Category Archives: Ecosystem Destruction

Fish Trawling Unexpected Impacts

The 120 meter long Russian super trawler “Mikhail Verbitsky”. Photo source: © Greenpeace / Pierre Gleizes


For almost a century, fishing fleets have trawled for shrimp off Spain’s Mediterranean coast by dragging nets along the flat, shallow coastal sea floor. But in the 1960s, they also started to pursue shrimp farther offshore and into rugged canyons as deep as 800 metres. The impact they had on this rougher terrain was a mystery.

In 2006, geoscientists surveying canyons off Spain’s coast found smooth slopes which they attributed to an underwater cascade, but one of the smoothed slopes was in the lee of the proposed cascade. While trying to come up with reasons, Pere Puig, a marine geologist at the Institute of Marine Sciences in Barcelona, Spain, and his colleagues realized that the anomalies occurred in a trawling zone and hypothesized that trawlers were scraping silt off ridge tops and dropping it into canyon bottoms…

Read Full Article, Nature Journal: “Fish trawling reshapes deep-sea canyons”

Mega Trawlers Emptying African Seas, Greenpeace

Destroyed Coastal Habitats Produce Significant Greenhouse Gas

Mangroves in Bali are a vital part of the coastal ecosystem. The removal of large areas of mangroves for industrial purposes can significantly alter these precious coastal ecosystems. This can have a broader effect on the community, threatening vital clean water sources, tourist industries and the food supplies on which we rely. In addition to this, the root system of a mangrove forest serves to stabilize the coastline, providing protection from storm surges. Being a small archipelago made up of 17,000 islands, Indonesia is particularly vulnerable to rising sea levels or intense tropical storms linked to Global Warming. Captions and Photo source: Lawrence Hislop / UNEP


Destruction of coastal habitats may release as much as 1 billion tons of carbon into the atmosphere each year, 10 times higher than previously reported, according to a new Duke-led study…

Read Full Article, Science Daily

Study: “Estimating Global “Blue Carbon” Emissions from Conversion and Degradation of Vegetated Coastal Ecosystems” PLoS One
Recent attention has focused on the high rates of annual carbon sequestration in vegetated coastal ecosystems—marshes, mangroves, and seagrasses—that may be lost with habitat destruction (‘conversion’). Relatively unappreciated, however, is that conversion of these coastal ecosystems also impacts very large pools of previously-sequestered carbon. Residing mostly in sediments, this ‘blue carbon’ can be released to the atmosphere when these ecosystems are converted or degraded. Here we provide the first global estimates of this impact and evaluate its economic implications…

Earth’s oceans and ecosystems absorb about half the greenhouse gases emitted by people, NOAA
Earth’s oceans, forests and other ecosystems continue to soak up about half the carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere by human activities, even as those emissions have increased..

Blue Carbon Initiative: Buried Treasure For Climate and Coastal Communities, UNEP
Dubbed “blue carbon” for their ability to sequester and store huge amounts of carbon, mangroves, seagrasses, and salt marshes- show great climate mitigation potential, immediately available and cost-effective, for removing greenhouse gases already in the atmosphere. The Blue Carbon Initiative program, draw the world’s attention to the crucial role of these direly threaten coastal ecosystems, in the fight against carbon emissions.

The Sixth Extinction Menaces The Very Foundations Of Culture

Photo source: ©© Baban Shyam


Human activity endangers entire species, yet human culture is profoundly rooted in nature. The loss of a species is also a loss of the images, stories, symbols and wonders that we live by, to call it a cultural loss may sound too cerebral: what we lose when we lose animals is the very meaning of life.

The range of animals and plants threatened by the sixth extinction is such that it menaces the foundations of culture as well as the diversity of nature. We are part of nature and it has always fed our imaginations. We face the bare walls of an empty museum, a gallery of the dead…

Read Full Article, Guardian UK

The world’s extinct and endangered species – interactive map, Guardian UK
Over the past 500 years, human activity is known to have decimated 869 species.

Brazil’s Atlantic coastal forests lose key species

Study Links Biodiversity and Language Loss

Ecosystems Cope With Stress More Effectively the Greater the Biodiversity, Science Daily

The IUCN Red List Of Endangered Species

Mass stranding of pilot whales both on Us and Uk’s Beaches

whale bones beach
Whale bones on beach. Photo source: ©© Myrcell


More than 20 whales are thought to have died after becoming stranded off the coast of Fife, Scotland. Rescuers hope four of 30 stranded pilot whales may survive if they can be refloated at high tide on Sunday afternoon.

