Ocean Action Hub

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The battle to break plastic's bonds

23 Oct 2019 - Scientists have developed a chemical technique which breaks down the bonds that make polyethylene so indestructible.

23 Oct 2019 - Prof Poeppelmeier and his colleagues at Northwestern University in Illinois, US, have developed a chemical technique which breaks down the bonds that make polyethylene - the plastic most commonly used to make the ubiquitous carrier bag - so indestructible.

The process "chops up" the plastic polymer, turning it into liquid oil. His team published their breakthrough in the journal ACS Central Science. It is a clever catalytic technique using metal nanoparticles to essentially snip the polymer apart - chemically transforming it into a liquid.

CONTINUE READING ONLINE HERE: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-50143451

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The Himalayan village that confiscates single-use plastics

4 Oct 2019 - How can we prevent plastic polluting rivers and the ocean? Indian Prime Minister Modi has urged people to stop using single-use plastic country-wide.

4 Oct 2019 - How can we prevent plastic polluting rivers and the ocean? Indian Prime Minister Modi has urged people to stop using single-use plastic country-wide. While many Indian cities are struggling to deal with plastic waste, one Himalayan village has shown the way in dealing with the problem. Lachun, in the northeastern state of Sikkim, has successfully banned single-use plastic and showcases eco-friendly alternatives.

Watch video here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/science-environment-49897261/the-himalayan-village-that-confiscates-single-use-plastics

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The Madagascar farmers trying to save sea cucumbers

7 Aug 2019 - BBC - Rampant overfishing to feed demand has left wild sea-cucumber stocks declining globally. But a scheme to protect the environment while improving lives is seeing success.

7 Aug 2019 - BBC - In much of the Far East, sea cucumbers are a delicacy, fetching a high price for their purported health benefits. In Tampolove, a tiny windswept village of mud huts and sandy paths squeezed between the coast and the forest in south-west Madagascar, they have provided a major boost to the local economy and environment.

The village is home to the country's first locally owned sea-cucumber farm, which has been transforming the lives of people who have typically earned no more than a dollar a day, while at the same time helping to alleviate the pressure on marine species.

Sea cucumbers belong to the echinoderm family, along with starfish and urchins, and come in all shapes and sizes.

They spend their days buried in silt, emerging at night to feed, sifting through the sediment for particles, a practice that provides an essential filtration service that benefits the wider ecosystem.

Yet in recent decades rampant overfishing to feed demand in Asia has left wild sea-cucumber stocks declining around the world.

CONTINUE READING ONLINE HERE: https://www.bbc.com/news/in-pictures-49192775#

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Wetlands vital to protect cities

31 Oct 2018 - Cities around the world are frequently flooding during extreme weather, largely because they are fast losing the wetlands that work as a natural defence, experts warn.

31 Oct 2018 - Cities around the world are frequently flooding during extreme weather, largely because they are fast losing the wetlands that work as a natural defence, experts warn.

Wetlands are ecosystems like lakes, rivers, marshes and peatlands, as well as coastal marine areas including mangroves and coral reefs.

The experts say wetlands work as a giant sponge that soaks up and stores extra rainfall and water from storm surges.

Conservation of these water bodies in urban areas was the focus of an international meeting on wetlands that concluded in Dubai on Monday.

Disappearing wetlands

The warning follows an alarming recent report that the world's wetlands are disappearing three times faster than forests.

The recent study by the global wetland convention found that nearly 35% of the world's wetlands were lost between 1970 and 2015.

Latin America has seen the highest rate of loss - nearly 60% in that period - while Africa lost 42%, according to the report.

Urban encroachment

To safeguard flood control and other benefits, the international meeting on wetlands has launched accreditation for cities that conserve wetlands.

Under this scheme, 18 cities around the world have so far been recognised as conserving their wetlands.

Expanding cities frequently encroach on wetlands because they are often viewed as wasteland to be used for other purposes, such as dumping sites.

About half of the world's population today lives in urban areas and the figure is expected to increase to nearly 70% by 2050.

"The idea of accreditation for cities is to make them realise the value of wetlands and to integrate them into urban planning," Lew Young, a wetland expert with the Wetland Convention, told the BBC.

"On the top of the list of benefits of having wetlands is an increased resilience against natural disasters, including Tsunamis."

Cities at risk

Scientists have long warned that climate change will bring extreme rainfall and powerful sea-storms that could flood cities.

They say lakes, marshlands and river-floodplains absorb excess rainfall, while saltmarshes and mangroves work as a buffer against storm surges.

Some experts also claim inland wetlands are five times more economically valuable than tropical forests.

They provide - directly or indirectly - almost all of the world's supply of freshwater, and so are critical to human and planet life.

The recent report by the Wetland Convention said more than one billion people depended on them for a living, and 40% of the world's plant and animal species lived and bred in wetlands.

The convention warned, however, that wetlands remained dangerously undervalued by policy and decision-makers in countries' national plans.

