Tag Archives: Ecosystem Destruction

Earth’s resources consumed in ever greater destructive volumes


Photograph: © SAF — Coastal Care

Excerpts;

Humanity is devouring our planet’s resources in increasingly destructive volumes…

As a result, the Earth Overshoot Day – which marks the point at which consumption exceeds the capacity of nature to regenerate – has moved forward two days to 1 August, the earliest date ever recorded…

Read Full Article, Guardian UK (07-22-2018)

Acidic oceans cause fish to lose their sense of smell


Photograph: © SAF — Coastal Care

Excerpts;

Fish are losing their sense of smell because of increasingly acidic oceans caused by rising levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere, new research shows.

When carbon dioxide is absorbed by seawater carbonic acid is formed, making the water more acidic. Since the Industrial Revolution, oceanic CO2 has risen by 43% and is predicted to be two and a half times current levels by the end of this century.

Fish use their sense of smell (olfaction) to find food, safe habitats, avoid predators, recognize each other and find suitable spawning grounds…

Read Full Article, Science daily (07-23-2018)

Global Study of World’s Beaches Shows Threat to Protected Areas


Cape Cod National Seashore is a protected marine area, home to a variety of ecosystems with diverse plants and animals. Credits: NASA Earth Observatory / Spencer Kennard

By Jessica Merzdorf, NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

A first-of-its-kind survey of the world’s sandy shorelines with satellite data found that they have increased slightly on a global scale over the past three decades but decreased in protected marine areas, where many beaches are eroding.

Erosion in protected marine areas could threaten plant and animal species and cultural heritage sites. Worldwide, the study found that 24 percent of Earth’s sandy beaches are eroding, a coastline distance of almost 50,000 miles.

The view from space provided researchers with a more accurate picture of just how much of Earth’s shorelines are beaches. They found that about a third (31 percent) of all ice-free shorelines are sandy or gravelly. Africa has the highest proportion of sandy beaches (66 percent) and Europe has the lowest (22 percent).

Satellite image processing: Wave of the future

A team of scientists and engineers from the Netherlands used machine learning to “teach” their classification software to accurately identify sandy beaches from images taken by Landsat satellites from NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey. This allowed them to quickly and automatically examine 30 years of data and determine how many of Earth’s beaches are sandy instead of rocky or icy, and how those sandy beaches are changing with time.

In the past, answering these questions required years of expensive, labor-intensive research, and the results of previous attempts to measure Earth’s beaches varied widely.

“It only took about two months’ calculation time to generate this data set of annual shorelines between 1984 and 2016 for the entire world,” said Arjen Luijendijk, a coastal development expert at Deltares, an independent research institute studying deltas, river basins and coasts. “The alternative of taking aerial images, placing the images in world coordinates, and sometimes manually detecting shorelines, takes weeks or months to capture a coast longer than 50 miles.”


Channel Islands Marine Sanctuary holds shipwrecks, archaeological artifacts and a variety of natural resources. Credits: NOAA/CINMS/Claire Fackler.

Taking this kind of global snapshot gives scientists a clearer idea of what large scale processes govern the growth and retreat of beaches around the world, Luijendijk said.

The team found that many of the world’s non-protected beaches are undergoing change too, but not uniformly. About 24 percent of sandy beaches worldwide are eroding, while 27 percent are growing.

Additionally, about 16 percent of all beaches are eroding at rates designated “intense” or “extreme,” and 18 percent are growing at the same rates.

Globally, all of this averages out to a slight average increase over the last 30 years, meaning that our sum total of sandy beaches is increasing slightly.

The researchers were able to break down these results by continent to find that beaches in Australia and Africa are experiencing more erosion than growth. The opposite is true for all other continents, where on average beaches are growing.

“At this point we think the continental differences in beach erosion and accretion are largely influenced by human interventions along the coast,” Luijendijk said. “Our next steps will focus on distinguishing the human impact from the natural dynamics and trends.”

The researchers give several examples of locations where human activities have sped up erosion or growth: Mining sand from Vietnam’s Mekong River delta for use in making concrete and asphalt has caused steadily high rates of erosion that could jeopardize this biologically diverse region, as well as threaten the sustainability of its fishing industry. On the other hand, the Tweed River Entrance Sand Bypassing Project, established in 2001 in New South Wales, Australia, pumps sand from the Tweed River to three beaches in Queensland, enlarging those beaches and improving navigation at the river mouth.

