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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

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Will North Atlantic right whales get more critical habitat?

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Critical habitat sought for North Atlantic right whales. Photo courtesy NOAA.

Feds to decide on protection by 2016

Staff Report

FRISCO — Under a court-sanctioned settlement, federal biologists say they will shape a new critical habitat proposal for North Atlantic right whales by early 2016.

Each year most of the 500 North Atlantic right whales remaining on Earth migrate from their feeding and breeding grounds off the U.S. Northeast to their nursery areas off the Southeast. Continue reading

Study: Human activities having a big impact on Pacific Ocean nitrogen cycle

At home in the ocean.

Along with changes to the carbon cycle, human activities are changing the net nitrogen balance of the Pacific Ocean.

‘The North Pacific is so vast it is hard to imagine that humans could impact the natural nitrogen cycle’

Staff Report

FRISCO — Scientists studying the North Pacific Ocean said this week they were surprised to find a significant human impact to the upper ocean nitrogen cycle, primarily resulting from industrial and agricultural emissions.

The rate of deposition of reactive nitrogen (i.e., nitrogen oxides from fossil fuel burning and ammonia compounds from fertilizer use) from the atmosphere to the open ocean has more than doubled globally over the last 100 years. Continue reading

Oceans: Tracking study to help shape hammerhead shark conservation plans

Hammerhead sharks received much-needed protection from unsustainable trade. Photo courtesy Florida Museum of Natural History.

Hammerhead sharks may need more protection in the Sea of Cortes. Photo courtesy Florida Museum of Natural History.

FRISCO — A young hammerhead shark tagged by scientists in the Gulf of California swam more than 3,300 kilometers, diving as deep as 270 meters in offshore waters — well away from areas set aside to protect ocean life, according to a new tracking study.

The 10-month research project led by biologists with the Centro Interdisciplinario de Ciencias Marinas, Mexico and the University of California, Davis shows how additional conservation measures in nursery areas and offshore feeding areas could help protect sharks and other species. Continue reading

Oceans: Researchers identify starfish-killing virus

Mutation or environmental changes may have triggered recent epidemic that has wiped out entire populations

This is a SSWD-affected star. The fatal disease leads to behavioral changes, lesions, loss of appendages, and disintegration. Credit: Photo by Neil McDaniel.

This is a SSWD-affected star. The fatal disease leads to behavioral changes, lesions, loss of appendages, and disintegration. Photo credit: Photo, Neil McDaniel.

Staff Report

FRISCO — With 10 million viruses in every drop of seawater, it wasn’t easy to identify the pathogen that’s caused a recent widespread die-off of starfish along North America’s Pacific Coast. Already, entire populations have disappeared in less than two years — 20 different species, from Alaska to Baja, have been affected.

But using museum collections, researchers from Cornell University and the California Science now say they can attribute the mass mortality to a Densovirus that has been present in echinoderms like sea stars and urchins for at least 72 years.

The study suggests the disease may have recently risen to epidemic levels because of sea star overpopulation, environmental changes, or mutation of the virus. The results may help marine biologists as they try to develop conservation strategies, important, because sea stars are voracious predators, with a key role in regulating the ecology of the ocean floor. Continue reading

Oceans: Lights out for Pacific bluefin tuna?

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Wrangling over bluefin tuna conservation continues.

Activists call for consumer boycott

Staff Report

FRISCO — It may be lights out for Pacific bluefin tuna after the National Marine Fisheries Service last week reversed an earlier decision to restrict fishing for the dwindling species.

According to the emergency rule from the agency, the fishery will reopen until the 500 metric ton catch limit is reached. In a federal register notice, the agency said it imposed the closure prematurely.
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