27 Mar 2012:
Common Herbicide a Threat
To Great Barrier Reef, Report Says
A popular herbicide used widely in coastal regions of Australia has been found at dangerous levels in the Great Barrier Reef
, posing a toxic threat to the world’s largest coral reef system. The chemical Diuron, which is used largely by sugar cane farmers along the Queensland coast, was found at levels 55 times higher than safety standards in creeks that drain into the reef, and at levels 100 times the safe standards in the reef itself, according to a new report by the World Wildlife Fund. After a decade-long review, the Australian government on Tuesday announced it would continue a suspension of the chemical except in the country's tropical regions
. A decision on a permanent ban will be made by November, the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority said. In a recent report, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority called a decline in the quality of water in catchment areas one of the greatest threats facing the reef. Nick Heath, the WWF freshwater and reef coordinator, said the widespread use of the chemical and the length of time it persists in the environment pose a significant threat.
20 Mar 2012:
Local Fisheries Management
Helps Prevent Overfishing, Study Says
A new study says that co-management of fisheries at the local level is an effective strategy for curbing overfishing
and preserving the world’s dwindling marine resources. In an analysis of 42 coral reef sites where the fisheries are managed by a partnership of local governments, conservation groups, and fishers, an international team of scientists found that co-management has been largely successful in sustaining fisheries and improving livelihoods. According to their findings, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
, more than half of the fishers surveyed said the strategy was “positive” for their livelihoods (compared with 9 percent who said it has a “negative” effect), and co-managed reefs were half as likely to be heavily overfished. But if the sites are located near large markets, the study said, the fisheries are far more likely to be overharvested. The researchers studied local fisheries in Kenya, Tanzania, Madagascar, Indonesia, and Papua New Guinea.
14 Mar 2012:
Rising Seas, Coastal Flooding
Threaten 3.7 Million in U.S., Study Says
Roughly 3.7 million Americans live within a few feet of high tide and will face more frequent coastal flooding
in the coming decades as a result of steadily rising seas, according to new research. Using improved estimates of land elevation near coastlines and tidal levels
throughout the U.S., as well as 2010 census data, scientists at the non-profit group, Climate Central
, calculated that the 3.7 million Americans living within 1 meter — 3.3 feet — of mean high tide level will soon regularly face the kind of coastal flooding that was once exceedingly rare. Should sea levels rise more than three feet this century, which a growing number of scientists say is possible, millions more Americans in coastal communities will face outright inundation or frequent flooding, according to Benjamin Strauss, a scientist who directs Climate Central’s program on sea level rise. “We have a closing window of time to prevent the worst by preparing for higher seas,” said Strauss. A new Climate Central Web site, Surgingseas.org
, enables people in vulnerable U.S. states to click on an interactive map to see what kind of sea level rise their communities may face. The study is appearing in the journal, Environmental Research Letters.
Interview: Finding Strategies
To Save World’s Coral Reefs
In her four decades as a marine biologist, Nancy Knowlton has played an important role in helping document the biodiversity of the planet’s coral reefs — and the threats they increasingly face. Knowlton, a
scientist at the Smithsonian Institution, has been elated by the rapid pace of discoveries but also alarmed by the perils facing coral reefs, including overfishing, disease, and climate change. In an interview with Yale Environment 360
, Knowlton assesses the state of the world’s corals and discusses conservation projects that offer hope of saving these irreplaceable marine ecosystems — success stories that she has highlighted in a series of events called “Beyond the Obituaries: Success Stories in Ocean Conservation.” “I felt it was really important to give people a reason to think that there is something you can do,” Knowlton says. “We all need more than doom and gloom.” Read the interview
05 Mar 2012:
Protected Mediterranean Reefs
Show a Large Gain in Biomass and Diversity
A study of rocky reefs in the Mediterranean Sea shows that those accorded the highest protection, with all fishing prohibited, not only had a greater abundance and diversity of fish, but also demonstrated robust ecosystem health
all the way down to the level of marine algae. Enric Sala, a National Geographic
explorer-in-residence and marine ecologist at the Center for Advanced Studies of Blanes in Spain, led a study of rocky reefs in numerous regions of the Mediterranean. The study found “remarkable variation in the structure of rocky reef ecosystems,” with a three-decade-old protected area off of Catalonia in Spain showing large numbers of predatory and other fish, while unprotected reefs off the Greek and Turkish coasts were “bare.” The study
, published in the journal PLoS ONE
, found that that there was not a significant difference in ecological health between reefs that were partially protected, allowing some fishing and other activities, and those that had no protection at all. The conclusion, said Sala, is that to fully protect reefs and nurture biodiversity on them, “no take” fishing zones must be established and strictly enforced.
