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.)

Images of new bleaching on Great Barrier Reef heighten fears of coral death

GR:  An update on the continuing bleaching disaster. It appears to me that the fossil-fuel industry has purchased the Australian government and directing the government to permit for-profit developments harmful to the reef.

“The embattled Great Barrier Reef could face yet more severe coral bleaching in the coming month, with areas badly hit by last year’s event at risk of death.

Newly bleached corals discovered near Palm Island on the Great Barrier Reef. Photograph: Australian Marine Conservation Society

“Images taken by local divers last week and shared exclusively with the Guardian by the Australian Marine Conservation Society show newly bleached corals discovered near Palm Island.

“Most of the Great Barrier Reef has been placed on red alert for coral bleaching for the coming month by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Its satellite thermal maps have projected unusually warm waters off eastern Australia after an extreme heatwave just over a week ago saw land temperatures reach above 47C in parts of the country.

Newly bleached coral. Most of the reef has been placed on red alert for coral bleaching for the coming month by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Photograph: Australian Marine Conservation Society

“According to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, sea surface temperatures from Cape Tribulation to Townsville have been up to 2C higher than normal for the time of year for more than a month.” –Elle Hunt (Continue reading:  Images of new bleaching on Great Barrier Reef heighten fears of coral death | Environment | The Guardian.)

Scientists have just detected a major change to the Earth’s oceans linked to a warming climate

GR:  Here’s some really bad news. It’s been expected, but it hasn’t been confirmed until now. Global warming is robbing the oceans of the oxygen necessary for life. This is just another extinction threat from global warming.

ocean-dead-zone-in-gom-2013-august

Dead Zones like this one in the Gulf of Mexico are spreading worldwide.

“A large research synthesis, published in one of the world’s most influential scientific journals, has detected a decline in the amount of dissolved oxygen in oceans around the world — a long-predicted result of climate change that could have severe consequences for marine organisms if it continues.The paper, published Wednesday in the journal Nature by oceanographer Sunke Schmidtko and two colleagues from the GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research in Kiel, Germany, found a decline of more than 2 percent in ocean oxygen content worldwide between 1960 and 2010. The loss, however, showed up in some ocean basins more than others. The largest overall volume of oxygen was lost in the largest ocean — the Pacific — but as a percentage, the decline was sharpest in the Arctic Ocean, a region facing Earth’s most stark climate change.

“The loss of ocean oxygen “has been assumed from models, and there have been lots of regional analysis that have shown local decline, but it has never been shown on the global scale, and never for the deep ocean,” said Schmidtko, who conducted the research with Lothar Stramma and Martin Visbeck, also of GEOMAR.

“Ocean oxygen is vital to marine organisms, but also very delicate — unlike in the atmosphere, where gases mix together thoroughly, in the ocean that is far harder to accomplish, Schmidtko explained. Moreover, he added, just 1 percent of all the Earth’s available oxygen mixes into the ocean; the vast majority remains in the air.” –Chris Mooney (More:  Scientists have just detected a major change to the Earth’s oceans linked to a warming climate – The Washington Post).

Here’s another blog post covering this news.

‘Extremely High Levels’ Of Toxic Pollutants Found In Deepest Parts Of World’s Oceans

GR: We can reverse some of our environmental impacts by removing toxic waste and restoring native species. However, some of the things we’ve done seem irreversible. Here’s a report on deep-ocean pollution that, like climate change, is another of the marks of our presence that will persist long after we’re gone. The subtitle sums it up:  “There’s literally no escaping mankind’s mess.”

Alan Jamieson/Newcastle University Hirondellea gigas are voracious scavengers that consume anything that comes down from the surface.

“Not even the very deepest, darkest depths of Earth’s oceans can escape mankind’s legacy of toxic pollution.

“In a shocking discovery highlighting the interconnectedness of our planet, scientists have detected “extremely high levels” of organic chemicals in the fatty tissue of amphipods, a type of crustacean, living in Mariana trench ― the deepest part of the world’s oceans.

Garbage in the Pacific Ocean (Huffington Post).

“We still think of the deep ocean as being this remote and pristine realm, safe from human impact, but our research shows that, sadly, this could not be further from the truth,” study author Alan Jamieson, a marine ecologist at Newcastle University in Britain, said in a statement.” –Chris D’Angelo (More:  ‘Extremely High Levels’ Of Toxic Pollutants Found In Deepest Parts Of World’s Oceans | The Huffington Post.)

Yearly Coral Bleaching Will Not End

GR:  Again, let me say: climate change is happening now, and it will get worse.

