The world’s largest living organism has shrunk by about half over the past 30 years as a result of climate change, ocean acidification, pollution and crown-of-thorns starfish, which prey on coral.
Some of its 400 or so species are endangered or threatened, and marine biologists fear they could soon be wiped out. The establishment of a gene bank, using human fertility techniques, is a bold response by scientists seeking to conserve the reef, which runs for 1,600 miles off the Queensland coast. “We create a coral fertility clinic and we put them [the sperm and embryonic cells] in a bank, to hold them for now, but to use them in the future,” Mary Hagedorn, from the US’s Smithsonian Institution, said.
Dr Hagedorn, a marine biologist who perfected the techniques while working with coral in Hawaii, is liaising with Australian colleagues to deploy those techniques in the cause of conservation. Researchers from the Australian Institute of Marine Science helped to gather samples for the DNA bank, which has been set up at Western Plains Zoo in the town of Dubbo, in the New South Wales outback, 250 miles from the sea.
The project is akin to a captive breeding programme for endangered animals. If all goes according to plan, the genetic material will be thawed and used to grow new coral which will then be reintroduced into “the wild” – transplanted back into the ocean – to help restore and repopulate damaged reefs.
Another climate change related seed bank is fired up, this time for coral. Perhaps Earth’s fate is “Museum”. More on this depressing read, here.
This video shows how small frogs and other animals use the FrogLog to escape from swimming pools. The FrogLog provides an escape ramp for lizards, chipmunks, squirrels, mice, birds, bats, ducklings, and other small animals.
I need to make something similar for my parents’ pool!
ExxonMobil’s oil spill emergency response plan is redacted by the federal government. Not a joke.
Burst Pipeline’s Spill Plan Is None of Your Business, Suggests Regulator
Federal regulators have released ExxonMobil’s 2013 emergency response plan for the pipeline that ruptured in an Arkansas residential neighborhood on March 29, but the document is so heavily redacted that it offers little information about Exxon’s preparations for such an accident.
The Nature Conservancy, Conservation International, Rainforest Alliance, and the World Wildlife Fund are pleased to announce the release of three new, self-paced and web-based courses on climate change and REDD+ on www.conservationtraining.org.
The curriculum, Introductory Curriculum on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation and Conserving and Enhancing Forest Carbon Stocks (REDD+), provides an introductory level of understanding on climate change, deforestation, forest degradation, and REDD+. This new version contains up-to-date information on policy and implementation as well as a cool new facelift and improved interactivity. It is divided into three courses:
•Course 1, Introduction to Climate Change and the Role of Forests, the focus is on background information on climate change, the drivers of deforestation, and strategies for reducing deforestation and forest degradation.
•Course 2, REDD+ Policy, we cover the essential aspects of the technical, political, financial, social, and environmental issues related to REDD+.
•Course 3, REDD+ Implementation, the focus is on the basics of implementing REDD+ activities at various scales.
The course is freely available to anyone who is interested.
EPA substantially revamps its climate change pages. Tons of data, reports, charts, graphs, and factsheets now round out the agency’s information section.
Above, screens of the EPA’s “indicators”, which shows how climate change is impacting environmental systems from GHG concentration studies, to drought measurements over time, to glacial melt and sea level rise, even winter bird counts - cumulatively, the U.S. is about to experience some very dangerous environmental problems.
Sea level rise and drought are the most visible, with coast lines eroding and people’s homes slowly sliding into the ocean. Drought is also an obvious indicator the public can relate to. Water shortages in the southwest, wildfires and bark beetle forest slaughters in the midwest and west, and severe crop loss across regions. Health problems, like increased asthma, Lyme disease, though, will kill the most people, but these will slide under the visibility radar.
Check out the EPA Climate Change Indicators, here. Hover your cursor over the tabs for more options.
The animal carvings on this 4,000 year old ivory knife handle helped scientists determine how climate affected ecosystems in ancient Egypt.
Ancient art fills in Egypt’s ecological history
Mammal populations shrank during three abrupt climate shifts over the past 6,000 years.
