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Blog Tags: Great Barrier Reef

Ocean Roundup: Great Barrier Reef to Stay Clear of Dredge Spoil, Louisiana Rapidly Losing Coastline, and More

The Great Barrier Reef will stay clear of dredge spoil

A sea turtle in the Great Barrier Reef. (Photo: University of Denver / Flickr Creative Commons)

- The Chesapeake Bay experienced their eighth-largest dead zone this summer since record keeping began in the 1980s, according to Maryland’s Department of Natural Resources. Officials say this signals larger issues with Bay health, and that much more work is needed to reduce nutrient input and pollution. The Washington Post


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Ocean News: Great Barrier Reef Health at Greater Risk than Ever Before, Rare Deep Sea Amphipod Caught on Tape, and More

Great Barrier Reef health is compromised

The Eddy Reef in the Great Barrier Reef. (Photo: Paul Toogood / Flickr Creative Commons)

- Scientists caught the largest species of amphipod, Alicella gigantean, on camera for the first time. The nearly 1-foot-long creature was spotted four miles below the ocean’s surface. New Scientist  


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Video: Spangled Emperor Fish Dazzle the Great Barrier Reef

A school of spangled emperor (Lethrinus nebulosus)

A school of spangled emperor (Lethrinus nebulosus). (Photo: Flickr Creative Commons / Bill & Mark Bell)

When you think of the Great Barrier Reef, you probably think of vibrant corals, glowing clams, and free-swimming sea turtles. But in this slow-motion video, one free diver catches the elegant beauty of spangled emperor—a fish you may have overlooked.


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Ocean News: Great Barrier Reef Will be “Pretty Ugly” by 2050, Sea Turtle Nests Down in South Carolina, and More

The Heart Reef in the Great Barrier Reef, Australia.

The Heart Reef in the Great Barrier Reef, Australia. (Photo: Michael Sheil / Flickr Creative Commons)

- In an appearance before an Australian Senate this week, researchers said the Great Barrier Reef will be “pretty ugly” by 2050 and that "the reef is in the worse [sic] state it's ever been in since records began." The researchers linked the decline to coastal development and government action, specifically nothing their approval of a dredging and dumping project around the Reef. The Huffington Post   


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Ocean News: New Arctic Shipping Route Proposed, East Coast Sees Surge in Coastal Flooding Events, and More

Arctic sea ice

Arctic Ocean sea ice. (Photo: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center / Flickr Creative Commons)

- A new analysis focusing on sea level rise found that coastal flooding has dramatically increased in frequency along the Eastern Seaboard in recent years. The analysis found that flood levels met or exceeded NOAA’s flood thresholds more than 20 days a year in six coastal cities. Reuters


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Ocean News: Parrotfish Could Be Key to Saving Caribbean Coral Reefs, “Whale Zones” Proposed for Great Barrier Reef, and More

A stoplight parrotfish (Sparisoma viride) in the Bahamas

A stoplight parrotfish (Sparisoma viride) in the Bahamas, pictured during a 2005 Oceana Expedition (Photo: Oceana / Houssine Kaddachi)

- Kiribati, a Pacific island nation, recently purchased land on the Fijian island Vanua Levu in preparation for climate change. The president doesn’t expect to move everyone there, “but if it became absolutely necessary, yes, we could do it," he said. The Guardian


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Ocean News: World Oceans Day Edition

A leatherback sea turtle (Dermochelys coriacea) hatchling

A leatherback sea turtle (Dermochelys coriacea) hatchling. (Photo: Oceana / Tim Calver)

World Oceans Day is on Sunday, June 8—a day to celebrate and raise awareness for marine ecosystems. Today’s round-up features both the perils facing the oceans today, as well as advancements to protect them. Take a look below, and click here to find a list of World Oceans Day events near you.


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Google Earth Tour of a More Acidic World

Above is a good primer on ocean acidification narrated by Dan Laffoley of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The video spans the vulnerable corals of Australia's Great Barrier Reef to the equally vulnerable shellfish industry of the Pacific Northwest, detailing the potential effects of a more acidic ocean.

