A Global Plan to Save Corals from Extinction

GR:  We certainly need to do something soon. This is the kind of large-scale conservation effort that we should have applied to all our ecosystems. But now, we must acknowledge that it is a treatment of symptoms not causes. This is a poor strategy. It’s not certain that we can save any reefs. Even with just the greenhouse gases we’ve already placed in the atmosphere, projections for increased ocean warming don’t look good for corals. Why not spend the money to buy back a few politicians from the fossil-fuel industry. If we could, we might be able to redirect fossil-fuel industry subsidies to research into atmospheric CO2 removal. This is where we need to spend our money now.

Coral bleaching on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, Feb. 10, 2016 (Photo by Oregon State University)

“SYDNEY, Australia, March 12, 2017 (ENS) – Ninety percent of the world’s coral reefs are expected to disappear by 2050 due to climate change, pollution and poor fishing practices. Now, a unique philanthropic coalition has launched 50 Reefs, a plan to save the most critical reefs so once the climate stabilizes they can reseed the entire coral ecosystem.

Corals on the Mesoamerican Reef have experience widespread bleaching events in 1995, 1998, 2003, 2005, 2008, 2009 and 2010. Corozal, Belize, Dec. 2016 (Photo by Viv Lynch)

“The initiative, launched at The Economist World Ocean Summit in February, brings together ocean, climate and marine scientists as well as conservationists from around the world to develop a list of the 50 most critical coral reefs in need of protection.

“The idea is to identify 50 high priority coral reefs that have the best chance of surviving climate change and can then help in the recovery of coral reef ecosystems once global temperatures have stabilized.

“As the project unfolds through 2017, a panel of world leading scientists will oversee a process to prioritize reefs worldwide deploying a transparent ‘decision algorithm’ developed at The Centre for Excellence in Environmental Decisions at The University of Queensland.

“The datasets used, such as reef biodiversity, climate vulnerability, current health and reef connectivity, will be agreed upon by the independent panel of scientific experts drawn from some of the world’s leading organizations.

“To be announced in late 2017, the list is expected to represent a diverse portfolio of reefs to maximize returns for biodiversity, ecosystems and people.

“Funding of this global effort is led by Bloomberg Philanthropies with The Tiffany & Co. Foundation and The Paul G. Allen Family Foundation, who all aim to prevent the worst economic, social, and environmental impacts of the coral crisis.

“Bloomberg News founder and former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg is now the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Cities and Climate Change. “When people think of climate change, they often think of extreme heat, severe storms, and raging wildfires,” he said. “But some of the most disastrous effects of climate change are out of sight – on the ocean floor.”

“In fact, without coral reefs, we could lose up to a quarter of the world’s marine biodiversity and hundreds of millions of the world’s poorest people would lose their primary source of food and livelihoods. We must not allow this to happen,” said Bloomberg.” –News Editor ENS (Continue reading:  50 Reefs: A Global Plan to Save Corals from Extinction | ENS.)

The Oceans are Warming Faster than Previously Thought; Rate of Heat Build-up Accelerating | robertscribbler

GR:  We can now predict that increasing storms, droughts, crop failures, and mass emigrations will create global hardships and could destroy of our civilization. We can still save ourselves, but we must stop adding and start removing greenhouse gases from the atmosphere now. And, of course, if we do not rapidly reduce our population and its use of space and resources, we might not survive anyway.

Total ocean heat gain in the top 2000 meters as found in “Improved estimates of ocean heat content from 1960 to 2015. (TOA = top of atmosphere, a value indicating the net incoming radiation imbalance.)”

“. . . heat in the oceans produces many added impacts to the Earth System. As we’ve seen in Antarctica and Greenland, that heat gain has caused a number of the world’s largest ice shelves and glaciers to start melting from below — increasing concerns about the future rate of global sea level rise. The accelerating heat gain in the world’s oceans is absolutely the primary driver of the ongoing global coral bleaching event that has continued uninterrupted since 2014. More ocean heat means less oxygen — which increases the extent of ocean dead zones. And various sea creatures from starfish to mollusks to walruses to puffins have all seen habitat loss and/or loss of key food sources due to ongoing warming.

“Extra ocean heat also both reduces the ability of the ocean to absorb CO2 even as it puts stress on various carbon stores — increasing the risk that a carbon feedback response from the Earth System will emerge to further worsen the rate of global warming.

