Monthly Archives: April 2018

Sinking Atolls

Sea level rise and wave driven flooding will have a negative impact on freshwater resources on many low lying atoll islands…a big enough impact that the islands may become uninhabitable. Scientists have put out a new study in which they find that the flooding will not only impact terrestrial infrastructure and habitats, but more importantly will surely make the limited freshwater resources non potable and therefore threaten the ability for human populations to survive.

 

 

most of the atolls under threat are in the Pacific and Indian Oceans. The scientists focused their study on the Republic of Marshall Islands, with more than 1,100 low-lying islands on 29 atolls. These make up numerous island nations and are  home to hundreds of thousands of people. A variety of climate change scenarios were used tom project the impact of rising seas and water driven flooding.

The tipping point is projected to be around 2050, at which time the potable ground water on the majority of islands will be unavailable. It was previously thought that the atolls would only experience minor inundation issues clear to the end of the 21st century..but this did not consider the extra hazard of wave driven overwash…storm wash.

The primary source of freshwater for populated atolls is rain that soaks into the ground and remains there as a layer of fresh ground water that floats on top of the denser saltwater. as the atoll islands get overwashed on an annual basis, flooding impacts on the infrastructure and the loss of freshwater resources would make human habitation difficult between 2030 and the 2060. This will require the relocation of many thousands of people and large investments in new infrastructure.

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Costa Rica and Single Use Plastics

Costa Rica wants to be the first country to ban single use plastics. This ban is to be in place by 2021 and would include straws, bottles , cutlery, cups, and bags.

Businesses are being offered incentives by the government and research is being funded into alternatives to single use plastic.

 

Every minute it is estimated a garbage truck full of plastic ends up in the oceans….doing bad thins to marine wildlife. It is thought that by 2050 some 99% of seabirds will have ingested plastic.

An Underwater Hotel Residence

In the Maldives a new luxury resort is soon to open.

Conrad Maldives Rangali Island is building a $15 million  2 story hotel villa, part of which will be 16.4 ft below the surface of the Indian Ocean. It is believed to be the first undersea residence in the world.

Named the “Muraka”, or coral in the local language, it is due to be completed in November.

There is a gym, a bar, an infinity pool, butler’s quarters, an ocean facing bathtub, and importantly an ocean facing underwater bedroom. Connected to the upper level by a spiral staircase the undersea suite will be made up of a king size bedroom, living area, and bathroom. The top-level, which also has a sunrise facing relaxation deck, measures 550 square meters, while the undersea section has an area of 102 square meters.

This unique experience can handle up to 9 guests at a time.

Canada ranks 10th for Air and Water Quality

Our environmental record is something to be proud of. this finding comes from the Fraser Institute which looked at the 33 countries in the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development . Measures were taken re air and water quality, as well environmental protection.

The report author Ken Green says the Fraser Study is different from those done by organizations like the David Suzuki Foundation. His study really looks at how much environmental damage is done by consumption of goods and services…not the per capita consumption of the goods and services.

Green feels it is tough to get much better in Canada due to the large land mass and the great energy consumption used to get through winter. Very few people are exposed to high levels of air pollution. Our waterways are mostly clean, our forests are protected and harvested sustainably. Our water usage has declined over time as well.

 

 

Swamp microbe munches on pollution

Sewage treatment is not the prettiest job, but bacteria are happy to do it. Sewage plants rely on bacteria to remove environmental toxins from waste so the processed water can be returned back to our lakes, rivers, and oceans. a bacterium has been discovered in a New Jersey swamp may prove more efficient at treating toxins in sewage, fertilizer run off, and other forms of water pollution.

This bacterium, Acidimicrobiaceae bacterium A6, is capable of breaking down ammonium, a pollutant found in sewage and fertilizer run off. What is most interesting is that it can work in the absence of oxygen. Oxygen dependent methods can be costly as equipment is required to mix the sewage and oxygen in order to break down the ammonium.

A6 can break down the ammonium anaerobically, and so might present a more efficient way to treat sewage. Perhaps even environmental pollutants in oxygen poor areas like underground aquifers can now be treated.

Removing ammonium is important to prevent depletion of oxygen in water, and to prevent the growth of algae blooms set off by nitrogen compounds from sewage and agricultural runoff.

The scientists are still working with A6 to find out how to best use it. There are challenges such as it needs iron to carry out the process…or is there a work around using electrodes.

A6 is promising because of the lack of oxygen requirement it can survive in places other bacteria might not. It is versatile in working with a range of pollutants is important.

The Stream Weakens

A key part of the global oceanic circulatory system, which includes the Atlantic’s Gulf Stream, is at its weakest in 1,600 yrs. A recently published study shows that circulation of the water in the Atlantic has been slowing since the 1800’s.

This is a trend that could make worse the effects of climate change, such as rising sea levels off the North American East Coast, Europe, and north Africa. troubled weather patterns would increase the frequency of extreme weather.

The causes of the systems slowing down are predicted to continue due to  carbon dioxide emissions.

The system, the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation(Amoc), brings warm salty water north from the Gulf of Mexico to the North Atlantic..the Gulf  Stream…where it releases its heat into the atmosphere and then sinks into the ocean depths, travels south to the Antarctic, where it starts the journey again.

The Amoc has weakened over the last 150 yrs by approximately 15-20%. The Amoc is part of the global system of heat transfer throughout the earth’s ocean’s…the Global Ocean Conveyor Belt.

Gatherings of Basking Sharks

Groups of basking sharks ranging from as few as 30 to nearly 1,400 individuals have been seen getting together in the waters off Nova Scotia to Long Island. To see a single animal is not unusual, seeing large groups is. The reasoning for the grouping up is not clearly understood at this point as these are relatively rare. The reasoning for the grouping is thought to be related to feeding, socializing, and possibly courtship.

In a recent study in the Journal of Fish Biology, researchers reviewed aggregations of basking sharks recorded of the northeastern US to learn more. These events are rare and so observations are even rarer.  In 40 yrs of observing right whales , only 10 aggregations of basking sharks have been noted opportunistically recorded and photographed. This information was compared with information from satellites and other oceanographic databases.

It was found that these groupings happen in summer and fall when the surface temperatures range from 55-75 F. In the largest event data was available to show a high concentration of zooplankton prey was available.

The largest group ever noted was of 1,398 animals. Through the use of photographs of the animals on the surface it was determined that the group was made up of juveniles and adults. With the presence of juveniles and an abundance of food it is thought this gathering was about the food abundance. there is a suggestion that the animals may have been getting together to draft off one another for more efficient feeding give the great amount of drag created by having their mouths open.

Basking sharks are the world’s second largest fish, growing as long as 32 ft and weighing up to 5 tons. Highly migratory they move about slowly filtering zooplankton through their wide open mouths. They are passive and no danger to humans.

These aggregations may provide the opportunity for socializing and courtship , but this is still unclear. The reproductive cycle of the basking shark is not well understood and so questions remain.