Protected marine areas: At risk

In protected marine areas, Luijendijk said, we have an idea of what might happen in areas without human intervention. Because there is typically much less human influence in these areas, scientists can glimpse what natural processes might do to the world’s sandy shores.


Many sandy beaches, like this one in Mariana Islands, Guam, are undergoing change, and scientists are using satellites to track global trends of growth and erosion. Credits: NOAA/David Burdock.

Protected marine areas include sanctuaries and reserves, national parks, wildlife refuges and national monuments, and may be designated for their biological, ecological or cultural value. The United States has more than 1,200 such zones encompassing more than 1 million square miles, including Cape Cod National Seashore in Massachusetts, Indiana Dunes State Park, Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary and Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument in the Hawaiian archipelago.

Some of these areas were designated to protect vulnerable plant and animal species or connect delicate ecosystems. These areas are home to humpback whales and sea turtles, reefs and mangroves that protect the land from erosion and natural disasters, and species who are found in only one habitat in the world. Losing land area could upset the balance of these areas and endanger their future.

Other protected areas surround important cultural artifacts or sites, such as shipwrecks, harbors or the stone idols (ki’i) of Hawaii. These areas not only preserve the history of cultures from all over the world, but benefit the country economically by attracting tourists and researchers.

Next steps

The team’s next step is to expand the model and use it to look at finer-grained details of the world’s beaches: Seasonal variations in shorelines, examining the difference between human-caused and natural processes and their effects, and adding more data to study tides and water levels on single satellite images instead of composites. They will also look beyond sandy beaches to coastal cliffs.

“Studying the behavior of sandy beaches at a global scale provides unique information on the universal causes and processes governing the retreat and accretion of coasts around the world,” Luijendijk said.

To read this paper, visit Nature
Coastal zones constitute one of the most heavily populated and developed land zones in the world. Despite the utility and economic benefits that coasts provide, there is no reliable global-scale assessment of historical shoreline change trends. Here, via the use of freely available optical satellite images captured since 1984, in conjunction with sophisticated image interrogation and analysis methods, we present a global-scale assessment of the occurrence of sandy beaches and rates of shoreline change therein…

To learn more about Landsat, visit Landsat Science

Original Article, NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center (07-18-2018)

Forests and Marine Resources Continue to Shrink

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

Excerpts;

Deforestation and unsustainable farming are depriving the planet of forests, while destructive practices in fishing are limiting the chance to sustainably manage our oceans.

According to United Nations estimates, the world’s population is projected to increase from 7.6 billion today to close to 10 billion people by 2050. The global demand for food is estimated to grow by 50 percent, placing productive land and seas under huge pressure.

It ultimately means that the way we manage our forests and oceans now is crucial in addressing our future needs, warn two biennial reports released this July by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the U.N.

The two reports titled The State of the World’s Forests(SOFO) and on The State of the World’s Fisheries and Aquaculture (SOFIA), aim to highlight key facts over the state of our planet’s forests and waters and shed light on the need to address forestry, fisheries and aquaculture issues…

Read Full Article, IPS News (07-12-2018)

Saving trees in tropics could cut emissions by one-fifth, study shows, Science Daily
Reducing deforestation in the tropics would significantly cut the amount of carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere — by as much as one-fifth — research shows. In the first study of its kind, scientists have calculated the amount of carbon absorbed by the world’s tropical forests and the amounts of greenhouse gas emissions created by loss of trees, as a result of human activity…

A Giant Brought to Its Knees: 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…

Human Deforestation Outweighs Climate Change for Coral Reefs, Nature (06-05-2013)
Better land use is the key to preventing further damage to the world’s coral reefs, according to a study published this week in the online science journal Nature Communications…

Large-scale commercial fishing covers more than half of the oceans, study finds; CBS News (02-23-2018)

Official fish trade ‘hugely underestimates’ global catches; Science Daily (10-09-2017)
Conservation of dwindling fish stocks is being severely hampered by poor controls on global trade, according to new research…

Overfishing is as big a threat to humanity as it is to our oceans; Guardian UK (02-16-2016)

As global per-capita fish consumption hits all-time high, UN warns on over harvesting; UN (07-07-2016)
A new report from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) shows that while growth in aquaculture has helped drive global per capita fish consumption above 20 kilograms a year for the first time, almost a third of commercial fish stocks are now overharvested at biologically unsustainable levels…

Why is Hawaii banning oxybenzone and octinoxate from sunscreens?