02 Mar 2012:
Ocean Acidifying Faster Than
Any Time in 300 Million Years, Study Says
The world’s oceans may be acidifying faster today than during any period over the last 300 million years
, a phenomenon that could have dire consequences for marine species and ecosystems, according to a new study. In a review of hundreds of paleoceanographic studies, a team of scientists found that a steep rise in atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide has driven down pH levels in oceans by 0.1 over the last century, to about 8.1, a rate 10 times faster than the closest historical comparison — a period of acidification 56 million years ago that triggered a massive ocean die-off. Oceans are vulnerable because they absorb excess CO2 from the atmosphere, turning the water more acidic, which can inhibit organisms, such as oysters and coral reefs, from forming shells. Barbel Honisch, a paleoceanographer at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory
and lead author of the study, published in Science
, said “if industrial carbon emissions continue at the current pace, we may lose organisms we care about — coral reefs, oysters, salmon.”
01 Mar 2012:
NASA Images Depict
Rapid Loss of Thick Arctic Sea Ice
A new comparison of satellite images from 1980 and 2012 vividly depicts the rapid disappearance of thick, multi-year Arctic Ocean ice in winter
. Over the past three decades, the extent of the Arctic’s thickest ice has declined by 15 to 17 percent per decade, according to
NASA climate scientist Joey Comiso. Using passive microwave sensors and other technology from NASA and U.S. Defense Department satellites, Comiso has shown that the thickest Arctic sea ice — formed over many years — has gone from covering most of the Arctic basin in winter to covering only about a third of the basin. In the images (above), which are based on data collected from November 1 through January 31, multi-year Arctic sea ice is shown in bright white, while thinner ice — often less than two years old — is shown in light blue and milky white. By 2012, thick Arctic sea ice had retreated to an area north of Greenland and Canada’s Arctic Archipelago, according to the images, published in the Journal of Climate
29 Feb 2012:
Study Finds Level of
Overfishing That Threatens Seabirds
A new study says that seabirds experience a precipitous drop in birth rates when fish supplies dip beneath one-third of maximum levels
, a finding that could provide critical insight into how overfishing imperils numerous bird species. In an analysis of research conducted on 14 bird species — from seagulls to penguins — in seven different ecosystems worldwide, an international team of scientists found that over long periods of time the ecosystems consistently followed the same basic law: When the amount of prey fish falls beneath that critical tipping point, the birds produce fewer offspring. The researchers selected only seabirds that feed on sardines, anchovies, herrings and other small fish targeted by fishermen and currently under threat. Those small fish, which are increasingly used to make meal and oil for fish farming, comprise about 30 percent of the global catch. The study, coordinated by Philippe Cury of the University of British Columbia, was published in the journal Science
29 Feb 2012:
Rising Seas To Have Uneven
Consequences for California Beach Towns
Rising sea levels projected over the next century could trigger uneven economic gains and losses for towns along the California coast
, according to a new study.
South Laguna Beach
Using a series of models to predict the effects of climate-related sea level rise at 51 Southern California beaches, researchers projected that some beaches could shrink or disappear altogether, while others can be expected to remain relatively large. According to their study, published in the journal Climate Change
, a 1-meter rise in sea levels would reduce the width of all beaches. But as smaller beaches diminish, many beachgoers are expected to drive farther to enjoy wider shores. Small beaches, such as Laguna Beach, could lose $14 million annually, while larger beaches, such as Huntington Beach, could gain $16 million annually.
