Environment: There’s a plan to curb ocean plastic pollution


A seal trapped in plastic debris. Photo courtesy EwanEdwards/TheClippertonProject.

8 million tons of plastic waste (and counting) go into the oceans each year …

Staff Report

Slowing the waste stream in five key countries could go a long way toward reducing ocean plastic pollution, according to a new report from Ocean Conservancy. The report outlines a plan that targets the elimination of plastic waste leakage in China, Indonesia, Philippines, Vietnam and Thailand, estimated to account for half of all global plastic leakage.

Medium- and short-term goals include speeding waste collection and staunching post-collection leakage, followed by the development and rollout of commercially viable treatment options. For the long term, the report says it’s critical to find innovative recovery and treatment technologies, and to develop new materials and product designs that better facilitate reuse or recycling. Continue reading

Sea turtles face serious plastic pollution risk


Sea turtles along the East Coast of North America face a high risk of ingesting plastic waste. Photo courtesy NOAA.

Study estimates more than half of all sea turtles have ingested plastic debris

Staff Report

LINZ — Not long after a team of scientists detailed the extent to which seabirds have been exposed to ocean plastic pollution, another group of researchers say sea turtles face similar threats.

The international study, led by a led by a University of Queensland researcher, shows more than half the world’s sea turtles have ingested plastic or other human trash — perhaps not surprising considering that up to 12 million tons of plastic debris reach the oceans each year.

Continue reading

Plankton debris helps create icy clouds


A storm-tossed wave in the Southern Ocean. @bberwyn photo.

It’s all connected …

Staff Report

FRISCO — The connection between the world’s oceans and atmosphere have become even more clear thanks to a new study showing for the first time that plankton in remote regions contribute to airborne particles that trigger ice formation in clouds.

Organic waste from life in the oceans, which is ejected into the atmosphere along with sea spray from breaking waves, stimulates cloud droplets to freeze into ice particles. This affects how clouds behave. The scientists, who published their findings in the journal Nature, say the research could help refine climate change projections. Continue reading

Global warming to drive massive ocean biodiversity shift


Where will fish go as the oceans warm?

Changes will come at unprecedented pace

Staff Report

FRISCO — Ocean biodiversity is set to change at an unprecedented pace, a team of researchers said in a new study after modeling how global warming will affect some 13,000 ocean species.

The findings reinforce a large body of previous research showing that, in general, many fish will move toward toward the poles looking for cooler water. The researchers pointed out that similar redistributions have happened before — but always on a geological timescale spanning millions of years. Continue reading

Protecting fish populations seen as key to coral reef conservation


Coral reefs need abundant and diverse fish populations to survive. Photo via NOAA.

Fishing regulations around coral reef hotspots must be enforced

Staff Report

FRISCO — Protecting fish populations around coral reefs may be the key to helping sustain coral ecosystems, according to a new study by the Wildlife Conservation Society that has major implications for coral reef management.

The study focused on coral reef diversity ‘hotspots’ in the southwestern Indian Ocean, finding that they rely more on the biomass of fish than where they are located. Continue reading

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

One study found 200 bits of plastic in a single seabird


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

Global warming: Outlook for coral reefs gloomy, scientists say at Prague conference

‘We will have algal-dominated, rubble-strewn, slowly eroding limestone benches’


Limiting global warming to 2 degrees Celsius may not be enough to save ocean ecosystems, according to scientists.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Even if this year’s COP21 talks in Paris result in a global climate treaty, it may not be enough to save the world’s coral reefs. A global temperature increase of 2 degrees Celsius — targeted by the talks — means most reefs could be dead by mid-century, according to presentations at the Goldschmidt conference in Prague.

Speaking to the world’s major gathering of geochemists, Professor Peter F Sale (University of Windsor, Canada) spelled out the stark choice facing climate scientists in the run-up to the Paris conference.

“Even if Paris is wildly successful, and a treaty is struck, ocean warming and ocean acidification are going to continue beyond the end of this century,” Sale said.

“I find it very unlikely that coral reefs as I knew them in the mid-1960s will still be found anywhere on this planet by mid-century. Instead, we will have algal-dominated, rubble-strewn, slowly eroding limestone benches,” Sale said. Continue reading


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