Tag Archives: marine ecology

World Bank issues SOS for oceans, backs alliance

NewsDaily: World Bank issues SOS for oceans, backs alliance.

 

By David FogartyPosted 2012/02/24 at 12:41 am EST

SINGAPORE, Feb. 24, 2012 (Reuters) — The World Bank announced on Friday a global alliance to better manage and protect the world’s oceans, which are under threat from over-fishing, pollution and climate change.



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Oceans are the lifeblood of the planet and the global economy, World Bank President Robert Zoellick told a conference on ocean conservation in Singapore. Yet the seas have become overexploited, coastlines badly degraded and reefs under threat from pollution and rising temperatures.

“We need a new SOS: Save Our Seas,” Zoellick said in announcing the alliance.

The partnership would bring together countries, scientific centers, non-governmental groups, international organizations, foundations and the private sector, he said.

The World Bank could help guide the effort by bringing together existing global ocean conservation programs and support efforts to mobilize finance and develop market-mechanisms to place a value on the benefits that oceans provide.

Millions of people rely on oceans for jobs and food and that dependence will grow as the world’s population heads for 9 billion people, underscoring the need to better manage the seas.

Zoellick said the alliance was initially committed to mobilizing at least $300 million in finance.

“Working with governments, the scientific community, civil society organizations, and the private sector, we aim to leverage as much as $1.2 billion to support healthy and sustainable oceans.”

FISH STOCKS

A key focus was understanding the full value of the oceans’ wealth and ecosystem services. Oceans are the top source of oxygen, help regulate the climate, while mangroves, reefs and wetlands are critical to protecting increasingly populous coastal areas against hazards such as storms — benefits that are largely taken for granted.

“Whatever the resource, it is impossible to evolve a plan to manage and grow the resource without knowing its value,” he said.

Another aim was to rebuild at least half the world’s fish stocks identified as depleted. About 85 percent of ocean fisheries are fully exploited, over-exploited or depleted.

“We should increase the annual net benefits of fisheries to between $20 billion and $30 billion. We estimate that global fisheries currently run a net economic loss of about $5 billion per year,” he said.

Participants at the conference spoke of the long-term dividends from ocean conservation and better management of its resources. But that needed economists, bankers and board rooms to place a value on the oceans’ “natural capital”.

“The key to the success of this partnership will be new market mechanisms that value natural capital and can attract private finance,” Abyd Karmali, global head of carbon markets at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, told Reuters.

He pointed to the value in preserving carbon-rich mangrove forests and sea grassbeds and the possibility of earning carbon offsets for projects that conserve these areas.

“The oceans’ stock is in trouble. We have diminished its asset value to a huge degree and poor asset management is poor economics,” Stephen Palumbi, director of the Hopkins Marine Station, Stanford University, told the conference.

(Editing by Robert Birsel)

Laundry Lint Pollutes the World's Oceans

Laundry Lint Pollutes the World’s Oceans – ScienceNOW.

There’s nothing subtle about dryer lint: Clean the fluffy, gray mat off the filter or risk a fire. Washer lint, however, is sneaky. Nearly 2000 polyester fibers can float away, unseen, from a single fleece sweater in one wash cycle, a new study reports. That synthetic lint likely makes its way through sewage treatment systems and into oceans around the world. The consequences of this widespread pollution are still hazy, but environmental scientists say the microscopic plastic fibers have the potential to harm marine life.

The existence of so-called microplastics in marine environments is not, in itself, a revelation. Larger bits of plastic, such as those in the infamous Great Pacific Garbage Patch, gradually break down into microscopic fragments. And minute plastic fibers have turned up before in treated sewage and on beaches. But no one had looked at the issue on a global scale, says ecologist Mark Browne of University College Dublin.

So Browne and his team recruited far-flung colleagues on six continents to scoop sand from 18 beaches. (The scientists had to wear all natural-fiber clothing, lest their own garments shed lint into the samples.) Back in the lab, the researchers painstakingly separated the plastic from the sand—a process that involved, among other things, hand plucking microscopic fibers from filter papers. A chemical analysis showed that nearly 80% of those filaments were made of polyester or acrylic, compounds common in textiles.

