Thursday, September 17, 2020

Sea Save Foundation "Ocean Week in Review" September 18, 2020: We Gather News; You Stay Informed

United Nations' Global Biodiversity Report: World fails to meet target to stop nature destruction,  "Scientific American" breaks 175-year tradition to make political endorsement, Climate Change denier hired for key NOAA position and more...

1. United Nations' Global Biodiversity Report: World fails to meet target to stop nature destruction

The world has failed to meet a single target to stem the destruction of wildlife and life-sustaining ecosystems in the last decade, according to a devastating new report from the UN on the state of nature. From tackling pollution to protecting coral reefs, the international community did not fully achieve any of the 20 Aichi biodiversity targets agreed in Japan in 2010 to slow the loss of the natural world. It is the second consecutive decade that governments have failed to meet targets. The Global Biodiversity Outlook 5, published before a key UN summit on the issue later this month, found that despite progress in some areas, natural habitats have continued to disappear, vast numbers of species remain threatened by extinction from human activities, and $500bn (£388bn) of environmentally damaging government subsidies have not been eliminated.

Read more in "The Guardian"

2. "Scientific American" endorses Joe Biden

Scientific American has never endorsed a presidential candidate in its 175-year history. This year we are compelled to do so. We do not do this lightly. The evidence and the science show that Donald Trump has badly damaged the U.S. and its people—because he rejects evidence and science. The most devastating example is his dishonest and inept response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which cost more than 190,000 Americans their lives by the middle of September. He has also attacked environmental protections, medical care, and the researchers and public science agencies that help this country prepare for its greatest challenges. That is why we urge you to vote for Joe Biden, who is offering fact-based plans to protect our health, our economy and the environment. These and other proposals he has put forth can set the country back on course for a safer, more prosperous, and more equitable future.

Read more in "Scientific American"

3. Longtime climate science denier hired At National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

David Legates, a University of Delaware professor of climatology who has spent much of his career questioning basic tenets of climate science, has been hired for a top position at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Legates confirmed to NPR that he was recently hired as NOAA's deputy assistant secretary of commerce for observation and prediction. The position suggests that he reports directly to Neil Jacobs, the acting head of the agency that is in charge of the federal government's sprawling weather and climate prediction work. Neither Legates nor NOAA representatives responded to questions about Legates' specific responsibilities or why he was hired. The White House also declined to comment.

Read more in "NPR"

4. Chinese fishing armada plundered waters around Galápagos, data shows

A vast fishing armada of Chinese vessels just off the Galápagos Islands logged an astounding 73,000 hours of fishing during just one month as it pulled up thousands of tonnes of squid and fish, a new report based on data analysis has found. The discovery of the giant flotilla off the archipelago that inspired Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution stirred controversy and outrage in Ecuador and abroad. Nearly 300 Chinese vessels accounted for 99% of visible fishing just outside the archipelago’s waters between 13 July and 13 August this year, according to an analysis by marine conservation group Oceana.

Read more in "The Guardian"

5. Rare pink dolphins return to Hong Kong thanks to coronavirus lockdown

The lull brought on by the coronavirus pandemic has led rare pink dolphins to return to the seas around Hong Kong. Sightings of the vulnerable Chinese white dolphin have risen by nearly a third - 30 percent – since boat and ferry traffic was suspended in the region in March. Scientists fear the species is in decline but say their research suggests the animals adapted more rapidly than expected to the quiet environment, offering a glimmer of hope for their populations. Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins, also known as Chinese white dolphins or pink dolphins – reflecting their real color – have been hit hard by overfishing, water pollution, and numerous ferries and boats.  

Read more in "Independent"

6. Scientists baffled by orcas ramming sailing boats near Spain and Portugal

Scientists have been left baffled by incidents of orcas ramming sailing boats along the Spanish and Portuguese coasts. In the last two months, from southern to northern Spain, sailors have sent distress calls after worrying encounters. Two boats lost part of their rudders, at least one crew member suffered bruising from the impact of the ramming, and several boats sustained serious damage. The latest incident occurred on Friday afternoon just off A Coruña, on the northern coast of Spain. Halcyon Yachts was taking a 36ft boat to the UK when an orca rammed its stern at least 15 times, according to Pete Green, the company’s managing director. The boat lost steering and was towed into port to assess the damage.

Read more in "The Guardian"

7. Artificial reefs take on a towering presence as havens for marine predators

Acting like high-rise timeshares in the sea, shipwrecks and other artificial reefs can support dense populations of sharks, mackerels, barracudas, jacks and other large migratory marine predators essential to ocean health, according to a new study at 30 sites along the North Carolina coast. Predator densities were up to five times larger at the 14 artificial reefs surveyed in the study than at the 16 nearby natural reefs that also were surveyed Shipwrecks, especially those that rose between 4 and 10 meters up into the water column, were by far the fishes’ favorite. At some sites, they supported predator densities up to 11 times larger than natural reefs or low-profile artificial reefs made of concrete. “These findings tell us two important things. One is that artificial reefs can support large predators, potentially supplementing natural reefs if the design and placement of the artificial reefs are strategic,” said Avery Paxton, research associate with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science (NCCOS) in Beaufort, N.C., who led the study.

