New research suggests a potential upheaval in ocean ecosystems due to climate change. @bberwyn photo.
Global warming could lead to a “top-down” collapse of ocean ecosystems, researchers warned after showing how ocean acidification and warming are likely to cause a reduction in diversity and numbers of various key species that underpin marine ecosystems around the world.
The study, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, concluded there is only “limited scope” for acclimation. Very few species will escape the negative effects of increasing CO2, with an expected large reduction in species diversity and abundance across the globe. One exception will be microorganisms, which are expected to increase in number and diversity.
“This ‘simplification’ of our oceans will have profound consequences for our current way of life, particularly for coastal populations and those that rely on oceans for food and trade,” said Ivan Nagelkerken, an associate professor at the University of Adelaide, Australia.
The large-scale analysis of existing research, analyzed data from 632 experiments covering tropical oceans, Arctic water and a range of ecosystems from coral reefs through kelp forests to open oceans. Continue reading
Filed under: climate and weather, global warming, Marine biology, ocean conservation | Tagged: climate change, Environment, global warming, ocean ecosystems, oceans | Leave a comment »
Posted on October 14, 2015 by Bob Berwyn
This map shows the global distribution of aragonite saturation at 50 meters depth. The graphic shows areas that are most vulnerable to ocean acidification since they are regions where the saturation of aragonite is lower. Aragonite is a calcium carbonate mineral that shellfish use to build their shells. Graphic courtesy NOAA.
U.S. West Coast seen as vulnerable
There’s little doubt that all the world’s oceans are being acidified by the release of carbon dioxide, but some areas are more vulnerable than others, scientists said this week after measuring levels of aragonite, a substance that’s critical for shell-building organisms.
The new study, led by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration researchers, says the Arctic and Antarctic oceans, and the upwelling ocean waters off the west coasts of North America, South America and Africa as regions are especially vulnerable to ocean acidification.
When cold waters in those regions, already loaded with CO2, circulate to the upper layers of the oceans they mix with surface waters that are absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, subjecting them to a double whammy of sorts, according to the scientists. The carbon dioxide from the atmosphere is coming primarily from human-caused fossil fuel emissions. Continue reading
Filed under: climate and weather, global warming, ocean acidification | Tagged: carbon dioxide, climate change, Environment, greenhouse gases, ocean acidification, oceans | Leave a comment »
Posted on October 11, 2015 by Bob Berwyn
A supply ship lumbers through the biodiverse waters of the Antarctic Sound. @bberwyn photo.
Ocean scientists are advocating for the designation of quiet zones to help gain a better understanding of how noise pollution affects marine life.
Creating areas where ship traffic is limited would help researchers find the best way to protect marine life from harmful noise, according to a new study published in the journal Marine Pollution Bulletin. By assigning zones through which ships cannot travel, researchers can help find the best way to protect marine life from harmful noise.
Almost all marine organisms, including mammals like whales and dolphins, fish and even invertebrates, use sound to find food, avoid predators, choose mates and navigate. Chronic noise from human activities such as shipping can have a big impact on these animals, since it interferes with their acoustic signaling. Increased background noise can mean animals are unable to hear important signals, and they tend to swim away from sources of noise, disrupting their normal behavior. Continue reading
Filed under: biodiversity, endangered species, Environment, Marine biology, ocean conservation | Tagged: International Quiet Ocean Experiment, marine conservation, marine mammals, Noise pollution, ocean conservation, oceans | Leave a comment »
Posted on October 6, 2015 by Bob Berwyn
A new marine park off the coast of Chile will help protect important ocean resources. Photo courtesy Enric Sala/National Geographic.
‘A gift to the world …’
The creation of the world’s largest marine park in the Americas could help rebuild fish stocks off the coast of South America, ocean experts said this week, hailing Chile’s announcement that it will protect 297,518 square kilometers as a no-take zone. With the formation of Nazca-Desventuradas, Chile will now protect 12 percent of its marine surface area
“Chile is one of the world’s primary fishing countries,” said Alex Muñoz, vice president for Oceana in Chile. “With the creation of this large marine park, Chile also becomes a world leader in marine conservation.” Continue reading
Filed under: biodiversity, coral reefs, Environment, Marine biology, ocean conservation | Tagged: Chile, Environment, marine conservation, National Geographic Society, Nazca-Desventuradas, Oceana, oceans | Leave a comment »