“Despite La Nina, Ocean surfaces have not cooled enough to end the worst global coral bleaching event on record. What this means is that many reefs, including the Great Barrier Reef, are again under a rising risk of bleaching and mortality for the coming months. This is unheard of. Never before has a mass coral bleaching event lasted for so long or extended through the period of natural variability related ocean surface cooling called La Nina. Perhaps more ominously, the global coral bleaching and die off that began in 2014 may now be a practically permanent ocean feature of the presently destabilized world climate system.

“Cool La Nina is Over. According to NOAA, the periodic cooling of ocean surfaces in the Pacific called La Nina is now over. And since La Nina brings with it a variable related low point of broader Earth surface temperatures, after a few months lag, we can expect the globe to start to warm up again.

The above map shows sea surface temperature anomalies in the Pacific Ocean on February 9 of 2017. Presently SSTs over the entire Pacific range from about -1.5 C below average to +5 C above average. And as you can see, the Ocean is considerably warmer than normal, despite La Nina. Over the next 1-2 years, this is likely the coolest the Pacific will get. In just one decade’s time, under human-forced warming, it will take a very strong La Nina and a strongly negative Pacific Decadal Oscillation to produce similar sea surface temperatures. Image source: Earth Nullschool.

“Problem is, the Earth is still ridiculously warm, despite La Nina. Temperatures, driven inexorably higher by fossil fuel burning, have probably bottomed out at about 1 degrees Celsius hotter than 1880s averages during December, January and February of 2016-2017.

“What this means is that the likely range for annual global temperatures over the next 5 years will be about 1 to 1.3 C above 1880s averages. These readings are so high (the warmest in 115,000 years) and have risen so much, in such a geologically short span of time, that many of the world’s more sensitive species are now being pushed out of their habitats and are undergoing considerable heat-related mortality events.

According to NOAA:

Multiple coral reef regions are already experiencing Alert Level 1 bleaching stress (associated with significant coral bleaching). Alert Level 2 bleaching stress (associated with widespread coral bleaching and significant mortality) is expected in the Northern Cook Islands, Southern Cook Islands, the Samoas, Wallis & Futuna, Northern Tonga, Southern Tonga, the Society Archipelago, and the Austral Islands in the next 1-4 weeks. Alert Level 1 bleaching conditions are also expected in the Tuamotu Archipelago in the next 1-4 weeks and in Tuvalu in the next 5-8 weeks.

–Robertscribbler (More: The Permanent Global Coral Bleaching Event | robertscribbler.)

Bay of Bengal: depleted fish stocks and huge dead zone signal tipping point

GR:  Dead zones will spread across marine fisheries in the coming years. With rising sea level, stronger storms, and humid low-country heat waves, humans will begin to abandon coastal lowlands and move inland. For decades, we’ve know that we needed to reduce our population and our consumption of land, energy and water. We didn’t do it. So we exceeded Earth’s carrying capacity. As geophysical systems change and biological ecosystems collapse, tipping points at sea, across arctic ice, and on land will initiate gnawing consequences. There is growing belief that dystopian Earth is unavoidable now. The article includes maps.

“The Bay of Bengal’s basin contains some of the most populous regions of the earth. No less than a quarter of the world’s population is concentrated in the eight countries that border the bay1 [footnotes refer to references at the end of the original article]. Approximately 200 million people live along the Bay of Bengal’s coasts and of these a major proportion are partially or wholly dependent on its fisheries2.

“For the majority of those who depend on it, the Bay of Bengal can provide no more than a meagre living: 61% of India’s fisherfolk already live below the poverty line. Yet the numbers dependent on fisheries are only likely to grow in years to come, partly because of climate change. In southern India drought and water scarcity have already induced tens of thousands of farmers to join the fishing fleet3. Rising sea levels are also likely to drive many displaced people into the fishing industry.

“But the fisheries of the Bay of Bengal have been under pressure for decades and are now severely depleted4. Many once-abundant species have all but disappeared. Particularly badly affected are the species at the top of the food chain. The bay was once feared by sailors for its man-eating sharks; they are now rare in these waters. Other apex predators like grouper, croaker and rays have also been badly hit. Catches now consist mainly of species like sardines, which are at the bottom of the marine food web5.

