Ocean Currents » seagrass http://blog.oceanconservancy.org News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy Fri, 03 Jul 2015 18:30:11 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.4.2 The Ocean, At a Crossroads http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/07/03/the-ocean-at-a-crossroads/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/07/03/the-ocean-at-a-crossroads/#comments Fri, 03 Jul 2015 18:30:11 +0000 Sarah Cooley http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=10373 fish and corals in the Florida Keys

Photo: NOAA

This post is a collaboration between Sarah Cooley, Ph.D. (Ocean Conservancy), Ryan Kelly, Ph.D., J.D. (U. Washington) and C. Mark Eakin, Ph.D. (NOAA)

Readers of this blog know that ocean acidification is here, today. They also know that states on both coasts and the federal government are working to halt its progress and manage its impacts. But the ocean is heedless of borders. A healthy ocean future will require global action. That is why we have our eyes on December’s Paris climate conference (COP21). Decisions made there will determine whether our children will inherit a changed-but-recognizable ocean that still provides humanity with goods and services, or a damaged ocean lacking many resources we want. There is still time for us to reduce emissions and slow the warming and acidification of our ocean, but we have to act now. That is one of the conclusions we reach in a paper out today in Science.

World leaders at that Paris Climate meeting aim to “reach, for the first time, a legally binding agreement that will enable us to combat climate change effectively.” Our international science team was convened to ensure they have the latest and greatest research on the health of ocean ecosystems, and clear information about the ocean futures different CO2 emissions scenarios will produce. Our work will augment the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s reports.

We found that under a “business-as-usual” CO2 emission pathway, warming and acidification will have high to very high negative impacts on nearly every aspect of marine life we looked at, including seagrasses, warm-water corals, swimming snails, bivalve shellfish, krill, and finfish. Essentially, allowing CO2 emissions to continue to rise is very bad for large portions of ocean life.

Essentially, allowing CO2 emissions to continue to rise is very bad for large portions of ocean life.

That’s the story if the world doesn’t curb CO2 emissions. If we do make rapid CO2 emissions cuts, the risks of impacts to the marine organisms we considered are mostly moderate. There will be major damage to bivalves and warm water corals but the damage to other ocean ecosystems will be manageable. The ocean will be different from that of our ancestors, but coastal protection and key fisheries will likely remain intact. Therefore, it is essential to the oceans that we limit CO2 emissions in ways that keep the earth under 2°C of warming.

We also found that there are four main actions that humanity can take: reducing CO2, the cause of ocean warming and acidification; protecting ecosystems by building resilience; adapting human societies; and repairing damage that has already happened. Not surprisingly, the sooner we reduce CO2, the more options we have to protect, adapt, and repair. The longer we wait to reduce CO2 emissions, the more expensive and difficult it will be to guard our oceans from disruptive change… and the less likely these actions are to work.


Sarah Cooley is Science Outreach Manager at Ocean Conservancy. Follow her at @co2ley.

Ryan Kelly is an Assistant Professor at the University of Washington’s School of Marine and Environmental Affairs.

C. Mark Eakin serves as coordinator of NOAA’s Coral Reef Watch using satellites to track coral bleaching around the world. Follow him at: @MarkEakinCRW and Mark Eakin on Facebook.

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Building a Mosaic of Restoration Projects for the Gulf http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2012/07/19/building-a-mosaic-of-restoration-projects-for-the-gulf/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2012/07/19/building-a-mosaic-of-restoration-projects-for-the-gulf/#comments Thu, 19 Jul 2012 14:38:52 +0000 Denny Takahashi Kelso http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=1807 sea turtle mosaic

Credit: luxomedia flickr stream

The BP Deepwater Horizon oil disaster harmed communities from Texas to Florida and damaged the Gulf ecosystem from the ocean floor to the surface across a vast swath of waters and shoreline. Restoring these damaged resources will require a comprehensive, Gulf-wide restoration plan that covers coastal environments, blue-water resources and Gulf communities.

Because wildlife like birds, fish and marine mammals move throughout the ecosystem making use of coastal, nearshore and offshore environments, effective restoration requires a holistic approach. For example, restoration efforts for oyster reefs or barrier islands in Texas should complement the work done in Alabama or in Florida so that the full suite of species and habitats can recover.

The state and federal officials responsible for creating such a plan, the Natural Resources Damage Assessment (NRDA) Trustees, are making decisions about how to spend the balance of the $1 billion committed by BP for early restoration. The decisions they make about early restoration and about the longer-term restoration program to follow have the potential to pay enormous dividends to the Gulf for generations.

To help the Trustees build an effective plan, a coalition of nonprofit groups, including Ocean Conservancy, has created a portfolio of 39 projects that reflect an integrated and Gulf-wide approach to restoration.

No doubt, other projects could have been included, but the point is to start a conversation about how we collectively fulfill our vision of a healthy and prosperous Gulf. This portfolio is more than a mosaic of projects; it also initiates an ongoing dialogue about how to most effectively restore the damage to the Gulf from the BP Deepwater Horizon tragedy.

Here are a few examples from the portfolio:

  • Sea Turtle Nesting Beach Conservation: The five species of sea turtles found in the Gulf are all either endangered or threatened. This project would protect their nesting habitat and nearby waters as well as provide for rehabilitation and care of injured sea turtles.
  • Large-scale Seagrass Restoration and Protection: Seagrass beds are essential components of healthy, productive and biodiverse aquatic ecosystems. This project aims to restore those areas damaged by vessel traffic, boom placement and other response and recovery efforts in ecologically sensitive areas.
  • Monitoring Marine Mammals, Sea Turtles and Bluefin Tuna: Additional observation and biological sampling in the Gulf will help scientists understand any lingering oil-exposure effects on these species.
  • Oyster Reef Restoration: Rebuilding reefs for juvenile oysters to colonize also provides nursery habitat for fish and nesting area for birds while protecting shorelines from erosion.
  • Threatened Coral Recovery: Restoration of shallow-water corals will provide critical habitat for fishes and other reef inhabitants, improving the health and resilience of this unique reef community.
  • Rebuilding Marsh and Barrier Islands: Marsh areas provide nursery habitat and help prevent dead zones by absorbing excess nutrients; barrier islands provide critical habitat for nesting birds. By restoring these ecosystems, a wide range of Gulf species benefit.
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