While on the other side of the Atlantic, more than 20 pilot whales came ashore on a South Florida beach on Saturday, triggering a daylong effort by state and national officials, nearby residents and others to save them…

Mass stranding of pilot whales on Fife coast, BBC News

16 pilot whales die in Scottish cove, Guardian UK

Pod of pilot whales comes ashore on Florida beach, AP
More than 20 pilot whales came ashore on a South Florida beach on Saturday, triggering a rescue effort by state and national officials, nearby residents and others to save them.

Are Humans to Blame For Mass Whale Beach Strandings?
There are many theories as to why whales beach themselves, blaming seismic activity, electro-magnetic anomolies, and us…

Accoustic Pollution and Naval Sonar testing
Over the past 40 years, cumulative research across the globe has revealed a coincidence between naval sonar testing events and acute decompression sickness in beached marine mammals. Under a plan announced by the NOAA, marine mammal “hot spots” in areas including Southern California’s coastal waters, may become off limits to testing of a type of Navy sonar linked to the deaths of whales.

Is Ocean Plastic Garbage Killing Whales?
From the coasts of California to Adriatic, Tasmania or Normandy, millions of tonnes of plastic debris dumped each year in the world’s oceans, could pose a lethal threat to whales, according to a scientific assessment to be presented at the International Whaling Commission this week. Ingestion of plastic refuse is emerging as a serious cause of disability and death for the large ocean-dwelling mammals.

Peru Seizes 16,000 Dried Seahorses Headed to Asia

Photo source: ©© Carlos Daniel Gomero


Police in Peru have seized more than 16,000 dried seahorses which were to be exported illegally to Asian countries.

In Asia, particularly in China, South Korea and Japan, the seahorse — protected by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), is coveted for its alleged medicinal and aphrodisiac properties.
Seahorse powder sells for about $6,000 per kilo…

Read Full Article, BBC News

Peru seizes 16,000 dried seahorses headed to Asia, AFP

Scientists Explore Changing Arctic Ocean

Arctic. Photo source: NOAA


Scientists are setting sail on August 25 to study ocean acidification in the Arctic and what this means for the future survival of marine and terrestrial organisms.

The Arctic Ocean is one of the most vulnerable places on the planet for acidification, yet it is the least-explored ocean. Acidification can disturb the balance of marine life in the world’s oceans, and consequently affect humans and animals that rely on those food resources.

Ocean acidification is particularly harmful to organisms such as corals, oysters, crabs, shrimp and plankton, as well as those up and down the food chain. Higher acidity decreases an organism’s calcification rate, meaning they lose their ability to build shells or skeletons.

The USGS is leading this project, and this is the third consecutive year of research. On this year’s expedition, scientists will travel onboard the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Healy for four weeks, collecting water and ice samples.

“Ocean acidification is a particularly vexing problem associated with the release of CO2 into the atmosphere from the burning of fossil fuels because it interferes with the ability of marine organisms to build hard shells of calcium carbonate,” said USGS Director Marcia McNutt. “Comparatively more research has been devoted to the tropics, where coral reefs are threatened. This important expedition focuses on polar latitudes, where the acidification effects can cascade from microscopic organisms up to our economy, as the organisms at risk form the base of the food chain for some of the world’s most productive fisheries.”

Oceans currently absorb about one-fourth of the greenhouse gas from the atmosphere. Ocean acidification occurs when carbon dioxide (CO2) increases in the atmosphere and is absorbed by the ocean. Ocean acidity will continue to rise as CO2 levels are projected to increase.

The Arctic Ocean’s cold surface waters absorb CO2 more rapidly than warmer oceans, thus contributing to its vulnerability. This vulnerability is increased as the warming climate causes sea-ice to retreat and melt, leaving less of a buffer and more exposure of surface water to the atmosphere.

On the previous two cruises in 2010 and 2011, scientists collected more than 30,000 water samples and traveled throughout the Canada Basin up to very near the North Pole. Data from the cruises are currently being processed.