22 Feb 2012:
Amazon Subsidiary Selling
Meat of Protected Whales, Probe Finds
Amazon Japan, a wholly owned subsidiary of Internet giant Amazon Inc., is offering for sale roughly 150 food products derived from whales, dolphins, and porpoises
, including canned whale meat, whale jerky, and whale stew, according to a new report. In a survey of the Amazon Japan website in December, the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) found 147 different products for sale, including from fin, sei, minke, and Bryde’s whales — species protected by the International Whaling Commission’s moratorium on commercial whaling and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). Japanese fishermen hunt whales under the guise of conducting scientific research, and then sell whale meat widely in Japan, conservation groups contend. The EIA urged Amazon.com President Jeff Bezos to enforce company policy not to trade in endangered species and to pull the whale products from the site of Amazon Japan.
20 Feb 2012:
‘Mobile’ Marine Reserves
Needed To Protect Far-Ranging Species
U.S. scientists say the creation of “mobile” marine reserves reflecting the migratory nature of far-ranging species
will be needed to prevent the extinction of some vulnerable species. Speaking at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Larry Crowder, director of the Center for Ocean Solutions at Stanford University, suggested that fixed ocean reserves do little to protect many endangered species — including loggerhead and leatherback turtles and sharks — that travel great distances across oceans. “We think of protected areas as places that are locked down on a map,” Crowder said. “But places in oceans are not locked down, they move.” For instance, he said, a shifting convergence zone in the north Pacific — where two giant currents collide, bringing plankton, small fish, turtles and large predators together — is located about 1,000 miles farther north during the summer than during the winter. Researchers are urging a policy under which fishing trawlers would avoid certain areas when vulnerable species are mating, spawning, or migrating.
16 Feb 2012:
Endangered Freshwater Dolphins
To Be Protected by Bangladesh Sanctuaries
The government of Bangladesh has created three new wildlife sanctuaries
for the endangered Ganges River and Irrawaddy freshwater dolphins, the last two remaining species of freshwater dolphins in Asia.
A Ganges River dolphin
Working with the New York-based Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) to identify key habitat for the dolphins, Bangladesh officials created the sanctuaries in the Sundarbans, the world’s largest mangrove ecosystem. The three sanctuaries will protect the dolphins in 19.4 miles of mangrove channels with a total of 4.1 square miles — a small area that WCS biologists characterized as the start of a wider effort to save the dolphins. No precise numbers exist on the number of remaining Ganges River and Irrawaddy dolphins, although in 2009 WCS scientists discovered a population of roughly 6,000 Irrawaddy dolphins. The two dolphin species have suffered severe population declines because of fatal entanglements in fishing gear and the depletion of their prey as huge amounts of fish and crustaceans are caught as by-catch in fine-mesh “mosquito” nets used to catch fry for shrimp farming.
14 Feb 2012:
Unique Antarctic Fish
Threatened by Warming Southern Ocean
A unique group of fish that has evolved to live in Antarctic waters thanks to “anti-freeze” proteins in their blood and body fluids is threatened by rising temperatures in the Southern Ocean
, according to a new
An Antarctic notothenioids
study. Yale University researchers say that the more than 100 species of so-called icefish, or notothenioids, evolved 20 million to 40 million years ago to live in waters as low as -2 degrees C, which is the freezing point of saltwater. The notothenioids account for the bulk of fish diversity in the waters around Antarctica and are an important source of food for penguins, seals, and toothed whales. But as water temperatures rise in the Southern Ocean — some Antarctic water temperatures have increased by .5 degrees C in the past several decades — the notothenioids may have trouble adapting to a warmer environment, said the study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science
. “A rise of 2 degrees centigrade of water temperature will likely have a devastating impact on this Antarctic fish lineage,” said Thomas Near, associate professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at Yale.
