The Burke-o-Lator monitors how seawater chemistry in Humboldt Bay is altered by ocean acidification. The bottles are used for collecting ocean water samples. Photo: Joe Tyburczy, California Sea Grant
A device that examines how seawater chemistry is affected by ocean acidification has delivered some preliminary results to scientists with the California Sea Grant Extension and they are not looking good for oysters in Humboldt Bay, CA.
The device, called a Burke-o-Lator, named after Oregon State University oceanographer Burke Hales, measures not only acidity, but carbonate saturation state as well. The device, installed a year ago, shows that carbonate saturation in Humboldt Bay is so low that it could impede juvenile oysters and their larvae from building their shells.
“The initial data is interesting, and a bit concerning. Though water in the Bay is less acidic than the nearby open coast, the carbonate saturation is still frequently low enough to cause problems for juvenile oysters and larvae,” California Sea Grant Extension Specialist Joe Tyburczy said in a released statement. “Based on this data, the Hog Island hatchery has begun buffering the seawater they pump into their facility with sodium carbonate to increase the saturation state and pH, protecting their juvenile and larval oysters and helping them grow.”
Ocean acidification causes seawater to becoming acidic, and this acidity often prevents shellfish such as baby oysters, clams and invertebrates such as lobsters and clams from forming shells.
“With continued monitoring and analysis, the instrument will give us insight into what is occurring in the open ocean and how that translates into the bay for the health of the ecosystem and the future of bivalve hatcheries in Humboldt Bay and beyond,” Tyburczy said. “In this way, it has the potential to complement and enhance ongoing ocean acidification research including oceanographic cruises and experiments at Humboldt State’s Telonicher Marine Lab in Trinidad,” Tyburczy says.
Researchers with the University of Hawai`i at Mānoa Department of Biology have developed a method for measuring the amount of living coral on a coral reef by analyzing coral DNA in surrounding seawater.
Graduate students Patrick Nichols and Associate Professor Peter Marko of the university’s Department of Biology published their techniques, which were honed on the coral reefs of the Hawaiian Islands, in the journal Environmental DNA.
The traditional approach to measuring living coral on reefs is visually, via SCUBA diving, which can often be time consuming, the researchers say. Environmental DNA analysis can complement the visual approach, because reef organisms are constantly expelling DNA. This genetic resides can then be found and analyzed with molecular biology tools.
“It still amazes me that in a tiny tube of water, there is enough information to track the relative abundance of entire communities,” Nichols said in a statement released by the university. “Increasing the breadth and scope of surveys is exactly what makes the future of eDNA so exciting!”
The researchers say that their technique has the capability to measure the amount of coral cover of a given reef. The coral cover is an important measuring device to determine how well a coral reef is doing. Nichols and Marko measured eDNA on Hawaiian coral reefs via a technique called metabarcoding. This techniques measures all of the DNA present in a water sample, and is analyzed with DNA sequencing. The coral DNA sequences are then ID’d and counted, which helps to determine the abundance of specific species of corals on a given reef. Those reefs that have been compromised or are degraded have fewer coral eDNA to count, whereas healthy reefs have more eDNA to count, the researchers said.
The complete paper, “Rapid assessment of coral cover from environmental DNA in Hawai’i” can be accessed in the open access journal Environmental DNA.
In a bid to help coastal and island communities to reduce their debt burdens, while helping to save and restore the world’s oceans, the Nature Conservancy announced that it will start selling “blue bonds” to help restructure and refinance debt for communities that live near the ocean. As part of its Blue Bonds for Conservation initiative, the Nature Conservancy is hoping that these nations will protect at least 30 percent of near-shore ocean areas such as coral reefs, mangroves and related near-shore ocean habitat, in exchange for better debt repayment terms. (See “Greenpeace Releases 30×30 Blueprint For Ocean Protection)
As part of its Blue Bonds for Conservation initiative, the Nature Conservancy is hoping that these nations will protect at least 30 percent of near-shore ocean areas such as coral reefs, mangroves and related near-shore ocean habitat, in exchange for better debt repayment terms.
