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The Blog Aquatic

News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy

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What Does More Carbon Pollution Mean for the Ocean?

Posted On April 16, 2013 by

oil pipeline in Texas

The path to healthy ocean does not lie in drilling and pipeline-building for this dirty fuel, but in exploring alternatives. Photo: Ray Bodden via Flickr

“Where do we start?” It’s a question that I’m asked every day in relation to the opportunities we have to put the ocean at the center of the most pressing issues of our time.

One of our readers, who is very concerned about increasing CO2 emissions, asked that question in a comment on my last blog, where I detailed how rising carbon pollution is the greatest risk to the ocean and the resources—food, water, air, energy—it provides to sustain us.

The first step we need to take is to find out more about the species, people and places that are already feeling the effects of increased carbon pollution. The ocean is absorbing more and more of our carbon emissions, and its waters are becoming more acidic as a result. Ocean acidity has already increased 30 percent in the past few decades, and we are starting to see real impacts on species that depend on calcium for their shells.

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This Week’s Top Tweets: March 9 – 15

Posted On March 17, 2013 by

Our top tweets of the week range from innovations and milestones in scientific study of the ocean to the tangible impacts of trash and pollution we’ve seen recently–and a little hope for a lot of sharks, manta rays and sawfish. With the BP trial continuing in the midst of all this, losing that hour from daylight savings has definitely been noticeable in ocean news this week! Read on for more details.

1. Manatees in Danger

Our most popular tweet this week brings sad news from the coast of Florida, where record numbers of manatees have been killed from the red tide. The total is up to 184, and with an already endangered population, this is a terribly heartbreaking problem. The manatees ingest the red tide that has settled on sea grass (their main food source), then the toxins essentially paralyze the victim, causing it to drown. For more information, check out this infographic from naplesnews.com.

2. Death by Garbage

https://twitter.com/OurOcean/status/311197334727958528

This tweet is about a sperm whale that fatally ate a total of 37 pounds of garbage and beached itself on the coast of Spain. Incidents like these show that some of the ocean’s largest creatures are not immune to our crippling habits of not disposing trash properly, and are perhaps some of the most illustrative reasons that can spur people to change their daily routines to be more ocean-wary. If you’re looking to do the same, try using the tips we’ve suggested in our mobile app, Rippl, to make an easy transition to bettering the environment.

3. Protection from Finning–Finally!

https://twitter.com/OurOcean/status/312172453227032576

The ocean world got some fantastic news this week! The shark finning industry which has decimated populations of this indicator animal has finally been put on a leash, with several species now under international protection. Any further exports of these animals will require a permit that certifies sustainable and legal fishing.

4. Studying Climate Change on the Largest Scale Yet

https://twitter.com/OurOcean/status/312261910865264640

Using plastic bags to study the effects of ocean acidification is definitely a perplexing story. Research concludes in June, so we’ll be sure to keep an eye peeled to let you know about the scientists’ findings!

5. Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Ocean

https://twitter.com/OurOcean/status/312292084658864128

An interview in this article says that studying on a ship for longer than a month can yield a high price tag–the $50,000 per day kind of price tag. Scientists can skirt around those prices, though, if they find a commercial cargo ship that’s willing to take them on. Many ships are eager to have scientists do research aboard, as it continues a long tradition of “Ships of Opportunity.” When the only expense is for food along a journey, scientists can worry a lot less about how it will be funded and a lot more about their research.

That rounds out the top tweets from this week! Leave a comment and tell us which story you liked the most, and don’t forget to follow our Twitter handle, @OurOcean, in order to get updates as soon as they come out!

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Navy Leading Charge Against Climate Change, Region’s Biggest Threat, Says Pacific Commander

Posted On March 13, 2013 by

Everyday we prepare for things based on forecasts – or what you expect will happen. You bring an umbrella if there might be rain. You put on sunscreen, even though you’re not sunburned yet. Now take that idea and expand it by $510 million and the 900,000 sailors, marines and civilians in the Department of the Navy.

Just last week,  The Boston Globe’s Bryan Bender reported on the commander of the U.S. Pacific Command Admiral Samuel J. Locklear III’s comments that climate change is the “biggest long-term security threat” for the region, saying it “is probably the most likely thing that is going to happen . . . that will cripple the security environment, probably more likely than the other scenarios we all often talk about.”

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An Island of Hope for Coral Reefs

Posted On January 8, 2013 by

Dr. Stephen Palumbi checks transplanted corals during climate change studies. Credit: oceansciencenow.com/wp/photos/

I’m accustomed to getting bad news about the state of the world’s coral reefs, but this week there’s some good news for a change.

Scientists have just released findings from their research in American Samoa on especially tough species of corals that are adapting to warming waters and may be resisting climate change.

In a new paper published by Ocean Conservancy board member Dr. Stephen Palumbi and other scientists in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, the scientists found that some reef-building corals are resistant to the stress of warmer waters that cause coral bleaching.

While studying corals in American Samoa, researchers found heat-resistant corals can survive damaging temperature increases by switching on a set of 60 genes before the stress has occurred. Heat-sensitive corals switch these genes on after stress has already occurred. This means that some corals have the ability to withstand future increase in ocean temperature.

DNA sequencing can offer broad insights into the differences that may allow some organisms to persist longer amid future changes to global climate.

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Generations Connected to the Sea, Washed Away by Sandy

Posted On November 19, 2012 by

Aerial photo of Mantoloking, New Jersey after Hurricane Sandy. Photo credit: Greg Thompson/USFWS. Used under a Creative Commons license.

This is a guest post from Pam Weiant. Pam is a marine scientist with Ph.D. from UC Santa Barbara. She is founder of a Strategic Environmental Planning (StEP), a consulting company that focuses on natural resource planning and management, and works as a watershed specialist for Malama Maunalua, a community non-profit organization in Hawaii. Previously, she advised the marine program of The Nature Conservancy in Hawaii.

The sea soaked and the winds pounded our family home on the Jersey Shore for hours and hours on October 29, just as numerous hurricanes and Nor’easter storms had for decades. But Hurricane Sandy was different. At some point, under the cloak of darkness that night, Sandy’s punishing power brought our house down.

The neighbors’ homes on both sides of ours in Mantoloking are scarred but still standing. Where our house once stood and hosted five generations of our family, there is now only sand and debris. Everything is gone, including the giant antique stove where my grandmother used to prepare the catch of the day.

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Smarter Arctic Choices Begin With More Arctic Science

Posted On September 21, 2012 by


Today, Alaska Senator Mark Begich introduced important new legislation that would establish a permanent program to conduct research, monitoring, and observing activities in the Arctic. If passed, Senator Begich’s bill could lead to significant advances in Arctic science that can then be used to support decisions about the management of a region that is crucial not only to the people who live there, but to the world.

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How the ocean helps keep carbon out of the atmosphere

Posted On June 14, 2012 by

Credit: National Marine Sanctuaries

As George Leonard wrote recently, planning for a stormier, warmer ocean is a daunting but important task. That’s already a reality for those of us living on the Gulf Coast, where sea level rise (compounded by coastal erosion) can almost wash away an entire community.

With near-perfect timing, another new study has just revealed that sea grasses can trap 2 to 3 times more carbon than a typical forest. The ocean, not just forests, can play a larger role than scientists previously believed keeping carbon out of the atmosphere.  Continue reading »