“This cruise offers us an opportunity to collect more information over a vast spatial extent of the Arctic Ocean,” said USGS oceanographer and project chief Lisa Robbins. “These data will provide a better understanding of the current patterns of acidification and thus they will significantly contribute to society’s efforts to understand, forecast, and potentially mitigate impacts to the Arctic ecosystem and its many globally important resources.”

USGS field experiments on ocean acidification are currently being run in tropical, temperate, and polar environments, including the Gulf of Mexico, Florida Keys, Virgin Islands, and the Arctic Ocean.

“Sampling from a variety of environments is providing a robust dataset to give us an overall picture of ocean chemistry changes,” said USGS oceanographer Kim Yates.

People interested will be able to track this year’s expedition and follow the research team’s cruise journal during their voyage. Additionally, a slideshow on USGS Arctic acidification research is available online.

“This study is a collaborative effort and could not be accomplished without the strong partnership the USGS has with Co-Principal Investigator Dr. Jonathan Wynn and Dr. Robert Byrne from the University of South Florida,” said Robbins.

Original Article, USGS

Ocean Acidification Rate May Be Unprecedented

Arctic settles into new phase: warmer, greener, and less ice

Close to Shore, Humpbacks Are Far From Safe

Humpback whale. Photo source: NOAA


With the help of new technology, researchers are capturing the details of humpback whale behavior on their North Atlantic feeding grounds…

Read Full Article, The New York Times

Beached whale at Carlyon Bay dies, UK
An “incredibly undernourished” 65 ft whale, stranded on an outgoing tide, was injured around one eye and there were reports of a gash on its underside.
Fin whales are the second largest species of whale, growing up to 75ft (22m) in the northern hemisphere, and are classed by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as Endangered.

Slew of Beached whales On Britain’s Shores mystifies scientists, Guardian UK
Faced with yet another slumped and slowly expiring cetacean on the Britain’s strands, scientists continue to be mystified by the cause for high number of unexplained whale mortalities. But slowly, some new clues and possible culprits are emerging…

Brazil’s Atlantic coastal forests lose key species

Map location of the Atlantic Forest. The yellow line encloses Atlantic forest as delineated by the World Wide Fund for Nature. Captions and Photo source: ©© NASA and Miguelrangeljr


Mammal extinctions in Brazil’s Atlantic forests are occurring at least twice as fast as estimates suggested, according to the latest survey of the region…

Read Full Article, Nature Journal

A Giant Brought To Its Knee: The Atlantic Coastal Forest
The Atlantic Forest is a shadow of its former self. Originally covering more than 386,000 sq. miles along Brazil’s coast, extending into eastern Paraguay and northeastern Argentina. Today less than 7% of that cover remains, in the wake of centuries of forest clearing for agriculture and urban development, and fragmented by centuries of unsustainable use and logging.

Brazilian coastal forest, Itacaré. Photograph: © SAF — Coastal Care

Oceans Suffering From Sea Sickness: Ocean Health Index Unveiled

Johnston Atoll, National Wildlife Refuge in the Pacific. On January 6, 2009, was established the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument under the authority of the Antiquities Act of 1906. The monument incorporates approximately 86,888 square miles within its boundaries, which extend 50 nautical miles from the mean low water lines of Howland, Baker, and Jarvis Islands; Johnston, Wake, and Palmyra Atolls; and Kingman Reef. Captions and Photo source: ©© Lindsey Hayes/USFWS


Seychelles and Germany have the healthiest seas of any inhabited territory, while Sierra Leone has the unhealthiest, according to a new index that says many oceans score poorly for biodiversity and as a human resource. Topping the list with a score of 86 out of 100 was the uninhabited South Pacific territory of Jarvis Island, owned by the United States, as well as a clutch of other unpopulated Pacific Ocean islands…

The researchers measured the oceans in 10 categories including food provision, their ability to support coastal livelihoods and economies, clean water, coastal protection, artisanal fishing, carbon storage, tourism and biodiversity.

“Humans undoubtedly have substantial negative impacts on the ocean, and index scores are negatively correlated with coastal human population…”

Read Full Article, AFP

Ocean health index unveiled, Journal Nature
Taking a page from the financial sector’s use of the Dow Jones industrial average to track economic ‘health’, marine researchers have created an index that assesses overall ocean vitality.