Ocean Action Hub

Resource title

Images of new bleaching on Great Barrier Reef heighten fears of coral death - The Guardian

19 February 2017 Coral bleaching found near Palm Island as unusually warm waters are expected off eastern Australia, with areas hit in last year’s event in mortal dange

19 February 2017 Coral bleaching found near Palm Island as unusually warm waters are expected off eastern Australia, with areas hit in last year’s event in mortal danger. 

The embattled Great Barrier Reef could face yet more severe coral bleaching in the coming month, with areas badly hit by last year’s event at risk of death.

Images taken by local divers last week and shared exclusively with the Guardian by the Australian Marine Conservation Society show newly bleached corals discovered near Palm Island.

Most of the Great Barrier Reef has been placed on red alert for coral bleaching for the coming month by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Its satellite thermal maps have projected unusually warm waters off eastern Australia after an extreme heatwave just over a week ago saw land temperatures reach above 47C in parts of the country.

According to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, sea surface temperatures from Cape Tribulation to Townsville have been up to 2C higher than normal for the time of year for more than a month.

The NOAA Coral Reef Watch’s forecast for the next four weeks has placed an even higher level alert on parts of the far northern, northern and central reef, indicating mortality is likely.

Corals south of Cairns, in the Whitsundays and parts of the far northern reef that were badly hit by last year’s mass bleaching event are at fatal risk.

Imogen Zethoven, the Great Barrier Reef’s campaign director for the AMCS, said the projections for the next four weeks, plus evidence of new coral bleaching, were “extremely concerning”.

The bleaching that occurred over eight to nine months of last year was the worst-ever on record for the Great Barrier Reef, with as much as 85% of coral between Cape York and Lizard Island dying. Twenty-two per cent of corals over the entire reef are dead.

Zethoven pointed to projections by NOAA that severe bleaching of the Great Barrier Reef would occur annually by 2043 if nothing was done to reduce emissions.

“The reef will be gone before annual severe bleaching,” she said. “It won’t survive even biennial bleaching.”

CONTINUE READING: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/feb/20/images-of-new-bleaching-on-great-barrier-reef-heighten-fears-of-coral-death

Resource title

Tiny plastic pellets found on 73% of UK beaches

17 December 2017 - A search of hundreds of beaches across the UK has found almost three-quarters of them are littered with tiny plastic pellets.

17 December 2017 - A search of hundreds of beaches across the UK has found almost three-quarters of them are littered with tiny plastic pellets. The lentil-size pellets known as “nurdles” are used as a raw material by industry to make new plastic products. But searches of 279 shorelines from Shetland to Scilly revealed that 205 (73%) contained pellets. 

The largest number recorded in the Great Winter Nurdle Hunt weekend in early February were found at Widemouth Bay in Cornwall, where 33 volunteers from the Widemouth Task Force collected about 127,500 pellets on a 100-metre stretch of beach. 

Thousands of the tiny pellets were spotted by volunteers over a short period in locations from Porth Neigwl in Wales to the shoreline in front of the dunes at Seaton Carew near Hartlepool, County Durham, and after stormy conditions on the Isle of Wight. 

More than 600 volunteers took part in the hunt organised by Fidra, the Scottish environmental charity, in collaboration with the Environmental Investigation Agency, Fauna and Flora International, Greenpeace, the Marine Conservation Society and Surfers Against Sewage. 

The lightweight nurdles can escape into the environment at various points during their manufacture, transport or use, spilling into rivers and oceans or getting into drains where they are washed out to sea. It is thought that billions are lost in the UK each year. 

Nurdles are one of the main sources of primary microplastics – small pieces of plastic that have not come from larger items broken down into little bits – in European seas and can cause damage to wildlife. 

Experts say they soak up chemical pollutants from their surroundings and then release the toxins into the animals, such as birds and fish, that eat them. 

Results from the hunt will be fed into the government’s consultation on microplastics, which is looking at ways of tackling the problem.

CONTINUE READING: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/feb/17/tiny-plastic-pellets-found-on-73-of-uk-beaches

Resource title

Scientists study ocean absorption of human carbon pollution - The Guardian

16 February 2017 - Knowing the rate at which the oceans absorb carbon pollution is a key to understanding how fast climate change will occur. 

