Category Archives: Ecosystem Destruction

Bioluminescence: Explanation for Glowing Waves Suggested

Bioluminescent red tide in San Diego, at twilight. Photo source: ©© Kevin Baird


It has long been known that distinctive blue flashes, a type of bioluminescence, that are visible at night in some marine environments are caused by tiny, unicellular plankton known as dinoflagellates. However, a new study has, for the first time, detailed the potential mechanism for this bioluminescence.

This research illuminates the novel mechanisms underlying a beautiful natural phenomenon in our oceans, and enhances our understanding of dinoflagellates, some of which can produce toxins that are harmful to the environment…

blue wave
Relatively short 1/2 second exposure of the red tide bioluminescence in San Diego, La Jolla Shores, at dark. Caption and Photo source: ©© Kevin Baird

Read Full Article, in Science Daily

Oil-slick Ship At Risk Of Breaking Up: Release Of a New Tide Of Oil Feared

rena oil spill


Fears grew Wednesday that Rena, the ship stuck on a New Zealand reef, may break up and release a new tide of oil, as its captain was charged over the nation’s worst maritime pollution disaster.

Up to 300 tonnes of heavy fuel has leaked into the environmentally sensitive Bay of Plenty since the Liberian-flagged Rena hit the Astrolabe Reef, 22 kilometres (15 miles) off the North Island coast, last Wednesday.

Maritime New Zealand is considering issuing face masks to people living near beaches affected by oil from crippled cargo ship Rena.

Read Full Article, AFP

Rena Oil Spill: Masks Could Be Issued, New Zealand Herald
Maritime New Zealand is considering issuing face masks to people living near beaches affected by oil from crippled cargo ship Rena. The situation with the Rena has deteriorated daily as poor weather moves the massive ship around on the reef, and efforts to offload its 1700 tonnes of fuel oil have repeatedly failed.

Results of Pebble Mine Measure Expected Mid-Oct.

Bristol Bay is the eastern-most arm of the Bering Sea in Southwest Alaska. A number of rivers flow into the bay, including the Cinder, Egegik, Igushik, Kvichak, Meshik, Nushagak, Naknek, Togiak, and Ugashik.
Upper reaches of Bristol Bay experience some of the highest tides in the world. One such reach, the Nushagak Bay near Dillingham and another near Naknek in Kvichak Bay have tidal extremes in excess of 10 m (30 ft), ranking them, and the area, as eighth highest in the world. Caption: Wikipedia. Photo source: ©© B.Mully


Tuesday October 4th, marked the deadline for voting, but it will be nearly two weeks before Alaskans know the outcome of an initiative aimed at stopping the Pebble Mine project.

Municipal elections in southwest Alaska’s Lake and Peninsula Borough are conducted by mail. Ballots must be postmarked by Tuesday and in the clerk’s office by Oct. 14. They will be counted when the canvassing board meets Oct. 17. Clerk Kate Conley said results will be certified Oct. 27 if there are no challenges.

Voters are deciding whether to ban large-scale resource extraction activity, including mining, that would “destroy or degrade” salmon habitat.

It’s directed at Pebble Mine, a massive gold-and-copper prospect near the headwaters of Bristol Bay and one of the world’s premier wild salmon fisheries.

The proposed mine has attracted worldwide attention.

“Imagine a pit two miles wide by 2,000 feet deep, and an underground mine a mile deep. This gargantuan gold and copper operation would produce an estimated 10 billion tons of contaminated waste: 3,000 pounds for every man, woman and child on Earth. Massive earthen dams, some taller than the Three Gorges Dam in China, would be constructed to hold back that waste forever. Now imagine all this in an active earthquake zone at the headwaters of the largest sockeye salmon runs in the world. The threat to Bristol Bay just below is unimaginable.No wonder the Pebble Mine is opposed by nearly 80 percent of Bristol Bay residents.”
– Actor and director Robert Redford, Huffington Post

“There are few human activities as toxic as large-scale mining,” said Joel Reynolds, senior attorney and director of NRDC’s marine mammal protection project. NRDC’s Stop The Pebble Mine Project Campaign

Pebble Mine would be located 200 miles southwest of Anchorage and has been described as the potentially the world’s largest man-made excavation…

Read Full Article, AP

Fishers of Nation’s Largest Salmon Run Fight Proposed Mine, National Geographic
Locals and indigenous people worry that the proposed Pebble Mine will harm their remote Alaskan community.
During 2010 more than 40 million salmon swam through Bristol Bay. Beneath the headwaters of two main tributaries of Bristol Bay lies one of the largest deposits of undeveloped copper and gold in the world. Northern Dynasty of Canada and Anglo American of London jointly own the rights to the area, the site of what is known as the Pebble Mine project.
If given the go-ahead, the companies expect to dig a crater spanning two miles (3.2 miles) wide and thousands of feet deep. According to the Alaska Law Review, three large dams would be required to permanently contain 10 billion tons of hazardous mining waste, known as tailings.

