Climate: Conservation group tries new path to limiting CO2 emissions

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Increasingly corrosive ocean waters pose a serious threat to shell-building species and other marine life.

‘Future generations will look back and wonder why we didn’t do everything we could to save the world’s oceans …’

Staff Report

FRISCO — Citing the growing threat to the world’s oceans, environmental advocates want the federal government to regulate carbon dioxide under the Toxic Substances Control Act.

The regulations have been used to limit emissions of other harmful chemicals, including chlorofluorocarbons, PCBs and asbestos.

“Time’s running out to avoid a mass extinction of wildlife in our oceans,” said Miyoko Sakashita, oceans director with the Center for Biological Diversity. “It may not look like a toxic chemical, but when there’s too much CO2 in the ocean, it turns seawater corrosive and dissolves the protective shells that marine animals need to survive,” Sakashita said. Continue reading

Climate: Genetic study shows some corals may have fighting chance to survive warmer oceans

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Can a genetic ‘mix-and-match effort save some coral species from global warming? Photo courtesy NOAA.

Mixing and matching corals from different latitudes may boost reef survival

Staff Report

FRISCO — If global warming can be capped at a reasonable level, some coral reefs may have a fighting chance to adapt to warmer ocean waters, according to new genetic research.

The new study suggests some coral species already have genetic variants necessary to tolerate warm ocean waters, and humans can help to spread these genes, said a team of scientists from The University of Texas at Austin, the Australian Institute of Marine Science and Oregon State University. Continue reading

Oceans: Scientists track spread of toxic algae along West Coast

Is the outbreak linked to global warming?

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Ocean temperatures along the west coast of North America have been well above average for many months, possibly contributing to a widespread outbreak of toxin-producing algae.

A nice haul of blue crabs.

Crab fishing and other seafood harvesting has been shut down along the West Coast because of an algae outbreak.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Top federal scientists suspect that a widespread bloom of toxin-producing algae along the West Coast is linked to months of well above-average ocean temperatures in the eastern Pacific, but say it’s too early to tell for sure.

The researchers may know more in a few months, as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Northwest Fisheries Science Center in Seattle is mobilizing extra scientists to track the widespread algal bloom along much of the West Coast. The epidemic has triggered numerous closures of important shellfish fisheries in Washington, Oregon and California. Continue reading

Climate: Hope for coral reefs?

Coral reef ecosystems are likely to change dramatically as oceans absorb more carbon dioxide. PHOTO COURTESY EPA.

Coral reefs may not be completely doomed after all, although it may all depend on exactly how hot it gets.

New study says temperature thresholds not the end-all to coral reef survival

Staff Report

FRISCO — Many coral reefs will definitely struggle to survive the global warming era, but the devastation may not be as widespread as once believed.

New research that looked beyond simple temperature thresholds shows a more nuanced picture in which the survival of reefs is linked not only to temperatures, but to how they respond to other stress, including pollution. Continue reading

Environment: Sounding off on seafood fraud

Public asked to help develop guidelines to identify species at risk from pirate fishing and mislabeling

A nice haul of blue crabs.

Blue crabs caught by a hobby fisherman in Florida. @bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Federal officials say the next step in reducing seafood fraud and pirate fishing is letting consumers weigh in to help determine what guidelines should be used to identify at-risk species — not a small matter considering that a recent study found that some sushi restaurants mislabel up to three-quarter of the food they sell.

The public input session is part of the Obama administration’s larger effort to thwart  illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing and seafood fraud. The comments will be used to develop a list of species eligible for a risk-based seafood traceability program. Continue reading

Trouble ahead for the Great Barrier Reef?

A NASA satellite photo shows a slice of Australia's Great Barrier Reef.

A NASA satellite photo shows a slice of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.

Ancient climate clues warn about impacts of modern human activities

Staff Report

FRISCO — Turbulent seas, loaded with sediment and nutrients at the end of the last ice age likely set back growth of the Great Barrier Reef by centuries, according to scientists who recently took a close look at the reef’s biological history.

The findings are important because those environmental conditions are similar to what the Great Barrier Reef is experiencing today as a result of human activities, including the controversial coal port dredging that’s seen as a huge threat to Australia’s cherished ocean landmark. Continue reading

Environment: do you want to sail the Ocean Blue with Jack Johnson and learn about plastic pollution?

Video contest will award winner with a spot on a six-day Atlantic research voyage

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Oceans or garbage dumps?

The winner of the 5 Gyres video contest will join the crew of the Mystic on a scientific sailing expedition. Photo courtesy % Gyres.

The winner of the 5 Gyres video contest will join the crew of the Mystic on a scientific sailing expedition. Photo courtesy 5 Gyres.

Staff Report

FRISCO — A short video about local solutions to ocean plastic pollution could put you aboard a six-day scientific sailing expedition aimed at learning more about the North Atlantic Gyre, where huge amounts of waste spin in a giant lazy ocean eddy — to the detriment of the ocean environment.

The contest is sponsored by the 5 Gyres Institute, named for the five major ocean circulations that trap garbage and debris. In some areas, rafts of floating garbage have enabled invasive bacteria to get a foothold in the ocean environment. Scientists have known about the problem for a long time, and they also know it’s getting worse. Continue reading

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