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Volcano study helps measure historic ice sheet thickness

UBC geologists examine pyroclastic deposits near summit of tephra cone on south side of Kima'Kho. Key attributes of these deposits established that they were deposited above the level of a surrounding englacial lake.

UBC geologists examine pyroclastic deposits near summit of tephra cone on south side of Kima’Kho. Key attributes of these deposits established that they were deposited above the level of a surrounding englacial lake. Photo courtesy UBC Science.

Ancient tuyas hold climate clues

By Summit Voice

FRISCO —In what must have been incredible displays of fire and ice, ancient volcanoes once erupted under massive glacial ice sheets, leaving deposits that could help paleoclimatologists unravel some ice age puzzles.

In a recent study, University of British Columbia researchers surveyed those deposits at the Kima’ Kho tuya, which erupted under an ice sheet about 1.8 million years ago. Their findings suggest that he ancient regional ice sheet through which the volcano erupted was twice as thick as previously estimated. Continue reading

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Report highlights problems of unreported commercial fishing

Chinese fleet takes 12 times more fish than it reports

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A new analysis shows where China catches its fish.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Illegal fishing is a persistent problem, but it appears that China has elevated it to a new level, catching about 12 times more fish than it formally reports to the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization, an international agency that keeps track of global fisheries catches.

Overall, Chinese fishing boats catch about US$11.5 billion worth of fish from beyond their country’s own waters each year according to a new study led by fisheries scientists at the University of British Columbia.

“China hasn’t been forthcoming about its fisheries catches,” said Dirk Zeller, a senior research fellow with UBC’s Sea Around Us Project and the study’s co-author. “While not reporting catches doesn’t necessarily mean the fishing is illegal … we simply don’t know for sure as this information just isn’t available,” Zeller said, explaining that there could be agreements between China and other countries that allow unreported fishing. Continue reading

Housekeeping could help honeybees fight destructive mites

A new study shows how bee keepers might be able to protect their apiaries against colony collapse disorder

New research might help recover honeybee populations. Bob Berwyn photo.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — With a little bit of housekeeping, honeybees may be able to fend off the worst effects of a parasitic mite believed to a major factor in the recent spread of colony collapse disorder.

The blood-sucking mites weaken larval and adult bees, leaving them with a reduced ability to fight off infections, which is a problem because bees don’t have strong immune systems to begin with.

New research published in BioMed Central’s open access journal Genome Biology finds that specific proteins, released by damaged larvae and in the antennae of adult honey bees, can drive hygienic behavior of the adults and promote the removal of infected larvae from the hive. Continue reading

New study suggests plastic pollution in Pacific Ocean is more widespread than previously believed

Candy wrappers, styrofoam and other debris showing up in high percentage of dead birds along West Coast

A U.S. Geological Survey photo shows the remains of an albatross along with flotsam in ingested along the way.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Despite its vastness the Pacific Ocean is not immune to increases in plastic pollution, with concentrations off the coast of the Pacific Northwest reaching the level of the notoriously polluted North Sea, near the densely populated coast of northern Europe.

A new study led by a University of British Columbia researcher focused on the stomach contents of seabirds beached along the coastline from Canada down through Washington and Oregon.

The research group closely examined 67 dead northern fulmars and found that 92.5 per cent had plastics like twine, Styrofoam and candy wrappers in their stomach. On average, each of the dead birds contained  36.8 pieces. The average total weight of plastic was 0.385 grams per bird. One bird was found with 454 pieces of plastic in its stomach. Continue reading

Global warming: Plants respond faster than expected

If wild berries aren’t available when needed, bears look for food elswhere, including around human neighborhoods.

Global study shows that plants are developing earlier in the spring in response to warmer temps

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Many plants appear to be responding to global warming faster than anticipated by climate models, as trees leaf out and flower bloom on average about five to six days earlier for each degree (Celsius) of warming.

The observed response, based on results from 50 plant studies on four continents, is much greater than the changes induced under laboratory conditions. Changes in the timing of when plants develop has implications for entire ecoystems. There is already some evidence that the availability of food sources is out of synch with animals that depend on them.

“This suggests that predicted ecosystem changes — including continuing advances in the start of spring across much of the globe — may be far greater than current estimates based on data from experiments,” said Elizabeth Wolkovich, an ecologist at the University of British Columbia who led an interdisciplinary team of scientists that conducted the study while she was a postdoctoral fellow at the University of California, San Diego. Continue reading

Jellyfish numbers growing in many coastal ecosystems

Study finds increased abundance in areas affected by human development

Map of population trends of native and invasive species of jellyfish by Large Marine Ecosystems. Red: increase (high certainty); orange: increase (low certainty); green stable/variable; blue decrease, grey: no data. Circles represent jellyfish populations with relative sizes reflecting confidence in the data. (Brotz et al, Hydrobiologia).

Giant jellyfish (Nemopilema nomurai) interfere with fishing in Japan. PHOTO COURTESY SHIN-ICHI UYE.

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — Jellyfish populations are growing  in  many of the world’s coastal ecosystems, especially in areas affected by pollution, overfishing, and warming waters, according to a new study done by researchers with the University of British Columbia.

“We found numerous types and species of jellyfish that appear to be increasing, so the reported increases are certainly not due to one type jellyfish in particular,” said Lucas Brotz, a PhD student with the Sea Around Us Project at UBC and lead author of the study.

“That being said, there are several species of jellyfish that appear to be highly invasive are invading new regions around the globe all the time (probably due to transport from cargo ships),” Brotz said via email. ” The most notorious of these is a comb jellyfish called Mnemiopsis leidyi which is showing up in new places every year and often rapidly increases in abundance, potentially altering the ecosystems it invades,” he said. Continue reading

Canadian researchers pinpoint vulnerable fishing hotspots

A commercial crab-fishing boat in northern Germany. PHOTO BY RABOE/WIKIPEDIA UNDER A CREATIVE COMMONS LICENSE.

New data could help inform conservation policies

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — University of British Columbia researchers say they’ve identified key areas where fishing pressure — driven by the lure of profits — outweighs the appetite for conservation.

The fisheries scientists combined economic data and fisheries population growth rates to develop a conservation risk index that shows the economic-conservation trade-offs of fishing.

The most at-risk areas include the northeastern coast of Canada, the Pacific coast of Mexico, the Peruvian coast, the south Pacific (offshore of New Zealand in particular), the southern and southeastern coast of Africa, and the Antarctic region. Continue reading

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