08 Feb 2012:
Louisiana Report Urges State
To Brace for 3 Feet of Sea Level Rise
A new report released by the administration of Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal projects that the state’s already vulnerable coastline could face 3 feet of sea level rise by the end of the century
. Based on current sea rise models, a science panel with the state’s Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority
suggests that rising seas and coastal land changes will increasingly expose lowlands to storm surges, with some regions facing as many as 4 feet of sea level rise. Their report, part of ongoing efforts to guide coastal zone management, urges state officials to integrate the latest data on sea level rise into planning and engineering activities. “We’re going to have to make adjustments and deal with it,” Denise Reed, a coastal geologist at the University of New Orleans told the Associated Press. The state has lost about 1,900 square miles of land since the 1930s and loses about 25 square miles annually. Although the report does not acknowledge climate change, a former science advisor to five Louisiana governors welcomed a report on sea level rise in a state where most elected officials have been largely dismissive of global warming.
01 Feb 2012:
Earth’s First Plants
May Have Triggered Ice Ages, Study Says
The first plants to colonize the planet about 470 million years ago may have plunged Earth into a series of ice ages
, according to a new study. Writing in the journal Nature Geoscience
, a team of researchers suggests that the earliest plants — including the ancestors of today’s mosses — caused silicate rocks, such as granite, to release calcium and magnesium ions. This process removed carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and formed carbonate rocks in the oceans, a phenomenon that would have caused the global climate to cool by about 5 degrees C, researchers say. In addition, because new plants also extracted phosphorous and iron from the rocks, the plants would carry those elements into the seas after they died, fueling the growth of plankton that would ultimately sequester carbon at the sea bottom. “Although plants are still cooling the Earth’s climate by reducing the atmospheric carbon levels, they cannot keep up with the speed of today’s human-induced climate change,” said Exeter University researcher Timothy Lenton, the study's lead author.
25 Jan 2012:
South Pacific ‘Free-for-All’
Decimating Fish Stocks, Report Says
Years of lax oversight, corruption, and political rivalry have allowed industrial fishing fleets from Asia, Europe, and Latin America to decimate fish stocks across the southern Pacific
, a “free-for-all” that has pushed one
A Peruvian fishmeal factory
critical species to the brink, according to a new report by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ). With governments ignoring the threat of overfishing and heavily subsidizing the fishing industry, fleets have plundered the waters off Chile and Peru and have fished heavily right up to protected Antarctic waters. Stocks of jack mackerel — an oily fish that is a staple in Africa and a vital component in fishmeal for aquaculture — have declined by more than 90 percent, from an estimated 30 million metric tons to less than 3 million metric tons, in just two decades. According to Daniel Pauly, an oceanographer at the University of British Columbia, the jack mackerel decline could portend a collapse in fisheries worldwide.
24 Jan 2012:
Real-Time Fisheries Information
Could Reduce Waste, Company Says
A Japanese fisheries company has equipped some of its boats with technology that enables crews to publish details of catches online in real time
, an innovation they say could significantly reduce waste and allow for more sustainable management of fish stocks. Using webcams and laptop computers on four fishing boats, the company, Sanriku Toretate Ichiba, allows fishermen to match their catch to consumer demand, and enables customers to buy fish before it even reaches port. The system could also allow fishing crews to dump live fish back into the sea if there is not ample demand on shore, the company says. “The hard reality is most caught produce goes to waste and in extreme cases this results in fishermen increasing their catch to compensate for lost revenues,” said Kenichiro Yagi, the company president. Some experts question whether such technologies are feasible at industry scale, particularly in the case of large trawlers, whose harvesting processes are often lethal to fish as soon as they’re caught.
