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Coral reefs: ‘Business as usual won’t cut it’

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Coral reef ecosystems are facing serious threats from global warming as well as local impacts. Photo courtesy Renata Ferrari.

Study says concerted global and local action required

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — A detailed new study supports the idea that protecting coral reefs from local impacts like over-fishing and polluted runoff is a key part of any strategy to try and bolster reefs in the face of climate change.

The researchers concluded that, even though coral reefs are in decline, their collapse can be avoided with concerted global and local action.

“People benefit by reefs’ having a complex structure—a little like a Manhattan skyline, but underwater,” said Peter Mumby, of The University of Queensland and University of Exeter. “Structurally complex reefs provide nooks and crannies for thousands of species and provide the habitat needed to sustain productive reef fisheries. They’re also great fun to visit as a snorkeler or diver. If we carry on the way we have been, the ability of reefs to provide benefits to people will seriously decline.” Continue reading

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Global warming: More bad news for coral reefs

New global assessment predicts significant damage to majority of reef ecosystems unless greenhouse gases are curbed drastically

Staghorn coral. Photo courtesy NOAA.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Most coral reefs are likely doomed unless humankind acts quickly to curb greenhouse gas emissions, according to a new global assessment of global warming impacts published last week in Nature Climate Change.

“Our findings show that under current assumptions regarding thermal sensitivity, coral reefs might no longer be prominent coastal ecosystems if global mean temperatures actually exceed 2 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial level,” said lead author Katja Frieler, of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. “Without a yet uncertain process of adaptation or acclimation, however, already about 70 percent of corals are projected to suffer from long-term degradation by 2030 even under an ambitious mitigation scenario.”

The threshold for protecting at least half the world’s coral reef ecosystems is estimated at 1.5 degrees Celsius, according to the study conducted by scientists from Potsdam, the University of British Columbia in Canada and the Universities of Melbourne and Queensland in Australia. Continue reading

Global warming: Marine species under pressure

A 1 degree change in ocean temps could force some species to move hundreds of miles to find suitable habitat

Marine species are facing serious challenges as global temperatures rise.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — an increasing number of ocean-dwelling species are responding to global warming by changing their distributions and the timing of life cycle events such as breeding, spawning and migrations.

And marine life may need to relocate faster than land species, as well as speed up changes in the timing of major life cycle events — despite the fact that global land surface temperatures are increasing three times as fast as ocean temperatures.

“Analyses of global temperature found that the rate at which marine life needs to relocate is as fast, or in some places faster, than for land species,” said Dr Elvira Poloczanska from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation’s Climate Adaptation Flagship. Continue reading

Study: Hurricanes are clustered, not random

A new study suggests hurricanes come in clusters. IMAGE COURTESY NOAA.

Findings could help forecasters, insurance agencies and resource managers

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY —A study of hurricane tracks during the past 100 years suggests that tropical storm activity is clustered rather than random, with short intense periods of hurricanes followed by relatively long quiet periods. The trend was most pronounced in the Caribbean, with strong clustering in Florida, the Bahamas, Belize, Honduras, Haiti and Jamaica.

The findings, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, could have profound implications for hurricane forecasting and for monitoring impacts of tropical storms to coastal ecosystems and human populations. Continue reading

Humpback whale songs spread across oceans

Researchers say their study shows cultural transmission not unique to humans

Humpback whale songs are shared among populations worldwide. PHOTO COURTESY NOAA.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Humpback whale songs change over time, and move across oceans in distinctive patterns, according to Australian researchers, who recently published their findings in the online journal, Current Biology.

At any given time within a population, male humpbacks all sing the same mating tune. But as the pattern changes, catchy versions of the song spread across the ocean, almost always traveling from west to east.

“Our findings reveal cultural change on a vast scale,” said researchers Ellen Garland. Multiple songs moved like “cultural ripples from one population to another, causing all males to change their song to a new version.” This is the first time that such broad-scale and population-wide cultural exchange has been documented in any species other than humans, Garland added. Listen to some humpback whale songs documented by the researchers here. Continue reading

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