CONTINUE READING ONLINE HERE: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-46020176

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One Nigerian woman's mission to save Lagos beaches and turtles from plastic

23 Oct 2018 - BBC NEWS - Doyinsola Ogunye, along with around 20 volunteer children, vigorously combs a sandy shore in the Nigerian coastal city of Lagos, unearthing deeply embedded litter

23 Oct 2018 - BBC NEWS - Doyinsola Ogunye, along with around 20 volunteer children, vigorously combs a sandy shore in the Nigerian coastal city of Lagos, unearthing deeply embedded litter and plastic that can prove deadly to sea turtles.

The tide is low and the layer of scattered debris across a seemingly endless stretch of golden sand emerges as the waves recede into the ocean.

Every type of man-made waste imaginable, from polystyrene, broken ceramic, assorted flip-flops and building materials, is visible. I can even spot a syringe.

This is Elegushi beach - and nothing can beat the beauty this strip of Atlantic coastline, but the sheer scale of litter hits you right away.

"Sometimes it gets very overwhelming," says Ms Ogunye, an environmental activist who has set up a programme to rid the beach of rubbish.

'A bath for the beach'

Every week she and her volunteer crew collect about 50 large sacks of litter.

It's a mammoth task, but the 30-year-old has put herself on the frontline, battling the destruction caused by pollution.

CONTINE READING ONLINE HERE: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-45889706?intlink_from_url=https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/topics/c50znx8v132t/nigeria&link_location=live-reporting-story#

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Using a cheap smartphone to catch fish in India
18 Sept 2018 - In the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu, fishing communities using cheap technology have taken matters into their own hands.
18 Sept 2018 - Trapped between rising sea levels and development projects that are eating into the coastline of the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu, fishing communities using cheap technology have taken matters into their own hands, reports Mahima A Jain.

"Fisherfolk will be the worst affected if common lands such as mangroves, wet lands and beaches are lost," says Saravanan, who only uses his first name. He is a 35-year-old fisherman by trade but often rides along the length of the northern coast of Tamil Nadu with a borrowed MacBook Pro and a smartphone to map contested and vulnerable areas.

"We are among the first to undertake such a mapping exercise along the coast in India," says Saravanan.

He is a coordinator at the Coastal Resource Centre (CRC) in Chennai (formerly Madras), which is helping more than 40 fishing villages around the city create land use maps using open source software and affordable technology. A land use map helps identify which areas of land are used for which purpose.

CONTINUE READING HERE: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-india-45080917#

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'The ocean is my home and it's being trashed'
2 Jul 2018 - Turning the 4,000 live-aboard yachts around the world into a research fleet.

2 Jul 2018 - Turning the 4,000 live-aboard yachts around the world into a research fleet. 

"If you opened your curtains in the morning and found that the grass was scorched, somebody had dumped a load of rubbish in your garden and animals were eating it - you'd be appalled. But that's what's happening in the oceans," says Sarah La Grue.

"The reefs are being scorched, there's rubbish on beaches and animals are eating it and getting tangled up in it. But we don't generally see much of this because it's in the oceans. Out of sight, out of mind."

Sarah is a yachtswoman who lives aboard her boat and is about to set out on a global voyage for science.

She and husband, Conor, have a vision to co-ordinate other like-minded sailors into a kind of research fleet to address some of the biggest issues facing our seas.

Their project - and the name of their 12m boat - is called Given Time.

The idea is to build a community of vessels that can gather data and conduct simple experiments, all at the behest of scientists.

Some of this information - water temperature, salinity, and turbidity - can be used to ground-truth oceanographic models and satellite observations. Other data, such as fish tissue samples, can help build a picture of animal health and the waters in which they live.

Just documenting places visited would compile "baselines" from which future change can be properly assessed.

Sarah's and Conor's open-source, crowd-science project will run off a website and an app.

"Beta boats" are being recruited to trial the basic research programme. The intention is that these vessels would then cascade the ideas and skills to other sailors wanting to join the programme.

"There's something like 4,000 long-term, live-aboard boats cruising the world," explains Conor.

"These are individuals, families, groups of friends; and they've made the oceans their home, and they want to look after them and get involved.

"These boats are increasingly going to some really interesting places - even into high latitudes like Antarctica and the North West Passage. These are places that professional research vessels may not often go, so we represent a fantastic additional resource."

World map showing coastal countries which contribute most to plastic waste in oceans


Given Time is taking direction from scientific advisers, such as Dr Steve Simpson from Exeter University, UK.

He envisages scientists plugging into the cruiser community to find boats in places of interest to their particular field of research.

Perhaps these scientists have a new instrument they want to trial or a new data-set they want to acquire.

A community yacht could make that happen quickly and cheaply.

"For us, ship time is the most expensive thing and that limits what we can do," says Steve. "And yet to understand the oceans, we really need big spatial coverage for our data-sets, and we need long time-series.

"So, the opportunity to work with people where the ocean is their home, to be gathering these global data-sets that build up year on year - that's a very exciting prospect."

CONTINE READING HERE: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-44661953