Not a single beach was free of the colorful synthetic lint. Each cup (250 milliliters) of sand contained at least two fibers and as many as 31. The most contaminated samples came from areas with the highest human population density, suggesting that cities were an important source of the lint.

Cities come with sewers, and Browne’s team thought the plastic fibers might enter the ocean via sewage. Sure enough, synthetic lint was relatively common in both treated wastewater and in ocean sediments from sites where sewage sludge had been dumped. In all the samples, the fibers were mainly polyester and acrylic, just like the ones from the beaches.

Finally, the researchers wanted to see how synthetic lint got into sewage in the first place. Given its polyester-acrylic composition, they thought clothing and blankets were a good bet. So they purchased a pile of polyester blankets, fleeces, and shirts and commandeered three volunteers’ home washing machines for several months. They collected the wastewater from the machines and filtered it to recover the lint. Each polyester item shed hundreds of fibers per washing, the team reports in the 1 November issue of Environmental Science and Technology.

A polyester sweater may seem cozy and innocent on a winter day, but its disintegrated fibers could be bad news in marine environments, Browne says. Other studies have found that microplastics in the ocean absorb pollutants such as DDT. And Browne’s own work has shown that filter-feeding mussels will consume tiny plastic particles, which then enter the animals’ bloodstreams and even their cells. If the same thing happens in nature, the plastic fibers could “end up on our dinner plates,” incorporated into seafood, Browne warns.

There is still no direct evidence that the fibers—pollutant-tainted or otherwise—harm marine life, but Browne says it’s worth figuring out. He argues that the fibers are “guilty until proven innocent” and says that textile and washing machine manufacturers, as well as sewage treatment plants, should be looking for ways to keep the fibers out of the ocean. Garments that shed less lint, or filters that trap the fibers, might help.

ScienceNOW sent a copy of the study to Patagonia, one popular maker of fleece sweaters. No one was able to review the study and comment before deadline, but spokesperson Jess Clayton said that Patagonia does intend to follow up on the findings with Polartec, its primary supplier of fleece.

Christopher Reddy, an environmental chemist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts, says it’s still hard to tell where lint pollution fits in the spectrum of environmental problems. It won’t “trump CO2 in the atmosphere” as a priority issue, but he calls the new results “provocative” and says they should trigger follow-up studies that measure the effects of the fibers on marine life. “It never ceases to amaze me that we continue to find more pollutants entering the coastal environment,” he adds. “What else is out there we may be missing?”

Seaweed Kills Corals by Touch

Seaweed With a Deadly Touch – ScienceNOW.

 

Green plague. In Fiji, rarely fished reefs (top) abound with colorful corals, but seaweeds start their invasions in exploited locales (bottom)

“Attack of the killer seaweed” may sound like a cheesy horror flick, but for many coral species, murderous multicellular algae have become real-life villains. A new study of reefs in the South Pacific suggests that some algae can poison coral on contact. This chemical warfare may be increasing the pressure on struggling reef communities worldwide, researchers say.

Along the reefs dotting Fiji, overfishing has pitted corals against algae in a battle royale. On swaths of coastline where fishing is restricted, corals such as the tall and branching Acropora millepora rule, says study co-author Mark Hay, a marine ecologist at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta.

But where Fijians spear lots of herbivores such as bird-beaked parrotfish, few fish remain to prune back the region’s seaweeds, a blanket term for many types of big algae. These algae then creep in, extending their tendrils over close to 60% of the ocean bottom, Hay estimates, and turning waters a sludgy green. Such “seaweed-covered parking lots” aren’t unique to Fiji, either, he says.