“Good intentions have played no small part in creating the current situation. In the 1960s, western aid agencies encouraged the growth of trawling in India, so that fishermen could profit from the demand for prawns in foreign markets. This led to a “pink gold rush”, in which prawns were trawled with fine mesh nets that were dragged along the sea floor. But along with hauls of “pink gold” these nets also scooped up whole seafloor ecosystems as well as vulnerable species like turtles, dolphins, sea snakes, rays and sharks. These were once called bycatch, and were largely discarded. Today the collateral damage of the trawling industry is processed and sold to the fast-growing poultry and aquaculture industries of the region6. In effect, the processes that sustain the Bay of Bengal’s fisheries are being destroyed in order to produce dirt-cheap chicken feed and fish feed.

“In Myanmar, until a ban was enacted in 2014, the catch collected by foreign fishing boats was 100 times greater than that of local fishermen10. In the troubled Arakan region, where 43% of the population is dependent on fisheries, catches have declined so steeply that many families are mired in debt11. Conflicts over fisheries and other resources are a significant but largely unnoticed aspect of the explosive tensions of the region.

Green spots seen from the International Space Station are the lights of fishing boats used to attract squid across the Gulf of Thailand. Photograph: ISS/Nasa

“The dead zone of the Bay of Bengal is now at a point where a further reduction in its oxygen content could have the effect of stripping the water of nitrogen, a key nutrient. This transition could be triggered either by accretions of pollution or by changes in the monsoons, a predicted effect of global warming.” –Amitay Gosh and Aaron Savio Lobo (More:  Bay of Bengal: depleted fish stocks and huge dead zone signal tipping point | Environment | The Guardian).

The extinction crisis is far worse than you think

GR:  This CNN Photo/Video/Data essay has high-quality images and interviews.  Recommended.

“Frogs, coral, elephants — all are on the brink. Three quarters of species could disappear. Why is this happening? CNN explores an unprecedented global crisis.” –CNN (Continue:  The extinction crisis is far worse than you think)

Why the Global Coral Bleaching Event That Began in 2014 May Just Keep Going and Going | robertscribbler

GR:  Natural disasters are growing, but media attention focuses on politics and material matters, giving emphasis to wealth and society and overlooking environmental problems. Thus, America’s shock troops, its police and military mercenaries, are emboldened to make unrestrained attacks on citizens striving to limit fossil fuel development. This story by Robert Scribbler explains why the disastrous addition of CO2 and heat to the oceans is destroying and will continue to destroy some of the most beautiful and productive places in the sea.

“From October of 2014 through June of 2016, the world was in the grips of a powerful El Nino. And throughout this event, the oceans spewed back some of the massive volume of heat they’ve been accumulating in their depths due to global warming. As a result, atmospheric and ocean surface temperatures hit new record highs. And during 2016, global surface temperatures will likely average 1.2 C hotter than 1880s levels. This amount of warming is as considerable as it is harmful.

Current-coral-bleaching-status

(“A global coral bleaching event that began in 2014 continues. It is the longest coral bleaching event on record. But unless oceans somehow cool off, it won’t really end. With only a weak La Nina emerging following a strong El Nino and a record spike in global temperatures, there is some risk that this ongoing event will ebb and flare on a nearly indefinite basis. Continued fossil fuel burning, meanwhile, will continue to add heat to the global climate system — presenting worsening medium and long term bleaching pressure for corals. Image source: Coral Reef Watch.”)

The Worst Global Coral Bleaching Event Ever Recorded…

“This new record spike in global surface temperatures set off the worst coral bleaching event ever recorded. Around the world, reef systems came under severe stress as sea surface and near surface temperatures exceeded 28-30 degrees Celsius.

“Among the hardest hit regions were the reefs of Kiribati. There, sea surface temperatures hit up to 31.4 C on an extended basis. Such hot waters are now expected to have wiped out all but 1 to 5 percent of Kiribati’s living corals. So, for all practical purposes, the reefs of that island republic have been wiped out.” –Robert Scribbler (continue reading:  Why the Global Coral Bleaching Event That Began in 2014 May Just Keep Going and Going)

New Report: ‘Blowtorch’-Like Ocean Warming Advances Killer Seas, Shifts El Nino, Heats Hydrates

GR:  The author of this natural-hazard warning (actually, it’s not natural, it’s a human-made hazard), says the hazard is something that should keep us up at night.  What worries keep us up at night?  Money is a biggie, and so are our interpersonal relationships and our jobs.  In some regions, shortages of food and water, and excesses of bombs also keep us up at night. When we get hazard warnings from reliable sources, we can usually flee or fortify our position.  The hazard discussed in the warning below can’t be handled like that.  It’s global and can’t be fled, and it’s penetrating and can’t be kept out of our homes.