23 Jan 2012:
Ocean Acidity Rise Unprecedented
in Past 21,000 Years, Researchers Say
Carbon dioxide emissions caused by human activities over the last century have increased the acidity of the world’s oceans far beyond the range of natural variations
, which may significantly impair the ability of marine organisms such as corals and mollusks to form their skeletons or shells, a new study says. Using computer modeling to simulate climate and ocean conditions from 21,000 years ago to the end of the 21st century, an international team of researchers calculated that current saturation levels of aragonite — a form of calcium carbonate and key indicator of ocean acidification — have already dropped five times below the pre-industrial range of natural variability in several critical coral reef regions. As the acidity of seawater increases, the saturation level of aragonite drops. If human combustion of fossil fuels continues at current rates, saturation levels can be expected to decrease further, possibly reducing calcification rates of some marine organisms by more than 40 percent within the next century, researchers say. “Our results suggest that severe reductions are likely to occur in coral reef diversity, structural complexity and resilience by the middle of this century,” said Axel Timmermann, a researcher at the University of Hawaii at Manoa and lead author of the study, published in the journal Nature Climate Change
12 Jan 2012:
Quota Market to Save Whales
Proposed by U.S. Researchers
A team of U.S. researchers has suggested that a system of tradable quotas for whales
could significantly reduce the number of the animals killed each year. Writing in the journal Nature
, researchers from the University of
A humpback whale
California, Santa Barbara and Arizona State University propose that putting a price on whales will allow conservation groups to “purchase” some whales and prevent whalers from killing them. While they acknowledge that critics will argue that a species should be protected “irrespective of its economic value,” the authors say previous efforts to reduce whaling have failed because of this lack of accounting for economic value
. Despite a global moratorium on whaling, the number of whales killed annually has more than doubled since the 1990s, with nearly 2,000 now harvested per year. The authors propose splitting the majority of quotas between whaling and non-whaling nations, with the rest auctioned off to benefit whale conservation. According to their calculations, the per-whale price would be about $13,000 for a minke and $85,000 for an endangered fin whale.
09 Jan 2012:
U.S. Imposes Catch Limits
On All Managed Fisheries For First Time
For the first time ever, the U.S. this year will impose catch limits for all 528 federally managed species
, a new policy one official said will become an “international guidepost
” for sustainable fisheries practices. After years of political wrangling, a coalition of lawmakers, environmental groups, fishing groups, and scientists were able to insert language into a reauthorized version of the Magnuson-Stevens Act — which governs all U.S. fishing — that will include annual limits on all fish stocks by the time the 2012 fishing year begins for all species. Some species, including mahi-mahi and wahoo, will have catch limits for the first time. “This simple but enormously powerful provision has eluded lawmakers for years and is probably the most important conservation statute ever enacted into America’s fisheries law,” Joshua Reichert, managing director of the Pew Environment Group, told The Washington Post
. Because the new limits were achieved in cooperation with regional fisheries councils, advocates predict a greater probability of success.
04 Jan 2012:
Teeming Ecosystem Found
Near Vents in Southern Ocean
Researchers exploring deep-sea hydrothermal vents near Antarctica in the Southern Ocean say they have discovered an ecosystem teeming with life
, including hundreds of hairy-chested yeti crabs, stalked barnacles,
and what could be a new species of octopus. Using a remotely operated vehicle to scan the sea bed near the East Scotia Ridge, located several miles under the ocean’s surface, a team of British scientists observed hundreds of yeti crabs clustered near the vents, where the water can reach temperatures of 752 degrees F (400 degrees C). Unlike yeti crabs discovered previously near hydrothermal vents in the South Pacific, these new crabs were found in greater numbers and had mats of hair covering their undersides, said Alex Rogers, an Oxford University researcher and lead author of the study published in the journal PLoS ONE
. The researchers also photographed a pale octopus they say could be a new species related to Vulcanoctopus hydrothermalis
, which has been found at other vents around the world. “The animals existing at these vents are almost all new to science,” Rogers said.