Overlaying records of climate and species occurrences over time, his team found that three dramatic declines in Egypt’s ratio of predators to prey coincided with abrupt climate shifts to more arid conditions. The timing of these aridification events also corresponds to major shifts in human populations at the end of the African Humid Period, about 5,500 years ago; during the Akkadian collapse, about 4,140 years ago in what is now Iraq; and about 3,100 years ago, when the Ugaritic civilization collapsed in what is now Syria.
Once they found the climate correlation, Yeakel and Mathias Pires, an ecological modeller from the University of Sao Paolo in Brazil, examined the consequences of the ancient extinctions on food-web stability. The researchers adapted a method for modelling food-web interactions with limited data2. They simulated millions of potential predator–prey interactions using data about species’ body sizes. Tests using data from modern Serengeti food webs suggest the model correctly predicts 70% of predator-prey interactions.
Normally, as food webs get smaller, they become more stable, says Yeakel. But his simulations showed that the proportion of stable food webs in Egypt declined over time, with the largest drop in stability occurring over the past 200 years.
“Food webs are giant messy networks,” says Carl Boettiger, a computational ecologist at University of California, Santa Cruz, who was not involved with the work. “This approach is a powerful way to infer the stability of the food web without knowing specifically who eats who, much less the whole network structure,” he adds.
Yeakel and his colleagues confirmed that the extinction patterns in Egypt cannot be explained by random events. They also found that the presence or absence of any one species did not seem to have much impact on a food web — in sharp contrast to conditions today in many landscapes, possibly owing to rapid changes caused by human encroachment.
“We’ve lost redundancy in ecosystems,” Yeakel says, “which is why the absence of any one species can alter the stability of the system.”
Science struggled to explain fully why an ice age occurs every 100,000 years. As researchers now demonstrate based on a computer simulation, not only do variations in insolation play a key role, but also the mutual influence of glaciated continents and climate.
Since the floods early this year, the government has boosted the amount of Climate Investment Fund money it plans to allocate to improving hydrological and meteorological services to $15 million from $10 million. The Nordic Development Fund is providing a further $4.5 million.
Initial activities are planned for the Limpopo river basin, but they may be expanded to other basins affected by this year’s floods, including the Incomati and Licungo.
“It will be a big step (towards) climate resilience. We are moving towards investments where we want to prove that climate resilience is achievable,” said Xavier Chavana, co-coordinator of the Pilot Program for Climate Resilience at the Ministry of Planning and Development. “The funding is coming at the right time because people will learn and be able to deal with climate change.”
Other projects to be financed under the Pilot Programme for Climate Resilience will integrate climate resilience into development efforts in agriculture, water and other resource management, coastal infrastructure development, roads and private-sector investments.
The CIFs are a $7.6 billion international financing mechanism to support low-carbon growth and adaptation to climate change in developing countries.
Surface temperature measurements are affected by short-term climate variability, and recent warming of deep oceans.
Why doesn’t the temperature rise at the same rate that CO2 increases?
The amount of CO2 is increasing all the time - we just passed a landmark 400 parts per million concentration of atmospheric CO2, up from around 280ppm before the industrial revolution. That’s a 42.8% increase.
A tiny amount of CO2 and other greenhouse gases, like methane and water vapour, keep the Earth’s surface 33°Celsius (59.4°F) warmer than it would be without them. We have added 42% more CO2 but that doesn’t mean the temperature will go up by 42% too.
There are several reasons why. Doubling the amount of CO2 does not double the greenhouse effect. The way the climate reacts is also complex, and it is difficult to separate the effects of natural changes from man-made ones over short periods of time.
As the amount of man-made CO2 goes up, temperatures do not rise at the same rate. In fact, although estimates vary - climate sensitivity is a hot topic in climate science, if you’ll forgive the pun - the last IPCC report (AR4) described the likely range as between 2 and 4.5 degrees C, for double the amount of CO2 compared to pre-industrial levels.
So far, the average global temperature has gone up by about 0.8 degrees C (1.4 F).
“According to an ongoing temperature analysis conducted by scientists at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS)…the average global temperature on Earth has increased by about 0.8°Celsius (1.4°Fahrenheit) since 1880. Two-thirds of the warming has occurred since 1975, at a rate of roughly 0.15-0.20°C per decade.” Source: NASA Earth Observatory