Category Archives: Ecosystem Destruction

Exploring the secrets of marsh happiness

Can you tell if the two marshes shown above are thriving or deteriorating over time?


Two Unhappy Marshes
Researchers found that both of these marshes are “unhappy,” even though one of them appears to be vibrant and healthy. “Happy,” or persistent, marshes all share common traits. It is more difficult to characterize “unhappy,” deteriorating tidal marshes, because these ecosystems can fall apart in many different ways. By understanding how marshes can deteriorate so differently, coastal managers can make wiser conservation decisions.

NOAA research reserve scientists and partners recently published a study that examines the secret to marsh happiness. The team learned that “happy” marshes shared similar characteristics, whereas “unhappy” marshes deteriorate in diverse ways. By understanding how marshes can deteriorate so differently, coastal managers can make wiser conservation decisions.

Published in Environmental Research Letters, the study ground-truthed previous resilience findings from the National Estuarine Research Reserve System and U.S. Geological Survey. Many partners contributed, and the authors included scientists from the Elkhorn Slough and Narragansett Bay Research Reserves.

According to the study, “happy,” or persistent, marshes all shared common traits. What healthy marshes shared most of all was vegetation distributed on the higher end across low-to-high landscape elevations. The single most important measurement in assessing a “happy” tidal marsh is whether a sizeable proportion of its vegetation is at a high elevation in relation to current water levels. Another feature of “happy” marshes is a low percentage of unvegetated versus vegetated area in the marsh landscape.

Characterizing an “unhappy,” deteriorating tidal marsh is more complex because marshes can fall apart in many different ways. One finding contradicted a previous assumption: namely, that gains in marsh elevation and sediment indicate greater resilience. The authors say marshes with these characteristics performed inconsistently and often signaled the muddy mess that degrading marshes can become, not marsh health.

Original Article and Learn More; NOAA (02-19-2020)

Plastic pollution poses new threat to a turtle paradise

“When plastic ingestion occurs, it blocks the digestive tract, gets lodged in animals windpipes cutting airflow causing suffocation, or fills the stomach, resulting in malnutrition, starvation and potentially death. Indeed, it is found that debris often accumulates in the animals’ gut and give a false sense of fullness, causing the animal to stop eating and slowly starve to death.” —Captions and Photo: © SAF — Coastal Care


The oceanic island of Príncipe lies in the Gulf of Guinea off the west coast of Africa. In 2012, the entire island was designated as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve

The waters surrounding Príncipe harbour five of the world’s seven species of sea turtle and this remote island’s relatively pristine beaches provide crucial nesting sites.

Arguably, the most insidious threat is the plastic permeating Príncipe’s waters and piling up on its beaches…

Read Full Article; PhysOrg (02-17-2020)

Microplastics found deep in sand where turtles nest; Phys Org (09-26-2018)
Scientists found an average of 5,300 particles of plastic per cubic metre at depths of 60cm (2ft) on beaches in Cyprus used by green turtles and loggerheads. These beaches in Cyprus are located far from industrial practices and aren’t visited by large numbers of people. The findings support the theory that beaches act as a “sink” for marine micro plastics…

Micronizing ocean plastics threaten sea turtle populations, ocean life cycle; Science Daily (09-17-2018)
Ingestion of degrading ocean plastics likely poses a substantial risk to the survival of post-hatchling sea turtles because the particles can lead to blockages and nutritional deficiencies, according to new research…

The Plastic Found In a Single Turtle’s Stomach, Daily Mail (03-24-2011)

Marine turtles dying after becoming entangled in plastic rubbish; Science Daily (12-18-2017)

60% of Loggerhead Turtles Stranded on Beaches in South Africa Had Ingested Plastic, EcoWatch (05-031-2016)

Plastic Pollution / When The Mermaids Cry: The Great Plastic Tide, Coastal Care
“The unprecedented plastic waste tide plaguing our oceans and shores, can become as limited as our chosen relationship with plastics, which involves a dramatic behavioral change on our part…”

The danger of creating a designer planet

Photograph: © SAF — Coastal Care


It is natural in the face of an impending emergency to look for something—anything—that will avert the crisis. So it is understandable that in the absence of a meaningful action plan emerging from last December’s UN climate meeting in Madrid people are grasping at almost any idea that might offer a solution to climate change. But pursuing an idea without a firm understanding of the inner workings of our planet is folly at best and just plain dangerous at worst, even if it is done with the best of intentions…

Read Full Article; WHOI (02-15-2020)

Why Australia’s 2019-2020 bushfire season was not normal

Photo source: ©© Zootedrop


Data from satellite sources assembled by the United Nations Environment Programme’s (UNEP) World Environment Situation Room confirms that the wildfires in Australia in the last two months of 2019 and the first six weeks of 2020 were far from normal.