From NASA Satellites: The Year in Images
The past year will go down as one in which extreme weather, and major natural disasters, took a heavy toll
across the globe. Some of the most unforgettable images of these events — and of the planet’s natural cycles — were taken high above Earth by NASA satellites. In March, satellite photos captured the devastation of the Japanese earthquake and tsunami. Satellites also documented the continued melting of polar ice, the ever-widening footprint of human civilization, the beauty of a 500-mile-long phytoplankton bloom, and the enduring forces that have shaped the planet for eons, from volcanoes to wind storms. View some of the memorable images of 2011
22 Dec 2011:
Ocean Acidification Varies
Widely Across Globe, New Study Shows
The deployment of sensors in 15 regions of the world’s oceans shows an extremely wide variation
in how rapidly waters are becoming acidified, according to research conducted by the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. Scripps scientists have deployed more than 50 of the sensors, which measure pH and temperature in the top 230 feet of the ocean, as part of a continuing study to see how rising atmospheric CO2 levels are impacting the world’s oceans. Initial findings show great variation in ocean acidification. Around Antarctica and the Line Islands of the South Pacific, for example, there is limited variation in pH. But in regions where large upwellings bring CO2-laden water to the surface from the deep, such as off the coasts of California and the U.S. Pacific Northwest, the waters are more acidic.
Indeed, in some regions, Scripps scientists measured levels of acidity that were not expected to be reached until the end of the century, according to the study, published in the journal PLoS One
. Acidic waters can inhibit organisms, such as oysters and coral reefs, from forming shells. Scripps scientists said their long-term study will help document how marine organisms are responding to changes in ocean pH.
Interview: Defender of Whales
Sees Only a Tenuous Recovery
Biologist Roger Payne first came to prominence more than 40 years ago, when he and a colleague made the
Iain Kerr/Ocean Alliance
A humpback whale breaches
discovery that whales sing eerily beautiful songs as a way of communicating. Since then, he has continued his groundbreaking work on whales, including recent studies showing that whales worldwide have high levels of pollutants in their bodies. In an interview with Yale Environment 360
, Payne talks about current threats to whale populations, including the continued killing of whales by Japan and other nations, and discusses the mystery of the songs sung by whales, whose haunting strains have the power, he says, to move people to tears.
Read the interview
13 Dec 2011:
Huge Methane Plumes
Are Discovered in Arctic Ocean
Russian scientists sampling the waters of the East Siberian Arctic Shelf have discovered enormous plumes of methane
, some more than a kilometer wide, bubbling up from the thawing seabed. Igor Semiletov, an oceanographer from the Russian Academy of Sciences, said a research cruise late this summer detected more than 100 of these extensive methane “fountains” in an area of less than 10,000 square miles. Semiletov, who has been studying the region’s seabed for 20 years, said the scale and volume of the plumes far surpasses anything he had seen previously and could indicate that slushy methane hydrates on the seabed are thawing at an intensifying rate
as Arctic Ocean ice disappears and sea temperatures rise. In 2010, Semiletov estimated that the emissions of methane — a powerful heat-trapping gas — bubbling from the seabed in this region were about 8 million tons a year, but he said the recent expedition has shown that methane releases could be far higher. “We carried out checks at about 115 stationary points and discovered methane fields of a fantastic scale,” Lemiletov told the UK’s Independent
06 Dec 2011:
‘Merging Tsunami’ Doubled
Destructive Power Along Japanese Coast
A detailed analysis of satellite data shows that the devastating tsunami that struck the coast of northeastern Japan last March doubled in intensity because two wave fronts generated by an undersea earthquake merged before making landfall
from NASA and Ohio State University discovered that three satellites — all carrying radar altimeters that can measure sea level changes to within a few centimeters — passed over the tsunami waves as they formed last March 11. The rare coverage by several satellites enabled the researchers to determine that ocean ridges and undersea mountain chains helped create two large tsunami waves that merged into one enormous wave as the tsunami bore down on the coast. Such a huge wave was able to travel long distances without losing power, according to the researchers, who presented their findings at the American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco.