“There are few human activities as toxic as large-scale mining,” said Joel Reynolds, senior attorney and director of NRDC’s marine mammal protection project. The Pebble Mine project could lead to widespread water contamination, which would destroy the salmon runs of the Bristol Bay watershed and thereby devastate the native communities and abundant wildlife the salmon have supported for thousands of years.”

Pebble Mine: Alaska Voters Weigh In On Copper And Gold Mine, Huffington Post

Deforestation Along The Rio Xingu Shores, Brazil

brazil deforestation
Image source: ISS Crew Earth Observations experiment and Image Science & Analysis Laboratory, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by the Expedition 29 crew / NASA

By William L. Stefanov, Jacobs/ESCG at NASA-JSC / Earth Observatory

The rainforest of South America, also known as Amazonia, has been undergoing a continual and accelerated conversion process into farmlands (including pasture for livestock) since the early 1960s.

This process has typically been achieved by clearing the forest using fire—“slash and burn”—followed by planting of crops. The generally infertile soils of this rainforest—the largest such forest on Earth—make sustainable farming difficult. This drives people to convert more forest into farmland. The area of clearing can be considerable, and since the deforested regions are easily identifiable and measurable from space, the rate of deforestation is likewise easy to track.

This astronaut photograph illustrates slash-and-burn forest clearing along the Rio Xingu (Xingu River) in the state of Matto Grasso, Brazil. The photo was taken from the International Space Station, a platform from which astronauts can capture images of the Earth from a variety of viewing angles. The perspective above shows both the horizontal position and the extent of the fire lines next to the river, while also providing a sense of the vertical structure of the smoke plumes.

Light colored areas within the river channel are sand bars, which show that the river is in its annual low-flow/low-water stage. For a sense of scale, the river channel is approximately 63 kilometers (39 miles) long in this view. Rivers are the natural highways in Amazonia, which may explain why the burning is occurring right next to the Xingu River, one of Amazonia’s largest.

In recent years, forest preservation has gained traction in the region as a result of new valuation of the ecosystem services provided by the forest, concerns about the impact of the burning on global climate change, and greater sensitivity to the ethnic and biological heritage of Amazonia.

Original Article, NASA

Belo Monte Dam, Xingu River, Brazil
The £7bn Belo Monte dam on the Amazon’s Xingu river is scheduled to start producing energy on 31 December 2014 and would be the second largest of its kind in Brazil and reputedly the world’s third largest.

A Giant Brought To Its Knees: The Atlantic Coastal Forest

Forests Soak Up Third Of Fossil Fuel Emissions

Gulf Coast task force outlines long-awaited for restoration strategies

Photo source: ©© Tom Gill


The federal-state Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Task Force just released a wide-ranging list of strategies for repairing damage done to Gulf of Mexico ecosystems by the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill and by other long-term threats. The main report contains mostly policy-level recommendations, leaving more specific prescriptions to an appendix of existing and proposed projects recommended by each of the five states bordering the Gulf…

Read Full Article, The Times-Picayune / Nola News

EPA Original Report

Chile Reels in Salmon Farming

Fish farm, Chile. Photo source: ©© Sam Beebe

By the Wildlife Conservation Society

Chile is the second largest producer of salmon in the world. But these fish don’t occur there naturally. Instead, the salmon swim within enclosed nets, often tightly packed together. Kept off the country’s coastline, fish farms like these can pollute local ecosystems, displace native fish species, introduce diseases, and affect artisanal fisheries.

Over the last decade, the number of salmon farms has skyrocketed. But in Patagonia, Chile has begun taking steps to protect some of its wild waters from the farmed fish. WCS is commending the Chilean government for keeping the salmon industry out of Tierra del Fuego and reducing the practice in the Antarctica and Magellanes provinces.

“Chile has taken the right step in protecting invaluable coastal resources off Tierra del Fuego and nearby areas,” said Barbara Saavedra, Director of WCS’s Chile Programs. “These regions are home to rich concentrations of wildlife whose needs are only beginning to be understood.”

At the southern tip of South America, albatross, penguins, southern elephant seals, and many other species come to breed along the coasts. Since 2009, WCS has been studying Chile’s marine ecosystems and advising government officials on coastal zone planning.

Unfortunately, salmon farming still threatens other areas within Patagonia. WCS is working with partner organizations to assess alternative salmon farming techniques that might reduce the farms’ impact on these environments. In addition to identifying coastal areas for future protection, WCS conservationists are examining how salmon farming might affect the region’s burgeoning ecotourism industry.