The countries’ governments commit to protect at least 30 percent of their near-shore ocean areas, including coral reefs, mangroves and other important habitats, and engage in ongoing conservation work such as improving fisheries management and reducing pollution.
Then TNC leverages public grants and commercial capital to restructure the nations’ sovereign debt, leading to lower interest rates and longer repayment periods.
A portion of those savings fund the new marine protected areas and the conservation activities to which the country has committed.
We also lend our scientific expertise to the planning process and work with local partners to identify activities that combine conservation and sustainable economic opportunities, such as restoring reefs for tourism and improving fisheries management to help ensure buy in and compliance from all stakeholders.
“There’s still time to reverse decades of damage to the world’s oceans before we hit the point of no return,” Mark Tercek, CEO of TNC told GreenBiz. “It’s going to take something audacious to tackle marine protection at this scale, which means thinking beyond more traditional approaches to ocean conservation.”
According to GreenBiz, TNC has already secured more than $US 23 million in funding from donors. It is hoping to secure $US 40 million, which will hopefully unlock $US 1.6 billion in ocean conservation funding. Up to 20 countries will be the recipients of these funds, of which the NTC hopes 1.5 million square miles of biodiverse, near-shore ocean areas are protected.
When a nation accepts these Blue Bond monies, marine scientists with The Nature Conservancy will develop a “marine spatial plan,” to help pay for newly established marine protected areas and other programs to help protect the oceans. These will be paid for via debt restructuring and philanthropic donations, according to GreenBiz.
“This is the philanthropic opportunity of a lifetime,” said Tercek. “Every dollar we raise will result in 40 times the impact. It’s hard to find better leverage than that.”
British researchers have determined that plastic fishing gear, such as fishing nets and line, are the biggest source of plastic in the North Atlantic Ocean and nearby seas.
The research, led by Clare Ostle of the Marine Biological Association in the United Kingdom, is based off findings from the Continuous Plankton Recorder (CPR) a data instrument that has been towed in oceans for more than 12 million miles since 1957. Ostle notes that plastic fishing gear accounts for 55 percent of entanglements, with the higher number of entanglements in the southern North Sea. The research also shows a decline in entanglement records of plastic bags since 2000, but a 10-fold increase in total plastics.
“It has been suggested that there may be a sink of plastic items within global oceans, which could have led to reduced estimates of sea surface plastics and have implications for plastic pollution,” the researchers write in their paper, “The rise in ocean plastics evidenced from a 60-year time series,” which is published in the open access journal Nature Communications.
“Perhaps the reason we have been able to show the expected increase is because the focus of this work has been on larger plastic items that entangle on the CPR.
“It should be noted that these larger plastics (macroplastics) break down under ultra-violet light and mechanical forces within the ocean, leading to smaller fragments forming microplastics, therefore they have the potential to be a proxy for a wide-range of plastic sizes within the oceans.”
They say that the increase in macroplastics in the world’s oceans from 1957 to 2016 is in line with the total increase in plastic production.
The complete paper, with data figures, can be read on the Nature.com website.
The crown-of-thorns sea star, one of the most aggressive sea stars in the world and known for its insatiable appetite for corals, just might have met its match. The COT sea stars, of which there are four species, have gone unchecked and have devastated coral reefs throughout much of the Indo-Pacific in which they are native. Natural predators of these sea stars include tritons and helmet snails, but these species have been over-collected by shell collectors.
The most current research on the COT is scientists have discovered that the larvae, like coral larvae, can clone themselves. They are currently determining what triggers the larval cloning and believe that high nutrient water may be a culprit. They looked at Australia’s western rivers that were conduits directly to the ocean for sugar cane fertilizer and this eutrophication led to phytoplankton blooms, which fed the COT larvae. And these blooms led to more larval cloning.
Scientists in Australia developed a robotic submarine that has the capability to detect COT sea stars and inject poison into them with extreme accuracy.
Researchers Matthew Dunbabin and Peter Corke of Queensland University of Technology in Australia, spent the better part of the last 10 years developing the killer sub, called the COTSBot. It was designed specifically to search and seek and destroy the crown-of-thorns sea star.
