Ocean Currents » plymouth university http://blog.oceanconservancy.org News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy Tue, 27 Sep 2016 13:42:48 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.4.2 Lessons From the Mediterranean About Ocean Acidification http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/08/26/lessons-from-the-mediterranean-about-ocean-acidification/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/08/26/lessons-from-the-mediterranean-about-ocean-acidification/#comments Wed, 26 Aug 2015 12:36:58 +0000 Guest Blogger http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=10677

Today’s guest blog comes from Jason Hall-Spencer — a Professor of Marine Biology at Plymouth University in the United Kingdom. His research spans seamount ecology, fisheries , ocean acidification, aquaculture and conservation. He’s also working on marine protected area design using satellite vessel monitoring for fisheries management. He does his fieldwork all over the world, at volcanic CO2 vents in the Mediterranean, coral reefs in the Arctic, the NE Atlantic, and off Papua New Guinea. Follow him on Twitter at @jhallspencer.

In 2006, when I first heard about ocean acidification, I started running expeditions near underwater volcanoes in the Mediterranean where CO2 bubbles up through the sea floor, acidifying large areas for centuries. We have found similar ecosystem shifts at all the seeps, so I am now convinced that ocean acidification will bring change.  In a recent article I attempt to put this topic into context, focusing on two major causes of change – the corrosive effects of CO2, and the way the extra carbon is used as a resource.

Here’s what we’ve noticed about the sea life around those natural CO2 seeps in the Mediterranean: algae seems to thrive, whereas animals with calcium carbonate shells—like plankton—dissolve away. We see a lot of brown seaweeds on the seafloor, and they often overwhelm slower-growing competitors like corals. Although life is abundant at CO2 seeps, there is far less diversity than we see elsewhere.

Reefs formed by corals or mollusks are severely weakened as CO2 levels rise, which is clearly a concern since ocean waters around the world are becoming increasingly acidified. As reefs weaken, we will see ripple effects onshore and in the water. In the tropics, weakened reefs will likely worsen coastal erosion, which is already a problem due to rising sea levels, increased storminess and the loss of protective habitats such as mangrove swamps.

Some plants and animals, typically the ones without shells, can adapt to the effects of long-term acidification. Jellyfish, anemones and soft corals do especially well, but when we transplant hard corals into areas with an average pH of 7.8, they dissolve away. So acidified oceans could end up dominated by much fewer species living among crumbling reefs and competing with soft-bodied jellyfish and seaweed.

What does all this mean for temperate coastal habitats and fisheries? I’m not sure. These highly productive waters may provide oysters, mussels and corals with enough food to cope well with these conditions, which make forming their shells more difficult.

Next year I hope to begin studying natural analogues for future ocean conditions in the north Atlantic, as this will reveal which organisms have more chance of coping. Perhaps algae will counteract acidification by absorbing CO2 – this could help those who earn their living through shellfish aquaculture, or who depend on reefs for coastal protection and tourism.

The past five years’ work shows ocean acidification is a serious issue with real financial costs, and that marine life is already being affected. This evidence is helping galvanize change as governments get serious about cutting emissions. Investing in research is absolutely worth it – ‘forewarned is forearmed.’ We now know that systems that are under less stress are more resilient  – I hope this new body of knowledge helps improve coastal management and strengthen marine regeneration efforts.

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This Week’s Top Tweets: January 19 – 25 http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/01/26/this-weeks-top-tweets-january-19-25/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/01/26/this-weeks-top-tweets-january-19-25/#comments Sat, 26 Jan 2013 16:42:11 +0000 Guest Blogger http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=4420 It’s time to recap the Ocean Conservancy tweets that made the most waves (get it?) in the past week. Check out our top five and let us know which one piqued your interest the most!

1. Would You Like Some Fish with Your Plastic?

This was our top tweet of the week and it’s no wonder why–finding out that over one third of a given sample of fish have plastic in their bellies is downright creepy. This study by Plymouth University and the UK Marine Biological Association illustrates the tangible effects that trash has on our ocean. If you’re looking for ways to lessen your impact and to keep the ocean healthy, try downloading our mobile app, Rippl. You’ll get weekly ocean-friendly tips and be able to track your progress!

2. Welcome to the Plastic Beach

While this isn’t nearly as enjoyable as the Gorillaz song “Welcome to the World of the Plastic Beach,” news about the amount of plastic at Kamilo Point in Hawaii certainly gave it a realistic perspective in the Twittersphere this week. Our expert Nick Mallos reported that the so-called “Junk Beach” was the most plastic-laden one he’s ever seen–and that’s after 240,000 lbs. of microplastics have been removed by the Hawaii Wildlife Fund since 2003.

3. Skip the Landfill–Donate Instead!

Our five suggestions for donating those random things hanging around your home that you’ll never use resonated well with our followers, ranking third on our top tweets list this week. Another helpful addition (courtesy of one of our Facebook friends): donate your time!

4. Forget About Last Year’s Tsunami? The Ocean Hasn’t

Our field guide for tsunami debris tells you what the most common forms of debris are–and what you should do if and when you find it.

5. Colorful Corals–But Why?

This tweet got a lot of attention largely because it asks a question we’ve all probably wondered at one point or another, but never really knew the answer. In this case, there’s more to beauty than meets the eye!

As always, we’ll be tweeting on a daily basis from @OurOcean, so make sure to follow us for all the latest ocean news, Ocean Conservancy blog posts, fun trivia and more!

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One Third of Fish in New Study Contain Traces of Plastic http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/01/23/one-third-of-fish-in-new-study-contain-traces-of-plastic/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/01/23/one-third-of-fish-in-new-study-contain-traces-of-plastic/#comments Wed, 23 Jan 2013 19:59:21 +0000 Nick Mallos http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=4364

An artist’s rendering of poor cod (Trisopterus minutus), one of the fish species studied.

Here’s some sad news from an article to be published in Marine Pollution Bulletin about fish and microplastics in the English Channel. Of the 504 fish collected, 36.5% had plastics in their gastrointestinal tracts. Inhabitat explains,

Not only is this a problem for those that eat the fish, such as humans, but the research team believe that the accumulation of plastic in fish could block the animals’ digestive systems and even cause fish to stop eating.

In a statement, Richard Thompson from Plymouth University said: “We don’t need to have plastic debris in the sea. These materials are inherently very recyclable, but regrettably they’ve been at the heart of our throw-away culture for the last few decades. We need to recognise the value of plastics at the end of their lives and need help from industry and manufacturers to widen the potential for every day products to be reusable and recyclable.”

Read more from Inhabitat or view the report in full.

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