Original Article, Wildlife Conservation Society

Impacts Of Intensive Salmon Farming On Coastal Ecosystems

Baltic Sea Countries Do Not Live Up To Commitments: WWF

baltic coast
Fishing camp called Helgumannen on the island of Gotland, Sweden. Camps like this one can be found all around Gotland, but Helgumannen on Fårö had a very special atmosphere. It is situated in a barren, dramatic landscape. A number of old clinker boats remain on the beach, some of which have already become wreck again. Caption and photo source: ©© Dans Le Grand Bleu


The nine countries with a Baltic Sea coast are not doing enough to protect the very polluted body of water, the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) said in a report, the Baltic Sea Scorecard 2011, a report that assesses how good the countries around the Baltic Sea are at implementing environmental measures and agreements…

Read Full Article, AFP

Original Article, WWF
WWF released the Baltic Sea Scorecard 2011, at the annual Baltic Sea Seminar in Stockholm during the Baltic Sea Festival, a report that assesses how good the countries around the Baltic Sea are at implementing environmental measures and agreements.

The total score for the region was an F, indicating a failure to take the needed actions. Only Sweden and Germany came out slightly better with a C grade. The most problematic areas are the fight against eutrophication and the protection of biodiversity.

Original Report, WWF
New report from the WWF evaluating the Baltic Sea states’ work to protect and restore the health of the Baltic Sea.

Kelp Farming Is On Its Way

Lofoten is an archipelago in the county of Nordland, Norway. Though lying within the Arctic Circle, the archipelago experiences one of the world’s largest elevated temperature anomalies relative to its high latitude. Wikipedia. Photo source: ©© Norte


The Norwegian coastline, including all its islands, is twice as long as the Equator. In other words, possesses huge areas that are suitable for cultivating seaweed and kelp.

Today, some 15 million tonnes of seaweed and kelp are cultivated all over the world, mostly in Asia, and are used in foods, animal feedstuffs, chemicals, medicines, health foods, cosmetics and fertilisers.

Read Full Article, By SINTEF, via AlphaGalileo

Dead Zone Off Gulf Coast, As Large As The State Of New Jersey

Atchafalaya delta
The delta of the Atchafalaya River on the Gulf of Mexico. View is upriver to the northwest. Photo and caption: ©© U.S. Army Corps of Engineers


NOAA-supported scientists found the size of this year’s Gulf of Mexico dead zone to be 6,765 square miles.
Researchers had predicted the potential for a record sized dead zone between 8,500 and 9,421 square miles due to the spring flooding of the Mississippi River and the associated large loads of nutrients running off into the Gulf, but strong winds and waves associated with Tropical Storm Don disrupted the western portion of the dead zone.

The research cruise, led by Nancy Rabalais, Ph.D., executive director of the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium, found this year’s dead zone to be nearly equal to the land area of the state of New Jersey.

The average size of the dead, or hypoxic, zone over the past five years has been 6,688 square miles, very close to this year’s measurement and much larger than the 1,900 square mile goal set by the Gulf of Mexico/Mississippi River Watershed Nutrient Task Force. Last year’s dead zone measured approximately 7,722 square miles.

In addition to surveys in the traditional region of the dead zone, Rabalais’ research team documented a large area of hypoxia east of the Mississippi River in mid-July.

“Although Tropical Storm Don disrupted part of the hypoxic zone, our monitoring over the past several months indicated the spring floods expanded the dead zone region,” said Rabalais. “However, sampling the hypoxic bottom layer on a ship rolling in 6-10 foot waves presented safety and sampling issues that interfered with precise measurements at some stations. For these reasons, the size of the measured hypoxic zone was smaller than just before the storm, and is probably under-estimated.”


The dead zone is fueled by nutrient runoff from agricultural and other human activities in the Mississippi River watershed, which stimulates an overgrowth of algae that sinks, decomposes and consumes most of the life-giving oxygen supply in bottom waters. The hypoxic zone off the coast of Louisiana and Texas forms each summer and threatens valuable commercial and recreational Gulf fisheries.

These fisheries are critical to the economy. For example, in 2009, the dockside value of commercial fisheries in the Gulf was $629 million. Nearly three million recreational fishers, taking 22 million fishing trips, further contributed more than $1 billion to the Gulf economy.

“Despite fluctuations in size due to each year’s weather conditions, these chronic, recurring hypoxic zones every summer represent a significant threat to Gulf ecosystems,” said Robert Magnien, Ph.D., director of NOAA’s Center for Sponsored Coastal Ocean Research. “Until we achieve a substantial reduction in nutrient pollution from the Mississippi River watershed, we will continue to experience extended periods of time each year when critically-needed habitat is unavailable for many marine organisms.”

Original Article

Mississippi Flood Impacts On The Gulf Of Mexico, NASA

Major Flooding On The Mississippi To Cause Large Hypoxic Zone, NASA