“Finally, warmer oceans can help to push hydrological events such as instances of heavy rainfall and severe drought to greater extremes.” –Robert Scribbler (Continue reading at The Oceans are Warming Faster than Previously Thought; Rate of Heat Build-up Accelerating | robertscribbler)

United Nations Tackles Ocean Plastic Pollution

GR:  There is growing realization that waste plastics including everything from packaging to the microfiber fabrics used in clothing, are harming wild plants and animals. An earlier petition campaign and many other reports have finally been heard. It’s good to see the UN tackling the problem.

un-env-leader-erik-solheim

Erik Solheim, head of UN Environment

“BALI, Indonesia, February 26, 2017 (ENS) – An unprecedented global campaign to eliminate major sources of marine litter within five years was launched this week by UN Environment, the United Nations agency formerly known as UNEP. The campaign is targeting microplastics in cosmetics and single-use plastics such as straws, bags and packaging materials.

SolheimUN Environment chief Erik Solheim of Norway (Photo courtesy World Bank)

“It is past time that we tackle the plastic problem that blights our oceans, said Erik Solheim of Norway, the former Norwegian environment and development minister who now heads UN Environment. “Plastic pollution is surfing onto Indonesian beaches, settling onto the ocean floor at the North Pole, and rising through the food chain onto our dinner tables. We’ve stood by too long as the problem has gotten worse. It must stop.”

“Introduced at the Economist World Ocean Summit in Bali, the UN’s new #CleanSeas campaign is urging governments to adopt plastic reduction policies.

“Ten countries have already joined the campaign with far-reaching pledges to turn the plastic tide.

“Indonesia has committed to slash its marine litter by a massive 70 percent by 2025.

“Uruguay will tax single-use plastic bags later this year, and Costa Rica will take measures to reduce single-use plastic through better waste management and education.

“The campaign is targeting industry with the message that it’s important to minimize plastic packaging and redesign products, and is calling on consumers to change their throwaway habits before irreversible damage is done to the oceans.

This Laysan albatross died from dehydration or starvation after swallowing plastics at sea. Laysan is one of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands in the Pacific Ocean. On nearby Midway Atoll, some 200,000 albatross chicks die each year from consuming plastics that block or perforate the stomach, esophagus or gizzard. (Photo by Duncan)

“Each year, more than eight million tonnes of plastic ends up in the oceans, wreaking havoc on marine wildlife, fisheries and tourism, and costing at least $8 billion in damage to marine ecosystems. Up to 80 percent of all litter in the oceans is made of plastic – items such as plastic bottles, bags and cups.” –Environmental News Service (Continue reading:  – UN Campaigns to ‘Turn the Tide’ on Ocean Plastics | ENS.)

Marine hotspots under dual threat from climate change and fishing

A beautiful split image of a school of yellow butterfly fishes and the blue sky in French Polynesia

A beautiful split image of a school of yellow butterfly fishes and the blue sky in French Polynesia. Credit: Global_Pics/iStock/Getty Images.

GR: Nature rarely forms straight lines or even distributions. Global warming, just like biodiversity, is not even. The study reported below suggests areas that need our greatest conservation efforts. However, we have to try to save more than just the best areas. We also need to save some of the intervening regions.

The parts of the world’s oceans with the most varied mix of species are seeing the biggest impacts from a warming climate and commercial fishing, a new study warns.

“The research, published in Science Advances, identifies six marine “hotspots” of “exceptional biodiversity” in the tropical Pacific, southwestern Atlantic, and western Indian Oceans.

“Warming sea temperatures, weakening ocean currents and industrial fishing means these areas are at particular risk of losing many of their species, the researchers say.

Species richness

“From the cold depths of the Arctic waters to the colourful reefs of the tropics and subtropics, the oceans play host to tens of thousands of different species. But they are not evenly spread across the world.

“Using data on 1,729 types of fish, 124 marine mammals and 330 seabirds, the new study estimates how varied the species are in each part of the oceans. They call this the species “richness”.

“You can see this in the map from the study below. It shows an index of species richness, from the lowest (dark blue) to the highest (red).

marine-hotspots

Map of global marine biodiversity, using an index from zero (no species present, shaded dark blue) up to one (largest species richness, shaded red) representing 2,183 marine species. Map also shows the six marine “hotspots” identified in the study. Source: Ramírez et al. (2017)

“From this process, the researchers identified six hotspots where the number and mix of species is exceptionally high. These are outlined in the map above.

“The six hotspots are predominantly in the southern hemisphere. Three are closely packed together around southeast Asia (4), southern Australia and New Zealand (5), and the central Pacific Ocean (6). The other three are more spread out, covering Africa’s southeastern coastline and Madagascar (3), the Pacific waters of Peru and the Galapagos Islands (1), and the southwestern Atlantic ocean off the coast of Uruguay and Argentina (2).” –Robert McSweeney (Continue reading:  Marine hotspots under dual threat from climate change and fishing.)