Recent studies have hinted that this ocean greenery may be carrying out a subtle chemical war on sensitive reefs. To investigate this covert struggle, Hay and colleagues strung eight different species of Fijian seaweed across growing corals, including A. millepora colonies. True to the researchers’ suspicions, many of these algal species seemed to wield a poison touch. In less than 2 weeks, the test coral often began to discolor and even die where it rubbed against the seaweeds, the team reports today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Faux seaweeds made of plastic had no such effect.

Hay and colleagues then mashed up several of these seaweeds to identify their killer concoction. The key ingredient turned out to be chemicals called terpenes, which some algae use to sicken fish that feed on them. Terpene extracts alone killed off corals, the researchers found. But some algae seemed to be more liberal with their toxins than others, Hay notes. When one particularly nasty specimen called turtle weed (Chlorodesmis fastigiata) rubs against A. millepora, for instance, wide bands of dying tissue girdle the coral.

This seaweed is so nasty, in fact, that most marine herbivores avoid it on sight—except for one species of rabbitfish that quivers with excitement every time it spots this not-so-common algae. That interaction highlights the importance of prudent fishing practices, he adds. If Fijians developed a particular taste for that one rabbitfish, for instance, turtle weed might begin to grow out of control, launching its bid for world, or at least South Pacific, domination. Hay would like to work with Fijians to identify and protect the herbivores most responsible for trimming back deadly seaweeds, giving sensitive corals a fighting chance.

“It’s certainly a novel finding,” says John Bruno, a marine ecologist at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. But not all seaweeds are poisonous, he adds. Many scientists argue that algae—toxins or no—rarely kill off adult corals en masse. Instead, these opportunistic organisms may simply be capitalizing on the slow death of the invertebrates due to pollution, climate change, or other factors. He adds, however, that the seaweeds Hay and colleagues studied would likely be exceptionally toxic to young, coin-sized corals that have yet to grow big and hale.

Terpenes from seaweed are almost certainly not the only reason for the mysterious global decline of corals, says Jennifer Smith, a marine ecologist at the University of California, San Diego. Most scientists rank overfishing, pollution, and warming oceans among the biggest overall contributors. But corals may suffer from other nasty tricks played by seaweed. In a 2006 study, Smith and colleagues sleuthed out that some California algae could take the epidemic route to domination. In the lab, these seaweeds leak huge quantities of dissolved carbon that then fuels the spread of potentially infectious microbes on coral surfaces. “You can imagine that [algae and corals] have evolved over the years different mechanisms for battling each other and fighting these turf wars,” Smith says.

Europe's oceans changing at unprecedented rate

Europe’s oceans changing at unprecedented rate: report | Reuters.

LONDON | Tue Sep 13, 2011 3:26pm EDT

(Reuters) – Europe’s seas are changing at an unprecedented rate as ice sheets melt, temperatures rise and marine life migrates due to climate change, a report by the Climate Change and European Marine Ecosystem Research (CLAMER) project warned.

Scientists examined a mass of EU-funded research on the impacts of climate change on Europe’s marine environment and identified the gaps and priorities for future work.

“Change has been clearly visible and is much more rapid than we thought was possible,” Carlo Heip, chair of the CLAMER project and lead author of the report, told Reuters on Tuesday.

Over the past 25 years, sea water temperatures have increased as Arctic sea ice has melted. The combination of rising sea-levels and increased winds has contributed to the erosion of 15 percent of European coasts, the report said.

Warming has speeded up in the past 25 years at around 10 times faster than the average rate of increase in the 20th century, it added.

From 1986 to 2006, sea surface temperature rises for European waters were three to six times higher than the global average.

“Scenario simulations suggest that by the end of the 21st century, the temperature of the Baltic Sea may have increased by 2 to 4 degrees centigrade, the North Sea by 1.7 degrees, and the Bay of Biscay by 1.5 to 5 degrees,” the report said.

Melting ice sheets and glaciers add more uncertainty. Current estimates for 2100 suggest European sea levels could rise 60 cms and up to 1.9 meters at some British coasts.

Sea level rise threatens populations in all low-lying areas of Europe, but countries such as Britain, France and the Netherlands could be less vulnerable because they are rich enough to adopt coastal protection measures.