To those unfamiliar with global warming's "evil twin", the video does a good job of explaining the basics of ocean acidification: simply put, carbon dioxide reacts with ocean water to make carbonic acid. The ocean absorbs about a quarter of civilization's carbon dioxide emissions, and as a result they are now 30 percent more acidic than before the industrial revolution. What does this mean for animals like clams, corals, or oysters that rely on a more stable pH range to build their calcium carbonate skeletons and shells?

Mother nature has provided some of her own experiments, as documented in the video. Near Vesuvius in the Mediterranean carbon dioxide bubbles up from below, rendering a glimpse in to a future, more acidic, and bleaker ocean. Closer to the vents, where the water is more saturated with carbon dioxide, the communities of life become less diverse and invasive algaes thrive.

Off of Australia, the Great Barrier Reef is already struggling in the new man-made environment. As more and more acidic water continues to erode the corals in the coming decades, these ecosystems of otherworldly beauty and diversity could simply go extinct.

Perhaps most worrisome of all is the effect of acidification on pteropods, a shell forming plankton at the very bottom of the ocean's food web, nicknamed the "potato chips of the sea". These animals are especially vulnerable to acidification, and as the narrator ominously intones: "If their shells dissolve a critical part of the food web dissolves with them".

Learn more about ocean acidification and what you can do to help.


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Skin Cancer Appears in Australian Fish

The black spots on this coral trout are melanomas. © Michael Sweet/Newcastle University 

Strange lesions are showing up in coral trout in the Great Barrier Reef in Australia.

In a new paper in the journal PloS One researchers found that 15% of reef fish tested showed signs of melanomas. This is a high occurrence, given that many of the fish with this condition may have already been eaten by predators or perished due to the illness.

This is the first time skin cancer has been documented in a wild marine fish species, but in the laboratory another species exposed to high UV radiation showed similar lesions, and they lived greatly reduced life spans.

The authors note that the occurrence of the melanomas was likely due to increased UV radiation and the proximity of the fish to the hole in the ozone layer which occurs over portions of Australia and Antarctica. The people of Australia already suffer huge health risks from skin cancer, topping the world in the occurrence of this illness.

These results are concerning because coral trout are an important commercial fish species, and they may suffer population level impacts if these rates continue. One third of all coral reef fish are already threatened with extinction due to the impacts of climate change on coral reefs, their home. Added stresses such as skin cancer could be the nail in the coffin for some species.

It’s important to figure out if skin cancer is occurring in more fish in a larger area, and what the risks are globally for marine life from UV radiation. We obviously can’t put sun-block on every fish in the ocean, but we can limit emissions of ozone-depleting gases like chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), a refrigerant, as well as greenhouse gases that drive climate change which was also recently shown to threaten the ozone layer.

We are all in this together, so for the sake of fish and people we need to protect our thin layer of atmosphere.


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Ocean Acidification Threatens Global Food Security

oysters

Image via Wikimedia Commons.

It makes sense that ocean acidification is bad for marine life. But who knew it could have far-reaching effects on human health as well?

A new report by scientists at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) shows that ocean acidification is threatening global food security by hindering the growth of clam, oyster, and other mollusk populations – staples in many nations’ diets.

Without healthy and reliable mollusk populations, countries may be forced to switch to aquaculture. Countries like Haiti, Senegal, and Madagascar, however, lack the ability to make this switch and are thus especially vulnerable to the impacts of mollusk shortages. And of course, problems like this never exist in a vacuum; even developed countries such as the U.S. will feel the effects via a potential drop in GDP.

Unfortunately, this isn’t just a theoretical problem – the deleterious effects can already be seen in both ecosystems and economic realms alike. In Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, scientists have observed that coral growth has slowed, and Pacific Northwest oyster farms have already experienced declining economic yields. Further effects, which will no doubt be broader in scope, will probably be seen in 10 to 50 years if we do not make a concerted effort to halt ocean acidification.


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