The Beacon

Blog Tags: Ocean Acidification

Days 3-5 at COP16

Oceana marine scientist Ellycia Harrould-Kolieb, center, sits on a panel at COP16.

Oceana marine scientist Ellycia Harrould-Kolieb is at the COP16 climate negotiations in Cancun.

Last week I decided to take a break from the negotiations and attend a workshop by Google where they released their new technology platform Google Earth Engine.

This is a very exciting development that could be incredibly useful to scientists, NGOs and the general community in monitoring and measuring changes in earth systems. This platform will have reams and reams of satellite imagery data than can then be analyzed with various tools, including statistical and modeling programs. Computations will be done in the “cloud” so that work that would have previously taken many hours to days or even years can be done over very short time periods.


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Ocean Acidification: The Untold Stories

As the first week of the sixteenth meeting of the UN climate negotiations in Cancun, Mexico (COP 16) draws to a close, Oceana is releasing a new report on climate change's evil twin: ocean acidification.

Ocean Acidification: The Untold Stories details new findings for many different species of marine life that will be affected by a more acidic ocean.  Coral reef ecosystems will be some of the first casualties of an acidified ocean; impacts to these beautiful and important habitats could have huge consequences for a quarter of the entire biological diversity of the oceans that depend on coral reefs for food and shelter.

Marine life ranging from the smallest plankton to the largest whale may be affected by ocean acidification. Shellfish such as sea urchins, lobsters, sea stars and brittle stars are some prime examples of creatures that could be affected. More acidic oceans are expected to lead to a shortage of carbonate, a key building block that these animals need to build their shells and skeletons.


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Oceana Arrives at COP16

Oceana marine scientist Ellycia Harrould Kolieb is at the COP16 climate negotiations in Cancun for the next few weeks.

Here we are again at the international climate change negotiations, this time in Cancun, Mexico. The weather is nice, but it is yet to be seen if the negotiations will be equally sunny. This is the 16th conference of the parties (COP) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and we had hoped that by now the international community would be a bit further along at coming to a binding agreement.

Despite the lack of optimism around a meaningful agreement coming out of this meeting, positive steps can (and should) be made to move the process along, hopefully allowing for an agreement to be made next year in South Africa. This meeting has the potential to provide a clear path forward that can lead to a legally binding agreement, one that will require countries to meet their pledges and truly reduce their carbon dioxide emissions.


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New Google Earth Tour: Ocean Acid Test

Oceana has once again teamed up with Google to create a powerful new educational tool about the oceans. In the new Google Earth 6.0 tour, “Ocean Acid Test,” Oceana scientist Dr. Jeffrey Short explains the science and effects of ocean acidification, particularly the threats facing shell-producing creatures, such as crabs, lobsters and corals.

Coinciding with the start of the United Nations’ COP16 climate conference in Cancun, Mexico, the tour was unveiled today at Google Earth’s Outreach hompage: www.google.com/cop16 and will also be revealed at the Google Earth booth in Cancun. Oceana will also be holding a presentation at COP 16 to highlight the global threat of ocean acidification. 

Check it out for yourself below and then take action to stop ocean acidification!

 


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Belize's Reef Fails Health Class

Last week in Belize, reef scientists, conservationists and managers gathered at the Belize Reef Summit to discuss the impacts of increasing ocean temperatures and ocean acidification.

Belize is home to the second largest barrier reef in the world. The 2010 Belize Reef Report Card, which was released at the meeting, reveals that 60% of this protected reef is in poor to critical condition with only 8% considered in good condition. This staggering statistic is unfortunately the case for many coral reefs worldwide.  

On the final day of the summit, hundreds of Belizeans and international supporters gathered on an island on the Barrier Reef off of Belize City to create a living work of art to raise awareness about the effect of climate change on the oceans. This striking photograph was a call for world leaders to take strong action against climate change and ocean acidification at COP 16, the UN Climate Talks in Cancun that begin November 29th.


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Sam Waterston Testifies on Ocean Acidification

Oil isn’t the only pollutant pouring into the oceans these days. There’s another big one, only it’s much more insidious and widespread: carbon dioxide.

Today Oceana board member and actor Sam Waterston will be on Capitol Hill urging Congress to take action to stop ocean acidification.