Changes in the marine food chain have also occurred as organisms have migrated to the Atlantic from the Pacific via seasonal ice-free passages through the Arctic.

While some species can thrive in other oceans, any major upheaval to the marine ecosystem could have devastating effects, the report said.

CLAMER also found that some bacteria strains were becoming more prevalent and could be a potential threat to human health. For example, cholera strains have increased in the North Sea over the past 50 years, perhaps due to temperature change.

Among its many recommendations, CLAMER urged more study of seal-level changes due to ice sheets breaking up or melting, coastal erosion, temperature changes, ocean acidification, marine ecosystems and circulation changes.

“The main message is we need to keep our fingers on the pulse,” said Heip.

The full report is available at: www.clamer.eu/

(Editing by Janet Lawrence)

Warming seas could smother seafood

Warming seas could smother seafood – environment – 08 September 2011 – New Scientist.

Seafood could be going off a lot of menus as the world warms. More than half of a group of fish crucial for the marine food web might die if, as predicted, global warming reduces the amount of oxygen dissolved in some critical areas of the ocean – including some of our richest fisheries.

The prediction is based on a unique set of records that goes back to 1951. California has regularly surveyed its marine plankton and baby fish to support the sardine fishery. “There is almost no other dataset going back so far that includes every kind of fish,” says Tony Koslow of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla, California, who heads the survey. The survey records also include information on water temperature, salinity and the dissolved oxygen content.

Koslow’s team studied records of 86 fish species found consistently in the samples and discovered that the abundance of 27 of them correlated strongly with the amount of oxygen 200 to 400 metres down: a 20 per cent drop in oxygen meant a 63 per cent drop in the fish. There have been several episodes of low oxygen during the period in question, mainly in the 1950s and since 1984.

Global climate models predict that 20 to 40 per cent of the oxygen at these depths will disappear over the next century due to warming, says Koslow – mainly because these waters get oxygen by mixing with surface waters. Warmer, lighter surface waters are less likely to mix with the colder, denser waters beneath.

Of the 27 species most affected by low oxygen, says Koslow, 24 were “mesopelagic”: fish that spend the daytime in deep, dark waters below 200 metres to avoid predators such as squid that hunt by sight. There are 10 billion tonnes of mesopelagic fish globally – 10 times the annual global commercial catch – and they are a vital food for other fish and marine birds and mammals.

Out of the depths

In large segments of the Indian, eastern Pacific and Atlantic Oceans called oxygen minimum zones (OMZs), patterns of ocean currents already permit little downward mixing of surface water, so the dark depths where mesopelagics hide have barely enough oxygen for survival. Worldwide, OMZs are expanding both in area and vertically, pushing “hypoxic” water – water with too little oxygen for survival – to ever-shallower levels. Last year, Japanese researchers reported that this has nearly halved the depths inhabited by Pacific cod.

The California coast is an OMZ. When oxygen levels are even lower than usual, the hypoxic zone starts up to 90 metres closer to the surface. This means fish must stay in shallower, more brightly lit water, says Koslow, at greater risk from predators – which, he suspects, is what kills them. In the California data, predatory rockfish in fact boomed during periods of low oxygen.

“This is important work,” says William Gilly of Stanford University’s marine lab in Pacific Grove, California. He studies Humboldt squid, an OMZ predator whose recent movements seem consistent with Koslow’s idea.

“These findings are an example of the kinds of changes we will see more broadly throughout our oceans in coming decades, especially in OMZs,” says Frank Whitney of the Institute of Ocean Sciences in Sidney, British Columbia, Canada. Unfortunately, he notes, water and nutrient movements within OMZs make them among our richest fishing grounds.

Journal reference: Marine Ecology Progress Series, DOI: 10.3354/meps09270

Where did the Gulf's spilt oil and gas go?

Where did the Gulf’s spilt oil and gas go? – environment – 18 July 2011 – New Scientist.