2019 was the second hottest year on record since 1880, and Australia recorded its warmest temperatures ever in December 2019.

“Rising temperatures continue to melt records. The past decade was the hottest on record. Scientists tell us that ocean temperatures are now rising at the equivalent of five Hiroshima bombs a second.
One million species are in near-term danger of extinction. Our planet is burning,” says United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres.

“The trend is very clear: 37 of the last 40 years were the warmest recorded since 1880, and the six warmest years recorded were the last six years,” says Pascal Peduzzi, Director of UNEP’s Global Resource Information Database in Geneva. “For those who think Australia is always burning, the following graphs clearly show that these fires were exceptional…”

Read Full Article; UNEP (02-14-2020)

Salvation or pipe dream? A movement grows to protect up to half the planet

Photo source: ©© Miramar2009


Leading scientists and conservationists are proposing that up to 50 percent of the earth’s land and oceans be protected in the coming decades.

While some view the goal as unrealistic, proponents say it is essential for preserving the natural systems on which life itself depends…

Read Full Article; Yale E360 (02-13-2020)

Climate Change is Decimating the Chinstrap Penguins of Antarctica

Photograph: © SAF — Coastal Care


Scientists conducting a chinstrap census along the Antarctic Peninsula have discovered drastic declines in many colonies, with some seeing population reductions of up to 77% since they were last surveyed, about 50 years ago…

Read Full Article; TIME (02-10-2020)

Global warming cited as Antarctica’s chinstrap penguin population drops by half; CBS News (01-16-2020)
The numbers have dropped across the region as average temperatures have soared by more than five degrees over 50 years. That increase is about five-times the global average…

Scientists listen to whales, walruses and seals in a changing Arctic seascape

Beluga whales’ incredibly sophisticated series of vocal repertoires and acoustic systems suggest that they are capable of forming very complex relationships and groups. Credit: Lisa Barry, NOAA/NMFS/AFSC/MML.


A year-round acoustic study of marine mammals in the northern Bering Sea is providing scientists with a valuable snapshot of an Arctic world already under drastic pressure from climate change…

Read Full Article, Science Daily (02-03-2020)

Marine Heat Wave Linked to Sharp Increase in Whale Entanglements

Humpback whale breaching shows line entanglement through mouth, around left pectoral flipper, with trailing towards tail. Photo: Mark Girardeau. NMFS MMHSRP.
In 2018, entanglements were reported throughout the coasts of Washington, Oregon, and California, but were concentrated in central and southern California. However, entanglement report locations may not reflect where the entanglement originally occurred. Captions and Photo source: NOAA


An ocean heat wave off the U.S. West Coast from 2014 to 2016 drove humpback whales into a narrow band of cooler water, leading to a dramatic increase in whale entanglements with crab-fishing gear, according to a new study.

The large expanse of warm water off the West Coast drove the prey, and the whales, into a much smaller area of cool water near the coast, where Dungeness crab fishermen place much of their gear. As a result, confirmed whale entanglements rose from 10 in 2014 to 53 in 2015 and 55 in 2016, according to the study, published in the journal Nature Communications…

Read Full Article, Yale E360 (01-28-2020)

Plastic Pollution: When The Mermaids Cry: The Great Plastic Tide, By Claire Le Guern – ©
“According to NOAA, plastic debris kills an estimated 100,000 marine mammals annually, millions of birds and fishes. The largest pieces of marine plastic debris, miles long discarded fishing nets and lines mostly, take an obvious toll on animals. These derelicts nets, called “ghost nets”, snare and drown thousands of larger sea creatures per year, such as seals, sea lions, dolphins, sea turtles, sharks, dugons, crocodiles, seabirds, crabs, and other creatures. Acting as designed, these nets restrict movement causing starvation, laceration, infection, and, in animals that need to return to the surface to breathe, suffocation.”

Ghost netting: Image emerges of decomposed turtle wrapped in plastic net; The Independent (08-18-2018)
Pictures taken from the upcoming environmental film Blue, which will be shown at the Ocean Film Festival UK & Ireland Tour, show the horrific effects of plastic pollution and ghost nets on marine life and the world’s oceans…

New UN report finds marine debris harming more than 800 species, costing countries millions; United Nations (12-05-2016)
Marine debris is negatively affecting more than 800 animal species and causing serious losses to many countries’ economies, according to a United Nations report launched December 5th, 2016…

West Coast Large Whale Entanglement Response Program; NOAA

Scientists alarmed to discover warm water at vital point beneath Antarctica’s doomsday glacier, CBS News (02-01-2020)
Scientists have found for the first time, warm water beneath Antarctica’s “doomsday glacier,” a nickname used because it is one of Antarctica’s fastest melting glaciers…