Not all hazard warnings are followed by the occurrence of the hazard, but we have learned to take warnings from credible sources seriously.  The warning below is from a credible source.  (The graph units are zettajoules (ZJ). One ZJ is about the amount of energy released by 200 million Hiroshima bombs.)


“The scale of ocean warming is truly staggering with the numbers so large that it is difficult for most people to comprehend.” — from the IUCN report Explaining Ocean Warming: Causes, scale, effects and consequences.

Now read about the hazard:


“If there’s one simple fact about past Earth climates that should keep you awake at night, it’s this — warming the world ocean eventually produces a killing mechanism that is unrivaled by any other in Earth’s deep past. Great asteroids, gamma-ray bursters, earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanism — none of these can rival the vast damage to life on planet Earth that is resulting from ocean warming.

“There’s a starker message to convey here, one that focuses on this simple yet dire question — how do warming oceans kill? In basic terms, they become toxic and anoxic. Warming oceans melt ocean-contacting glaciers. The glacial melt forces seas to rise and forms a freshwater lid on the global ocean, breaking down ocean conveyor belts and preventing mixing. This freshwater lid also deflects heat toward the ocean bottom. This process in turn helps to thaw methane hydrates. Warm waters that don’t mix and that are filled with bubbling hydrates become very oxygen-poor.

“As the land glaciers bleed out into the oceans, the stratified, oxygen-deprived waters become less and less able to support advanced life. The kinds of life warm, oxygen-deprived waters do support are poison-producing microbes. These microbes thrive in the warm, oxygen-poor waters. If ocean heating continues to progress, the warming seas will eventually fill up with their deadly byproducts. Among the most nasty of these is hydrogen sulfide. If enough of it is produced, it will spill out from the ocean into the nearby air, resulting in land animal mortality as well.

“In microcosm, we saw a mild taste of some of these effects this past year in Florida as toxic algae blooms filled the warming state’s waterways and coastlines, even forcing some riverside marinas to close due to toxic gasses wafting up from the purple-green, oxygen-starved waters. These effects are a snapshot of a possible future for Earth’s oceans if we don’t get our act together yesterday.” –Robert Scribbler.

Read the rest of the hazard warning here: New Report: ‘Blowtorch’-Like Ocean Warming Advances Killer Seas, Shifts El Nino, Heats Hydrates | robertscribbler

Hothouse 2090: Category 6 Hurricane A Grey Swansong For Tampa | robertscribbler

GR.–“Here’s what you get when a climate expert adds a little drama to scientific projections of what we can expect:  Sea-level rise, massive storms, heat, and failing civilization.  Be sure to read the comments that follow Scribbler’s story.”

Tampa. 2090. Late September.

“The stiff wind running off the Gulf of Mexico felt like a blast furnace. Ocean surface temperatures near 100 degrees Fahrenheit; air temperatures of 113 F, high humidity, and a smell like rotten eggs added to the overall insufferability. Unpleasant was a better word from a better time. Mere unpleasantness had long since fallen away before the new deadly edge that Nature had adopted.

“Tampa’s streets were packed with vehicles but featured only the rare transient foot and bike traffic. Just 15 minutes’ exposure to the brutal four p.m. heat and humidity could swiftly result in heat stroke as a body’s natural cooling systems were overwhelmed by conditions no human physiology could for long endure. The city had long since grown accustomed to the warnings. Anyone wanting to stay healthy remained indoors, huddling close to the blessed vents blasting machine-cooled, filtered air.

“In the heat-scorched streets, elevated many times over to keep above the rising seas, a few diehards still roamed. They sported the latest in cooling accessories — thermal-bleeding fashions were all the rage and had been for at least three decades now. So too were the thin-film sulfur filtration masks, totem-like in their branding and individually styled in patterns of iridescent colors. These were the stylized provisional responses to the gigantic dead zones that regularly painted the Gulf’s waters purple-black with stinking, toxic-gas-spewing bacteria. But today, the waters were sickly green. The stink was merely unbearable and only somewhat unhealthy, thanks to the large and powerful storm now pushing in the bluer off-shore waters and flushing out some of the seaside dead zone.

RCP 8.5(Under RCP 8.5 warming scenarios, the Earth is transformed into a hotter, more deadly place, capable of supporting storms of never-before-seen intensity. Image source: The European Environmental Agency.)”–RobertScribbler.com. Hothouse 2090: Category 6 Hurricane A Grey Swansong For Tampa | robertscribbler