The puzzle over what happened to the oil and gas released during the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico last year has been partially solved.

Oil is composed of many thousands of different chemicals but the plume that stretched through the Gulf contained relatively few. Now chemists have worked out what happened to the rest.

Christopher Reddy, an environmental chemist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts, and colleagues, used a remotely operated submarine to collect samples directly from the leaking well in June 2010 and compared these with samples taken from elsewhere in the oil plume.

Reddy likens the oil and gas molecules gushing out of the wellhead to passengers on an elevator. “We wanted to know which compounds got off the elevator instead of going up,” he says.

The team found that water-soluble compounds dissolved in neutrally buoyant seawater about 400 metres above the wellhead. These included benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylene – a toxic suite collectively referred to as BTEX. And in this layer they stayed. By contrast, the compounds that reached the surface were mainly insoluble.

Deep difference

Reddy’s work helps to answer one of the major questions from the oil spill – what happened to all that oil and gas, says David Valentine, a microbial geochemist at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

The results show how deep oil spills differ from surface spills, where many toxic compounds quickly evaporate rather than contaminating the water.

The team’s measurements also show that BTEX concentrations reached up to 78 micrograms per litre. That level is several orders of magnitude higher than known toxicity levels for marine organisms, according to Judith McDowell, a zoologist also at Woods Hole.

Journal reference: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1101242108

Warming oceans cause largest movement of marine species in 2m years

Warming oceans cause largest movement of marine species in two million years – Telegraph.

Swarms of venomous jelly fish and poisonous algae are migrating into British waters due to changes in the ocean temperatures, a major new study has revealed.

Warming oceans causing largest movement of marine species in two million years

Image 1 of 2
The venomous warm-water species Pelagia noctiluca  Photo: ALAMY
A Pacific grey whale was sighted in the Meditteranean after swimming through a passage that melted in the Arctic sea ice

Image 2 of 2

A Pacific grey whale was sighted in the Mediterranean after swimming through a passage that melted in the Arctic sea ice

Warming ocean waters are causing the largest movement of marine species seen on Earth in more than two million years, according to scientists.

In the Arctic, melting sea ice during recent summers has allowed a passage to open up from the Pacific ocean into the North Atlantic, allowing plankton, fish and even whales to into the Atlantic Ocean from the Pacific.

The discovery has sparked fears delicate marine food webs could be unbalanced and lead to some species becoming extinct as competition for food between the native species and the invaders stretches resources.

Rising ocean temperatures are also allowing species normally found in warmer sub-tropical regions to into the northeast Atlantic.

A venomous warm-water species Pelagia noctiluca has forced the closure of beaches and is now becoming increasingly common in the waters around Britain.

The highly venomous Portuguese Man-of-War, which is normally found in subtropical waters, is also regularly been found in the northern Atlantic waters.

A form of algae known as dinoflagellates has also been found to be moving eastwards across the Atlantic towards Scandinavia and the North Sea.

Huge blooms of these marine plants use up the oxygen in the water and can produce toxic compounds that make shellfish poisonous.

Plankton sampling in the north Atlantic over the past 70 years have also shown that other species of plankton, normally only found in the Pacific ocean, have now become common in Atlantic waters.

The scientists, who have been collaborating on the Climate Change and European Marine Ecosystems Research project, found the plankton species, called Neodenticula seminae, traveled into the Atlantic through a passage through the Arctic sea ice around that has opened up a number of times in the last decade from the Pacific Ocean.

Larger species including a grey whale have also been found to have made the journey through the passage, which winds it’s way from the Pacific coast of Alaska through the islands of northern Canada and down past Greenland into the Atlantic Ocean, when it opened first in 1998, and then again in 2007 and 2010.

Professor Chris Reid, from the Sir Alister Hardy Foundation for Ocean Science at the Plymouth Marine Laboratory, said: “It seems for the first time in probably thousands of years a huge area of sea water opened up between Alaska and the west of Greenland, allowing a huge transfer of water and species between the two oceans.

