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.
The Pacific Ocean is warming at a faster rate than it has in the previous 10,000 years, suggesting more difficulties in countering the effects of global warming, according to a new study published Friday in the journal Science.
The study, “Pacific Ocean Heat Content During the Past 10,000 Years,” reconstructs Pacific Ocean temperatures in the last 100 centuries by measuring the chemistry of ancient marine life to recreate the climates in which they lived.
In 2003, researchers went to Indonesia to collect cores of sediment from the seas where water from the Pacific flows into the Indian Ocean. They compared the levels of magnesium to calcium in the shells of Hyalinea balthica, a one-celled organism buried in those sediments, in order to estimate the temperature of the middle-depth waters where the organism lived, about 1,500 to 3,000 feet below sea level.
The measurements of middle-depth temperatures in this region are representative of the larger western Pacific, the researchers said, since the waters around Indonesia originate from the mid-depths of the North and South Pacific.
Based on these findings, researchers concluded that the middle depths have warmed 15 times faster in the last 60 years than they did during natural warming cycles in the previous 10,000 years.
Guam- A combination of factors seem to be causing an unusual island wide phenomenon that is concerning the Guam Department of Agriculture and the University of Guam Marine Lab. Biologist Brent Tibbatts and Dr. Laurie Raymundo say coral bleaching usually happens annually, but it appears to be much worse this year.
Click for video. Note - a bit sad…
Thanks to a former NBA star, a coalition of Chinese business leaders, celebrities and students, and some unlikely investigative journalism, eating shark fin soup is no longer fashionable here. But what really tipped the balance was a government campaign against extravagance that has seen the soup banned from official banquets.
“People said it was impossible to change China, but the evidence we are now getting says consumption of shark fin soup in China is down by 50 to 70 percent in the last two years,” said Peter Knights, executive director of WildAid, a San Francisco-based group that has promoted awareness about the shark trade. The drop is also reflected in government and industry statistics.
“It is a myth that people in Asia don’t care about wildlife,” Knights said. “Consumption is based on ignorance rather than malice. ”
The dramatic expansion in China’s middle and upper classes has transformed the country into a major driver of global wildlife trafficking. The Obama administration is so concerned about Chinese demand for endangered wildlife that it made the subject an important part of its bilateral dialogue this year.
More than 70 million sharks were killed last year, largely to satisfy rapacious demand from China’s newly rich for shark fin soup.
Lavish spending by China’s wealthy has also sent demand for ivory skyrocketing, fueling a massive expansion in elephant poaching in Africa.
The consequences of the traffic go beyond a crisis for wildlife. The illegal ivory trade has financed global crime networks and local insurgents, including Somalia’s al-Shabab — responsible for last month’s attack on a Nairobi shopping mall.
“Conservation is more about China now than it is about Africa,” said Knights. “China can be the savior of wildlife or it can be the demise of it.”
Boesch and Horn Point Laboratory led a panel of scientists who have predicted a one-and-a-half-foot sea level rise in our area by the year 2050.
It was published in an independent, scientific report earlier this year.
The report recommended that it would be prudent to prepare for the sea level along Maryland’s 3,100 miles of tidal shoreline to be 2.1 feet higher in 2050 than it was in 2000.
The panel’s best estimate was a sea level rise of 1.4 feet, but no less than 0.9 feet and no greater than 2.1 feet by 2050.
“That’s not that far away,” Hall said.
The scientists reached their conclusions by factoring in the expansion of the earth’s collective ocean volume as it warms, along with more water from the glaciers and ice sheets melting in Greenland and Antarctica. Other considerations include changing dynamics in the ocean, such as a slowing of the Gulf Stream, and vertical land movement.
500,000 people affected in Maryland alone.
A new institute, financed by the insurance industry, not only believes in global warming but also supports a carbon tax to combat it.
[The insurance industry expects disasters] will get worse. “Numerous studies assume a rise in summer drought periods in North America in the future and an increasing probability of severe cyclones relatively far north along the U.S. East Coast in the long term,” said Peter Höppe, who heads Geo Risks Research at the reinsurance giant Munich Re.
“The rise in sea level caused by climate change will further increase the risk of storm surge.” Most insurers, including the reinsurance companies that bear much of the ultimate risk in the industry, have little time for the arguments heard in some right-wing circles that climate change isn’t happening, and are quite comfortable with the scientific consensus that burning fossil fuels is the main culprit of global warming.
“Insurance is heavily dependent on scientific thought,” Frank Nutter, president of the Reinsurance Association of America, told me last week. “It is not as amenable to politicized scientific thought.”
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration climate study puts 2012 among the 10 warmest years on record
Last year was among the 10 warmest years on record – ranking eighth or ninth depending on the data set, according to a report led by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (Noaa). The year 2012 also saw record greenhouse gas emissions, with concentrations of carbon dioxide and other warming gasses reaching a global average of 392.7 parts per million for the year.
"The findings are striking," Kathryn Sullivan, Noaa’s acting administrator, said on a conference call. "Our planet as a whole is becoming a warmer place."
The scientists were reluctant to point directly to the cause of the striking changes in the climate. But the annual reports are typically used by the federal government to prepare for the future, and in June president Barack Obama used his climate address to direct government agencies to begin planning for decades of warming atmosphere and rising seas.
The biggest changes in the climate in 2012 were in the Arctic and in Greenland, said the report, which is an annual exercise by a team of American and British scientists. The Arctic warmed at about twice the rate of lower latitudes, the report found. By June 2012, snow cover had fallen to its lowest levels since the record began. By September 2012, sea-ice cover had retreated to its lowest levels since the beginning of satellite records, falling to 1.32 million square miles.