16 February 2017 - Knowing the rate at which the oceans absorb carbon pollution is a key to understanding how fast climate change will occur. 

As humans burn fossil fuels and release greenhouse gases, those gases enter the atmosphere where they cause increases in global temperatures and climate consequences such as more frequent and severe heat waves, droughts, changes to rainfall patterns, and rising seas. But for many years scientists have known that not all of the carbon dioxide we emit ends up in the atmosphere. About 40% actually gets absorbed in the ocean waters. 

I like to use an analogy from everyday experience: the ocean is a little like a soda. When we shake soda, it fizzes. That fizz is the carbon dioxide coming out of the liquid (that is why sodas are called “carbonated beverages”). We’re doing the reverse process in the climate. Our carbon dioxide is actually going into the oceans. 

The process of absorption is not simple – the amount of carbon dioxide that the ocean can hold depends on the ocean temperatures. Colder waters can absorb more carbon; warmer waters can absorb less. So, a prevailing scientific view is that as the oceans warm, they will become less and less capable of taking up carbon dioxide. As a result, more of our carbon pollution will stay in the atmosphere, exacerbating global warming. But it’s clear that at least for now, the oceans are doing us a tremendous favor by absorbing large amounts of carbon pollution.

How much carbon dioxide is being absorbed by the oceans is an active area of research. In particular, scientists are closely watching the oceans to see if their ability to absorb is changing over time. Such a study is the topic of a very recent paper published in the journal Nature. The authors studied recent ocean carbon dioxide uptake and in particular the mystery of why it appears the oceans are actually becoming more absorbing. 

The authors describe a slowdown in a major ocean current called the overturning circulation. That circulation brings dense salty water from the surface to the depths of the ocean while simultaneously bringing colder but less salty and dense water upwards. Why is this important current slowing down? It’ possible that global warming is a culprit. 

In fact, a slowdown of the current is a prediction of global warming. As the Earth warms, ice melt - especially near the Arctic - flows into the oceans. That meltwater has less salt and therefore is less dense than the surrounding waters. In a certain sense, the freshwater can block the overturning circulation, making it difficult for water near the surface to sink to the ocean depths. But it is also possible that the circulation just changes naturally.

CONTINUE READING: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/climate-consensus-97-per-cent/2017/feb/16/scientists-study-ocean-absorption-of-human-carbon-pollution

Resource title

'Extraordinary' levels of toxic pollution found in 10km deep Mariana trench - The Guardian

13 February 2017 - Presence of manmade chemicals in most remote place on planet shows nowhere is safe from human impact, say scientists

13 February 2017 - Presence of manmade chemicals in most remote place on planet shows nowhere is safe from human impact, say scientists

Scientists have discovered “extraordinary” levels of toxic pollution in the most remote and inaccessible place on the planet – the 10km deep Mariana trench in the Pacific Ocean.

Small crustaceans that live in the pitch-black waters of the trench, captured by a robotic submarine, were contaminated with 50 times more toxic chemicals than crabs that survive in heavily polluted rivers in China.

“We still think of the deep ocean as being this remote and pristine realm, safe from human impact, but our research shows that, sadly, this could not be further from the truth,” said Alan Jamieson of Newcastle University in the UK, who led the research.

“The fact that we found such extraordinary levels of these pollutants really brings home the long-term, devastating impact that mankind is having on the planet,” he said.

Jamieson’s team identified two key types of severely toxic industrial chemicals that were banned in the late 1970s, but do not break down in the environment, known as persistent organic pollutants (POPs). These chemicals have previously been found at high levels in Inuit people in the Canadian Arctic and in killer whales and dolphins in western Europe.

The research, published in the journal Nature Ecology and Evolution, suggests that the POPs infiltrate the deepest parts of the oceans as dead animals and particles of plastic fall downwards. POPs accumulate in fat and are therefore concentrated in creatures up the food chain. They are also water-repellent and so stick to plastic waste.

Continue reading: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/feb/13/extraordinary-levels-of-toxic-pollution-found-in-10km-deep-mariana-trench