“The opening of this passage allowed the wind to drive a current through this passage and the water warmed up making it favourable for species to get through.

“In 1999 we discovered a species in the north west Atlantic that we hadn’t seen before, but we know from surveys in the north Pacific that it is very abundant there.

“This species died out in the Atlantic around 800,000 years ago due to glaciation that changed the conditions it needed to survive.

“The implications are huge. The last time there was an incursion of species from the Pacific into the Atlantic was around two to three million years ago.

“Large numbers of species were introduced from the Pacific and made large numbers of local Atlantic species extinct.

“The impact on salmon and other fish resources could be very dramatic. The indications are that as the ice is continuing to melt in the summer months, climate change could lead to complete melting within 20 to 30 years, which would see huge numbers of species migrating.

“It could have impacts all the way down to the British Isles and down the east coast of the United States.”

He added: “With the jellyfish we are seeing them move further north from tropical and subtropical regions as a result of warming sea temperatures.”

Researchers say the invading plankton species is likely to cause widespread changes to the food web in the Atlantic ocean as the invading species are less nutritious than native species, which are eaten by many fish and large whales.

Changes in populations of tiny animals called copepods, which are an essential food source for fish such as cod, herring and mackerel, are already being blamed for helping to drive the collapse of fish stocks as the native species of copepods have been replaced with smaller less nutritious varieties.

This has resulted in declines in North Sea birds, the researchers claim, while Harbour porpoises have also migrated northwards North Sea after sand eels followed the poleward movement of the copepods they ate.

Scientists taking part in the project from the Institute for Marine Resources & Ecosystem Studies, in the Netherlands, found that warmer water would also lead more species in the North and Irish sea as species move from more southerly areas.

But they found that the Atlantic ocean west of Scotland would have fewer species.

Dr Carlo Heip, director general of the Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research, which led the project that is a collaboration of more than 17 institutes in 10 different countries, said: “We need to learn much more about what’s happening in Europe’s seas, but the signs already point to far more trouble than benefit from climate change.

“Despite the many unknowns, it’s obvious that we can expect damaging upheaval as we overturn the workings of a system that’s so complex and important.

“The migrations are an example of how changing climate conditions cause species to move or change their behaviour, leading to shifts in ecosystems that are clearly visible.”

The researchers conclude that these changes will have serious implications for commercial fisheries and on the marine environment.

Among the other species to have migrated from the Pacific Ocean into the Atlantic was a grey whale that was spotted as far south as the Mediterrean off the coast of Spain and Israel.

Grey whales have been extinct in the Atlantic Ocean for more than a hundred years due to hunting and scientists found the animal had crossed through openings in the Arctic sea ice.

Dr Katja Philippart, from the Royal Netherland’s Institute for Sea Research, added: “We have seen very small plankton and large whales migrating from the Pacific into the North Atlantic, so there will certainly be many other species, including fish, that we haven’t detected yet.

“To see a whale in this part of the world was quite remarkable and when we looked at it we concluded it can only have come from one place.”

Pollution continues to choke America’s beaches

Pollution continues to choke America’s beaches – International Business Times.

REUTERS/Lee Celano
A protective boom is seen as oil from the Deepwater Horizon spill recedes back into the Gulf of Mexico after washing into a drainage canal in Waveland, Mississippi July 7, 2010.

According to the 21st annual beach water quality report released by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), pollution from storm water runoff and sewage overflows have taken a toll on U.S. beaches, often forcing their closure.

The report called ‘Testing the Waters: A Guide to Water Quality at Vacation Beaches’ reveals that “America’s beaches have long suffered from pollution,” NRDC senior attorney Jon Devine said, adding that “the difference is now we know what to do about it.”

Last year, U.S. beaches suffered from serious contamination including oil from BP oil spill, and human and animal waste, the report said.

The persistent pollution woes over the years has led to a “dirty legacy,” Devine said in the report, which analyzed government data on beach water testing results from 2010 at more than 3,000 beach testing locations nationwide.