With a weight of 30 kg, the COTSBot submarine moves at two meters per second and can dive up to six hours at a time. The researchers say that the detection system built into the sub has a 99 percent positive detection rate, and once a sea star is injected with the poison (comprised of thiosulfate, citrate, bile salts and sucrose agar), the sea star basically melts into an unrecognizable blob within 24 hours.
While the deployment of these killer subs won’t kill all the COT sea stars on reefs throughout the Indo-Pacific, the subs could make a difference, one reef at a time.
A ghost net entangles a variety of marine species in the Maldives. Photo by MstelfoxWikipedia
Environmental group details plan to protect 30 percent of world’s oceans.
The environmental group Greenpeace has released its plan to protect 30 percent of the world’s oceans by 2030. The plan, which was developed in conjunction with researchers from universities in New York and Oxford takes a look at the world’s oceans, 62 square miles at a a time and maps out networks of ocean sanctuaries in the 25,000 sections that it says could help recover biodiversity that has been severely diminished or lost.
“The findings in this report show that it is entirely feasible to design an ecologically representative, planet-wide network of high seas protected areas to address the crisis facing our oceans and enable their recovery,” the report states. “The need is immediate and the means readily available. All that is required is the political will.” According to Greenpeace, these 25,000 individual sanctuaries could be established by 2030 and would help protect species that have been negatively affected by overfishing, fossil fuel drilling operations and pollution.
Greenpeace released its report as The United Nations works in New York this week to develop a treaty that would help to protect the world’s oceans.
Some key findings found in the report:
The high seas encompass 43% of the Earth’s surface, and 70% of the living space on the planet including land and sea. These huge spaces are home to a complex marine world, with richness and diversity of life to rival coastal waters and land.
High seas marine life drives the ocean’s biological pump, capturing carbon at the surface and storing it deep below – without this essential service, our atmosphere would contain 50% more carbon dioxide and the world would be uninhabitably hot.
The high seas face growing exploitation from a handful of mainly rich nations: fishing and the emerging deep seabed mining industry join wider threats from climate change, acidification, plastic and other pollution and more.
Ocean sanctuaries are a key tool for protecting habitats and species, rebuilding ocean biodiversity, helping ocean ecosystems recover and maintaining vital ecosystem services.
By initiating an international legally binding instrument to enable the protection of marine life and habitats outside national jurisdiction, the United Nations has an opportunity to put in place robust structures to create and govern ocean sanctuaries on the high seas.
Scientists are calling for at least 30% of the world’s oceans to be protected as ocean sanctuaries, and this study charts how this 30% figure could be achieved to protect the full spectrum of marine life on the high seas.
The study is based on biological, oceanographic, biogeographical and socioeconomic data, such as the distributions of sharks, whales, seamounts, trenches, hydrothermal vents, oceanic fronts, upwellings, biogeographic zones, commercial fishing pressure, mining claims etc.
The protected area network design process builds in resilience to wider environmental change and uncertainty with a bet hedging approach to habitat selection, large coverage to promote connectivity and refuges of last resort, and the use of sea surface temperature data to identify places likely to change more slowly or adapt more readily under rising temperature stress.
Areas intensively used by high seas fishing fleets were avoided to reduce possible disruption to fishing activity. An interim moratorium on seabed mining is proposed to ensure that options are left open as a network of protection is built.
The findings in this report show that it is entirely feasible to design an ecologically representative, planet-wide network of high seas protected areas to address the crisis facing our oceans and enable their recovery. The need is immediate and the means readily available. All that is required is the political will.
“The ’30×30′ report puts forward a credible design for a global network of marine protected areas in the high seas based on knowledge accumulated over years by marine ecologists on the distribution of species, including those threatened with extinction, habitats known to be hotspots of biodiversity and unique ecosystems,” Alex Rogers, a professor at Oxford and a co-author the report said in a statement.
The researchers also looked into the socio-economic impact that the sanctuaries would have on global fishing and claim that their plan can be carried out with limited economic impact.