29 Nov 2011:
Carbon Sinks in Estuaries
Have Been Degraded by Industrial Activity
The ability of the world’s estuaries, salt marshes, and mangrove swamps to sequester carbon has been seriously degraded by industrial activity
, according to a study by Australian researchers. Scientists at the University of Technology, Sydney, examined layers of estuary sediment in Sydney’s Botany Bay for the past 6,000 years. They found that sea grass abundance has declined sharply, while quantities of micro-algae have soared. Increasing nitrogen deposition and pollution are the main culprits in destroying seagrass beds, which have the capacity to store as much as 100 times more carbon than micro-algae. The researchers dated the sediments using radiocarbon dating and determined the plant makeup of the Botany Bay estuary by examining isotopic ratios of seagrass versus micro-algae. Reporting in the journal Global Change Biology
, lead researcher Peter Macreadie said the results show the importance of preserving and restoring so-called “blue carbon habitats” in wetlands and estuaries. The partial loss of these carbon sinks has “severely hampered the ability of nature to reset the planet’s thermostat.”
28 Nov 2011:
World's Largest Marine Reserve
Proposed in Australia’s Coral Sea
Australia has proposed the creation of the world’s largest marine park in the Coral Sea, a 382,000-square-mile area where fishing would be limited and oil and gas exploration would be banned. The so-called Coral Sea Commonwealth Marine Reserve
would begin in waters about 36 miles off Australia’s northeastern coast, an area known for its array of coral reefs, sandy cays, sea plains, and canyons. According to Tony Burke, Australia’s Environment Minister, the waters of this area have become increasingly vulnerable to overfishing and habitat degradation. “In the space of one lifetime, the world’s oceans have gone from being relatively pristine to being under increasing pressure,” Burke said. According to the plan, 196,000 of the reserve square miles will be designated as “no take” areas
where fishing is banned. Larissa Waters, a Queensland senator and Green Party member, said the plan doesn’t go far enough, with only two out of every 25 reefs receiving “full protection.”
18 Nov 2011:
Award-Winning Fisheries Design
Reduces Bird Mortality by 90 Percent
A new system for longline fishing that reduces seabird mortality by nearly 90 percent in tuna fisheries was named the winner of the World Wildlife Fund’s (WWF) Smart Gear contest
, an international competition that
recognizes innovations to reduce by-catch mortality in the fishing industry. The fishing line, designed by Japanese tuna vessel captain Kazuhiro Yamazaki, uses a double-weight lead configuration to increase the sinking rate of the gear, and thus makes it more difficult for foraging seabirds to chase the baited hooks. According to WWF, the fishing line was used more than 95,000 times in 2010, reducing seabird bycatch by 89 percent with no injuries to fishers and no effect on fish catch rates. Hundreds of thousands of seabirds, including albatrosses and petrels, are killed every year when they are hooked on long-line fishhooks and drown. The runner-up designs include a pressure-activated tool that releases unintended fish catches at lower depths rather than at the surface, which reduces mortality, and gill nets fixed with lights to scare off sea turtles that might otherwise become entangled.
09 Nov 2011:
River Basins Can Hold
Carbon for 17,000 Years, Study Says
Researchers say the soils and sediments of the Ganges-Brahmaputra basin are able to store carbon for thousands of years
, a fact they warn could portend increased rates of carbon dioxide emissions as such vulnerable regions are exposed to the effects of climate change. Using radiocarbon dating, scientists at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) found that organic carbon can remain for 500 to 17,000 years, despite extraordinarily high rates of physical erosion and sediment transport within the basin that drains the Himalayas. Downstream, within the Gangetic floodplain, the carbon resides from 1,500 to 3,500 years. The longer the carbon remains within the soil, the longer it is kept out of the atmosphere, said Valier Galy, a WHOI researcher and one of the authors of the study published in Nature Geoscience
. But as rising temperatures destabilize soils and “ancient” carbon stored within the Ganges basin and elsewhere in the world, this could lead to more carbon dioxide being emitted into the atmosphere, hastening warming.