“A concerted effort to control future pollution is required. By making our communities literally greener on land, we can make the water at the beach cleaner,” he added.

Heavy rainfall in Hawaii, contamination from unidentified sources in California, and oil washing up in the Gulf of Mexico from the BP disaster led to closing and advisory days at America’s beaches in 2010, affecting beach tourism.

“By taking steps to stop the biggest sources of pollution in the waves, we can help keep trips to beach carefree, and support our lucrative tourism industries nationwide,” David Beckman, Director of the Water Program at NRDC, said.

The report revealed that about 70 percent of the closing and advisory days were issued because bacteria levels in the water exceeded health standards.

The region with the most frequently contaminated beach water in 2010 was the Great Lakes, where 15 percent of beach water samples exceeded public health standards. The Southeast, New YorkNew Jersey coast and Delmarva region proved the cleanest at 4 percent, 5 percent and 6 percent respectively.

Beach water pollution causes a range of waterborne illnesses in swimmers including stomach flu, skin rashes, pinkeye, ear, nose and throat problems, dysentery, hepatitis, respiratory ailments, neurological disorders and other serious health problems. For senior citizens, small children and people with weak immune systems, the results can be fatal.

According to NRDC report, the incidence of infections has been steadily growing over the past several decades, and with coastal populations growing it is reasonable to expect this upward trend to continue until the pollution sources are addressed.

Earth's oceans on course for mass extinction

Earth’s oceans on course for mass extinction – environment – 21 June 2011 – New Scientist.

Mass extinctions are seldom pretty, but this one would transform Earth’s oceans forever, especially coral reefs.

A new report by the International Programme on the State of the Ocean (IPSO) assesses how climate change, overexploitation, pollution, habitat loss and other stressors are affecting the ocean as a whole.

The conclusion? We’re on course for a mass extinction that would include coral reefs and the menagerie of species that rely on them, as well as multiple species of fish consumed by people, although it may not be as severe as the “big five” extinctions of Earth’s distant past.

“We’re seeing a combination of symptoms that have been associated with large, past extinctions,” says Alex Rogers, the head of IPSO.

Acidifying waters

Rogers says the biggest problem is the rapid pace of climate change, which is “virtually unprecedented”. The closest comparison is the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum of 55 million years ago, when 2.2 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide was released every year for millennia and many deep-sea species were wiped out. Today we release over 25 gigatonnes every year.

Many harmful factors combine to cause additional damage. For instance, the oceans are acidifying as a result of CO2 dissolving in the water, and this makes corals more susceptible to “bleaching”.

Rogers recommends nothing less than slashing CO2 emissions, establishing Marine Protected Areas covering up to one-third of the ocean, and restoring marine ecosystems.

World's oceans move into 'extinction phase'

World’s oceans move into ‘extinction phase’ – Telegraph.

Maybe a dupe of something V posted….

A preliminary report from an international panel of marine experts said that the condition of the world’s seas was worsening more quickly than had been predicted.

The scientists, gathered for a workshop at Oxford University, warned that entire ecosystems, such as coral reefs, could be lost in a generation.

Already fish stocks are collapsing, leading to a risk of rising food prices and even starvation in some parts of the world.

The experts blamed the increased amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere for pushing up ocean temperatures, boosting algae so there is less oxygen and increasing acidity of the water.

The conditions are similar to every previous mass extinction event in the Earth’s history.

Dr Alex Rogers, scientific director of the International Programme on the State of the Ocean (IPSO) which convened the panel with the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), said the next generation would suffer if species are allowed to go extinct.

“As we considered the cumulative effect of what humankind does to the ocean the implications became far worse than we had individually realised,” he said.

“This is a very serious situation demanding unequivocal action at every level.

“We are looking at consequences for humankind that will impact in our lifetime and, worse, our children’s and generations beyond that.”

The marine scientists called for a range of urgent measures to cut carbon emissions, reduce over-fishing, shut unsustainable fisheries, create protected areas in the seas and cut pollution.