Last year, Congress passed the Federal Oceans Acidification Research and Monitoring Act, which created an ocean acidification program in the federal government. Waterston will call on Congress to fully fund and implement the program.


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Aaron Peirsol Joins Climate Rally

aaron peirsol

On Sunday, amid performances by the Roots, Passion Pit and John Legend, Oceana spokeswimmer Aaron Peirsol spoke at the Earth Day Climate Rally on the National Mall here in Washington.

Ocean acidification is a real threat, as is overfishing,” he told the crowd. “New drilling must be forestalled while other invaluable, sustainable alternatives such as wind energy adopted. Today, I'm helping here by speaking and partnering with the ocean conservation group Oceana.

Together, we created Race for the Oceans, an open water swimming event that raises money and awareness toward ocean conservation. We also created Racefortheoceans.org, an online forum for swimmers and conservationists alike.”


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Earth Day Blue Link Bonanza

planet earth

Happy Earth Day!

Since there’s so much going on today, here’s a list of things you can do right now to protect the blue marble we call home. Enjoy!

1. Support a ‘safe zone’ for Pacific leatherbacks.

Tell the government to expand critical habitat for endangered Pacific leatherback sea turtles to more than 70,000 square miles off the coast of Washington, Oregon and California. Comments are due tomorrow, April 23, so please voice your support today.

2. Take action with Sigourney on ocean acidification.

Sigourney Weaver is testifying before a Senate Committee today on the effects of ocean acidification on marine life and our economy.

You can take action too -- tell your representative to support a Congressional resolution that will support policies to study and address the effects of ocean acidification.

3. Stop expanded offshore drilling.

An oil rig about 50 miles off the coast of Louisiana exploded Tuesday, in what could be one of the country’s deadliest offshore drilling accidents of the past 50 years. Seventeen people were injured in the blast.

Tell your senator today that you won’t stand for expanded offshore drilling.

4. Bid and text for the oceans.

Today is Christie’s Green Auction, which benefits Oceana, Conservation International, NRDC and Central Park Conservancy. Check out the online auction items, or for a cheaper option, you can text “GoGreen” to 20222 to make a $10 donation today.


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New Study: Ocean Acidification Occurring Rapidly

Some sobering news for the oceans this Earth Day. A new congressionally requested study by the National Research Council concludes that “the chemistry of the ocean is changing at an unprecedented rate and magnitude due to anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions” and that “the rate of change exceeds any known to have occurred for at least the past hundreds of thousands of years.”

The study finds that the oceans have absorbed about one-third of total carbon dioxide emissions over the past 200 years - which has made the oceans more acidic - and the acidity will continue to rise because CO2 emissions are rising too rapidly for the oceans to cope.

Ocean acidification, says the report, can disrupt important physiological processes in marine creatures, such as shell and skeleton building, internal fluid and tissue pH maintenance and carbon fixation in photosynthesis.

And while we don’t yet know the ultimate consequences for ecosystems, we do know that coral reefs, fisheries, protected species and other valuable natural resources are at risk.

The bottom line here is that ocean acidification will continue unless anthropogenic CO2 emissions are substantially curbed -- Take action today by telling your representative to support further research on ocean acidification.

Ellycia Harrould-Kolieb is a climate scientist at Oceana.


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Oysters Feel the Burn of Ocean Acidification

oyster

Image via Wikimedia Commons.

Yesterday, a few of us attended a staff briefing on Capitol Hill on ocean acidification and fisheries put on by the Sustainable Fisheries Partnership.

There were representatives from the fishing communities of the Pacific Northwest, the Gulf of Mexico and Maine. They were requesting that additional resources be channeled towards ocean acidification research so that we can better understand how fisheries are and will be impacted by rising ocean acidity.

The Whisky Creek Shellfish Hatchery in Oregon has already experienced massive collapses in their oyster stocks due to rising ocean acidity, and they’ve been doing a lot of research on their own to monitor changes in pH. Their representatives called for a comprehensive system of measuring pH so that they and other hatcheries can adapt to changes and not be driven out of business by ocean acidification.   

This group of fishers also recognized that while it is important to figure out ways to adapt to the changes that are already happening, without a true cap on carbon dioxide and serious decreases in emissions, these fisheries will not have a future.

 [Ellycia Harrould-Kolieb is a marine scientist at Oceana.]


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