Read more in "Duke University - Nicholas School of the Environment"

8. Marine animals live where ocean is most ‘breathable,’ but ranges could shrink with climate change

As oceans warm due to climate change, scientists are trying to predict how marine animals — from backboned fish to spineless jellyfish — will react. Laboratory experiments indicate that many could theoretically tolerate temperatures far higher than what they encounter today. But these studies don’t mean that marine animals can maintain their current ranges in warmer oceans, according to Curtis Deutsch, a professor of oceanography at the University of Washington. “Temperature alone does not explain where in the ocean an animal can live,” said Deutsch. “You must consider oxygen: how much is present in the water, how well an organism can take up and utilize it, and how temperature affects these processes.”

9. Two major Antarctic glaciers are tearing loose from their restraints, scientists say

Two Antarctic glaciers that have long kept scientists awake at night are breaking free from the restraints that have hemmed them in, increasing the threat of large-scale sea-level rise. Located along the coast of the Amundsen Sea in West Antarctica, the enormous Pine Island and Thwaites glaciers already contribute around 5 percent of global sea-level rise. The survival of Thwaites has been deemed so critical that the United States and Britain have launched a targeted multimillion-dollar research mission to the glacier. The loss of the glacier could trigger the broader collapse of the West Antarctic ice sheet, which contains enough ice to eventually raise seas by about 10 feet.

Read more in "Washington Post"

10. Plastic pollution: Washed clothing's synthetic mountain of 'fluff'

When you add it up, the total amount of synthetic microfibres going into the wider environment as we wash our clothes is an astonishing number. US scientists estimate it to be 5.6 million tonnes since we first started wearing those polyester and nylon garments in a big way in the 1950s. Just over half this mass - 2.9 million tonnes - has likely ended up in our rivers and seas. That's the equivalent of seven billion fleece jackets, the researchers say. But while we fret about water pollution, and rightly so, increasingly this synthetic "fluff" issue is one that affects the land. The University of California, Santa Barbara, team which did the calculations found that emission to the terrestrial environment has now overtaken that to water bodies - some 176,500 tonnes a year versus 167,000 tonnes.

Read more in "BBC"

11. Ocean acidification risks deep-sea reef collapse

Deep-sea coral reefs face challenges as changes to ocean chemistry triggered by climate change may cause their foundations to become brittle, a study suggests. The underlying structures of the reefs—which are home to a multitude of aquatic life—could fracture as a result of increasing ocean acidity caused by rising levels of carbon dioxide. Hundreds of meters below the surface of the ocean in Southern California, researchers measured the lowest—therefore the most acidic—pH level ever recorded on living coral reefs. The corals were then raised in the lab for one year under the same conditions. Scientists observed that the skeletons of dead corals, which support and hold up living corals, had become porous due to ocean acidification and rapidly become too fragile to bear the weight of the reef above them. Previous research has shown that ocean acidification can impact coral growth, but the new study demonstrates that porosity in corals—known as coralporosis—leads to weakening of their structure at critical locations.

Read more in ""

12. Emissions may add 40 cm to sea levels by 2100, experts warn

Sustained greenhouse gas emissions could see global sea levels rise nearly 40 centimeters this century as ice sheets in Antarctica and Greenland continue to melt, a major international study concluded Thursday. The gigantic ice caps contain enough frozen water to lift oceans 65 meters, and researchers are increasingly concerned that their melt rates are tracking the UN's worst-case scenarios for sea-level rise. Experts from more than three dozen research institutions used temperature and ocean salinity data to conduct multiple computer models simulating the potential ice loss in Greenland and Antarctic glaciers. They tracked two climate scenarios—one where mankind continues to pollute at current levels and another where carbon emissions are drastically reduced by 2100.

Read more in ""

13. Loss of sea otters accelerating the effects of climate change

When otters became functionally extinct in the 1990s the sea urchin population exploded. Without their primary predator to keep them in check the echinoderms proliferated unabated. The coral-like reefs were built by red algae and are now being ground down by sea urchins.  Climate change also contributes to the recovery of kelp forests and red algae.  Combined these two issues are cause a transformation of Alaskan underwater topography.

Read more in "Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences"

Sea Save Foundation is committed to raising awareness of marine conservation. The Ocean Week in Review is a team effort produced by the Sea Save staff to provide a weekly summary of the latest in marine research, policy, and news