Category Archives: Ecosystem Destruction

Alaskan Coast: Feds set aside critical habitat for polar bear

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Alaska, houses collapsing due to coastal erosion. The village and homes are being destroyed by a rising tide, to the point where homes are being abandoned as they literally fall into the ocean. Residents can do nothing to stop the water as it approaches their homes. Captions and Photo source: ©© Laurence Hislop / UNEP

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The Obama administration is setting aside 187,000 square miles in Alaska as a “critical habitat” for polar bears, an action that could add restrictions to future offshore drilling for oil and gas.

The total, which includes large areas of sea ice off the Alaska coast, is about 13,000 square miles, or 8.3 million acres, less than in a preliminary plan released last year…

Read Full Article, Yahoo News

Water Flows and Coastal Ecosytems

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South Coast of New Wales, Australia. Photo Source: Kieran O’Connor, National Geographic

Excerpt from James E Palardy, Jon D. Witman, Brown University

On the rocks just beneath the tides, the faster the water is moving in an area, the greater the variety of invertebrate creatures that will live there. Understanding that water flow is a strong predictor of diversity could be a huge boon to efforts to manage coastal ecosystems.

One of biggest factors promoting the diversity of coastal ocean life is how fast the water flows, according to new research by ecologists at Brown University. Experiments and observation in Palau, Alaska, and Maine showed that the faster the flow, the greater the number of invertebrate species that live on rocks under the water.

The findings, published the week of Nov. 15 in the journal Ecology Letters, could help improve management of delicate and complex coastal ecosystems, said James Palardy, a former Brown doctoral student and the paper’s lead author. Finding the fastest water could point scientists to areas where diversity is likely greatest, and perhaps especially worthy of protection, and to zones where invasive species could establish their first beachheads.

Jon Witman, professor of ecology and environmental biology and Palardy’s co-author on the paper, said the results were clear and consistent at all three regions, including in Maine and Alaska where they experimentally manipulated water flow speed.

“It totally blew us a way that we got almost identical results in two marine regions of the world separated by 4,000 miles with completely different regional diversities, and no species shared in common,” Witman said. “It’s a wake-up call saying that water flow is a really strong predictor of how many species are present in a particular area of the ocean.”

The reason why faster flow seems to promote diversity, Witman said, is that it allows for the larvae of rock-dwelling invertebrates, such as barnacles, sea squirts, corals and sponges, to spread farther. Although the environments are quite different, it’s somewhat analogous to how trees and flowers can disperse their seeds farther in a stiff wind.

Palardy and Witman are not the first to observe a connection between water flow and diversity, but they are the first researchers to prove it with experiments. The research began five years ago when the pair started brainstorming about how they might make the important scientific transition from being able to notice the phenomenon to being able to produce and test it.

The pair’s goal was to speed up water flow without resorting to expensive and short-lived battery-powered pumps. Instead, the ecologists relied on simple physics that require a volume of water to flow faster when it moves through a narrowed space.

Based on prototypes developed in a giant flume in the basement of the BioMed research building at Brown, they built channels about 7 feet long and about 18 inches high. They lined the walls with plates where organisms could latch on and grow. The test channels narrowed to about half their width in the middle, taking on a bow tie shape. The control channels remained the same width throughout. The control and test channels were placed about 3 to 6 feet below the lowest tide in each of two sites in Maine and Alaskan coastal waters.

In every case they found that the number of different species on the plates in the test channels was much higher than on the plates in the control channels. The greater diversity was no flash in the pan, either. The pattern was visible from early stages and persisted for more than a year of study. Witman also surveyed natural areas in Palau, and Palardy and Witman did the same in Alaska, finding similar effects in areas with faster flow.

Witman said his hope is that the work will not just explain greater biodiversity but will help stem the tide of its loss.

“There’s a global biodiversity crisis where we’re losing species,” he said. “Ecology is very much concerned with sustaining natural processes.”

Original Article

Where’s the Gulf oil? In the Coastal Planktonic Food Web, Study Says

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Marine plankton. Photo source: ©© Chris Moody

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A new study by scientists with Alabama’s Dauphin Island Sea Lab provides more evidence that the 200 million gallons of oil released from the BP Macondo well disaster were quickly turned into food by bacteria in the Gulf of Mexico.

In a research paper published Monday morning in IOP Publishing’s Environmental Research Letters, the scientists found that larger animal plankton organisms contained a greater percentage of a lighter isotope of carbon than of a heavier isotope of carbon, an indicator that the smaller organisms they were feeding on contained carbon from oil…

Read Full Article, NOLA

Oil carbon entered the coastal planktonic food web during the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, Study Published by the Environmental Research Letters

Potentially devastating impacts of major coastal developments, Australia

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Photograph: © SAF — Coastal Care

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The establishment of liquefied natural gas (LNG) processing and export facilities at Gladstone could have a disastrous impact on threatened marine life, the World Wildlife Fund says.

Endangered species will include Australia’s only native dolphin, the rare snubfin dolphin…

Read Full Article, The Sydney Morning Herald

Protection of Coastal Marine Ecosystems in Sub-Saharan Africa

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Seaweed farmers, Tanzania. Photo source: ©© peve.de

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The year 2010 has been a marker for reflecting upon the reduction of biodiversity loss around the world, as participating countries to the World Summit, held in 2005 in New York, have committed themselves to reduce this loss by 2010. Today, the increasing threat of biodiversity and devastating destructions on the environment are especially eminent in tropical coastal marine ecosystems, where, inter alia, mangrove forests, coral reefs and numerous fish species support not only local livelihoods, but also a growing economic niche for tourism development and marine species trade. This is particularly prevalent in developing African countries with a high biodiversity of marine ecosystems, such as Kenya, Tanzania and Mozambique…

Read Full Article, consultancyafrica