Photograph: © SAF — Coastal Care

Excerpts;

The two ingredients help protect skin from UV rays, but researchers have found that they also cause bleaching, deformities, DNA damage and ultimately death in coral when sunscreen washes off beachgoers or is discharged into wastewater treatment plants and deposited into bodies of water.

Coral reefs are vital members of marine ecosystems that protect beaches from erosion and support biodiversity…

Read Full Article; CNN (07-09-2018)

Could sunscreen be destroying our coral reefs? Hawaii lawmakers say yes; CBS News (05-02-2018)
Hawaii is set to become the first state to ban the sale of sunscreens containing oxybenzone or octinoxate, two chemicals believed to be harmful to the environment…

Slathering on sunscreen at the beach? It may be destroying coral reefs; Guardian UK (04-28-2017)
Studies show that oxybenzone, a common chemical found particularly in spray-on sunscreens, contributes to coral bleaching and leaves reefs deformed…

How we are all contributing to the destruction of coral reefs: Sunscreen, The Washington Post (10-20-2015)
And a new study finds that a single drop in a small area is all it takes for the chemicals in the lotion to mount an attack…

This Graphic Shows How Your Sunscreen Can Hurt Coral Reefs, TIME (10-21-2015)

Ocean Conservation Is an Untapped Strategy for Fighting Climate Change


Photo source: Beyond Preservation: The Coral Restoration Foundation Bonaire; By Andrew Jalbert – ©

Excerpts;

The ocean contributes $1.5 trillion annually to the global economy and assures the livelihood of 10-12 percent of the world’s population. But there’s another reason to protect marine ecosystems—they’re crucial for curbing climate change…

Read Full Article; IPS News (07-06-2018)

Help Save the Vaquita; By NRDC

vaquita
The rarest of marine mammals: the vaquita, a species of porpoise. Photo source: Here & Now – Barbara Taylor / NOAA

Excerpts;

“The vaquita marina is the world’s smallest and most endangered porpoise. They are only found in the northern part of the Gulf of California, a narrow body of water 100 miles south of the U.S. border with Mexico. There are fewer than 30 vaquitas left in the world, mainly due to heavy fishing in the area. Although the vaquita is not the target of Mexican fishermen, it is frequently captured during gillnet fishing. Like all mammals, vaquitas breathe air. Therefore, when they become entangled in a gillnet, they are unable to surface for air and eventually drown. Fishermen catching shrimp and other seafood have caused a 95 percent population decline in the past 20 years. If current levels of gillnet fishing continue in the upper Gulf of California, the vaquita will likely be extinct by 2021…”—NRDC

Read Full Article and Learn More; NRDC (07-06-2018)

Inside the effort to save the world’s most endangered marine mammal, the vaquita; CBS News (06-30-2018)

Fish Poachers Push Endangered Porpoises to Brink, Yale E360 (03-05-2016)
China’s lucrative black market for fish parts is threatening the vaquita, the world’s most endangered marine mammal. The porpoises, who live only in the Gulf of California, are getting caught up as bycatch in illegal gill nets and killed. Scientists fear the porpoise could vanish by 2018…

Improving seabird conservation in Patagonian ecosystems


Patagonia. Photograph: © SAF — Coastal Care

Excerpts;

Preserving a 300,000 square km area in Patagonian waters could improve the conservation of 20 percent of the population of sea birds in their natural habitat.

Marine ecosystems in the Argentinian Patagonia are one of the areas with a larger biodiversity and highest biological production worldwide. Despite their ecological value, they are now one of the most threatened marine areas by the impact of human activity -intense fishing activity- and changes related to global warming…

Read Full Article; Science Daily (07-05-2018)

Invaluable to the medical industry, the horseshoe crab is under threat


Photograph: © SAF — Coastal Care

Excerpts;

The horseshoe crab has survived every period of mass extinction in the last 450-million years, but now faces its greatest threats: wild capture for biomedical testing, together with capture for bait, climate change and habitat destruction. This in turn will detrimentally affect the surrounding ecosystems as well…

Read Full Article; Science Daily (07-05-2018)