by Underwatertimes.com News Service – September 24, 2012 21:01 EST
SILVER SPRING, Marlyland — Carbon dioxide released from decaying algal blooms, combined with ongoing increases in atmospheric carbon emissions, leads to increased levels of ocean acidification, and places additional stress on marine resources and the coastal economies that depend on them, according to a new study published today.
Ocean acidification occurs when the ocean absorbs carbon dioxide from the atmosphere or from the breakdown of organic matter, which then causes a chemical reaction to make it more acidic. Species as diverse as scallops and corals are vulnerable to ocean acidification, which can affect the growth of their shells and skeletons.
Research by NOAA’s William G. Sunda and Wei-jun Cai of the University of Georgia points to the process of eutrophication – the production of excess algae from increased nutrients, such as, nitrogen and phosphorus — as a large, often overlooked source of CO2 in coastal waters. When combined with increasing CO2 in the atmosphere, the release of CO2 from decaying organic matter is accelerating the acidification of coastal seawater.
The effects of ocean acidification on the nation’s seafood industry are seen in the Pacific Northwest oyster fishery. According to NOAA, ocean acidification is affecting oyster shell growth and reproduction, putting this multi-million dollar industry at risk. Annually, the Pacific Northwest oyster fishery contributes $84 million to $111 million to the West Coast’s economy. According to an earlier NOAA study ocean acidification could put more than 3,000 jobs in the region at risk. Read more
ScienceDaily (Aug. 29, 2012) — Marine conservationists from the Wildlife Conservation Society working with other coral reef experts have identified heat-tolerant coral species living in locations with continuous background temperature variability as those having the best chance of surviving climate change, according to a new simplified method for measuring coral reef resilience.
Therefore, coral reefs with these characteristics should receive immediate attention for conserving this highly threatened ecosystem, according to the authors of a study appearing August 30 in the online journal PLoS ONE.
The bewildering diversity of coral reef environments has made assessing and prioritizing them costly, and yet they require immediate action to respond to the threats of climate change. Combining expert opinion and scientific evidence, the scientists developed a simplified assessment that reduces this complexity to 11 key and easily measured factors. This finding greatly simplifies and reduces the time needed for assessments and, therefore, gives coral reef managers a cost-effective, evidence-based tool for gauging a reef’s chances of survival. Read the full article
By, Mary Anne Hitt Director, Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign
Reposted from 08/09/2012 3:07 pm. Huffington Post.
The U.S. Export-Import Bank (Ex-Im Bank) and its chairman, Fred Hochberg, are facing a big decision about a coal project in one of the world’s most treasured places. Disturbing reports are emerging that the bank is considering financing a massive coal project in Australia with taxpayer money that would include an export terminal inside the Great Barrier Reef.
We need your help to put the brakes on this project now. This is only the latest in a string of coal projects supported by Ex-Im Bank that are harming communities and the environment in South Africa, India, and even here in Appalachia.
The project’s backers, India-based GVK and Australia-based Hancock Coal, are telling various media outlets that Ex-Im is prepared to finance equipment for their massive Alpha mine in Australia’s Galilee Basin. The Galilee Basin is ground zero for Australia’s push to triple coal exports, a move that would put Australia well ahead of Saudi Arabia for total carbon exports. The planned projects from Hancock Coal, including the Alpha mine, would not only flood the international market with nearly 8 billion tons of coal (double China’s current annual consumption) but also could ravage one of the world’s unique natural treasures — the Great Barrier Reef. Read the full article at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/mary-anne-hitt/tell-us-exim-bank-dont-us_b_1757638.html
A Five Year Program consists of a schedule of oil and gas lease sales indicating the size, timing, and location of proposed leasing activity the Secretary determines will best meet national energy needs for the 5-year period following its approval. An area must be included in an approved five year program in order to be offered for leasing. Section 18 of the OCS Lands Act prescribes the major steps involved in developing a five year program including extensive opportunities for public comment. Under section 18, a five year program must to the maximum extent practicable, strike a balance between the potentials for environmental damage, discovery of oil and gas, and adverse impacts on the coastal zone, based on a variety factors required under section 18.
The Proposed Final 2012-2017 Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) Oil and Gas Leasing Program (PFP) establishes a schedule that is used as a basis for considering where and when oil and gas leasing might be appropriate over a 5-year period.
On June 28, 2012, Secretary Ken Salazar announced the PFP, which is the last of three documents that DOI will issue in connection with establishing the new Five Year Program for 2012 through 2017. The PFP followed the January 2009 Draft Proposed Program (DPP) and the November 2011 Proposed Program (PP). As required by section 18 of the OCS Lands Act, the PFP has been submitted to the President and Congress for a minimum of 60 days, after which the Secretary may approve the Five Year Program. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) released the Proposed Final Program decision document (with supporting analyses) and the Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) immediately after the announcement.
- Proposed Final Program (PFP) decision document
- Programmatic EIS
- Supplemental Documents associated with the PFP and PEIS
|From http://www.boem.gov/Oil-and-Gas-Energy-Program/Leasing/Five-Year-Program/2012-2017/Five-Year-Program.aspx the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management|
ScienceDaily (Aug. 16, 2012) — Research from the University of Southampton and the National Oceanography Centre, Southampton has found that an imbalance of nutrients in reef waters can increase the bleaching susceptibility of reef corals.
Corals are made up of many polyps that jointly form a layer of living tissue covering the calcareous skeletons. They depend on single-celled algae called zooxanthellae, which live within the coral polyps.
The coral animal and the associated zooxanthellae depend on each other for survival in a symbiotic relationship, where the coral supplies the algae with nutrients and a place to live. In turn, the algae offer the coral some products of their photosynthesis, providing them with an important energy source.
High water temperatures can block photosynthetic reactions in the algal cells causing a build-up of toxic oxygen compounds, which threaten the coral and can result in a loss of the zooxanthellae.
Without the algae, corals appear white, a state which is often referred to as ‘bleached’. Bleaching often leads to coral death and mass coral bleaching has had already devastating effects on coral reef ecosystems. Read more at http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/08/120819153617.htm
By Stephen Leahy. INTER PRESS SERVICE. July 31, 2012
CAIRNS, Australia, Jul 24 2012 (IPS) – Most corals thrive only in shallow waters, where there is enough light for them to grow. But the rapid rise in sea level, due to the melting of polar ice, is making these conditions increasingly scarce.
Measurements from tropical seas around the world reveal that the rise in sea level (3.3 mm/year) is happening at a faster rate than many corals have grown in the past 10,000 years, according to new research released at the 12th International Coral Reef Symposium (ICRS).
“The Caribbean once had 60 percent coral cover, and that has now collapsed to 10 percent,” said Jeremy Jackson, professor emeritus at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in California, in a special address to the symposium, held Jul. 9-13 in Cairns, Australia. “Corals are critical and endangered ecosystems.”
Sea-level rise is just one threat to corals, which have been decimated by overfishing, pollution, and bleaching from warmer sea temperatures due to climate change, Jackson added.
A colorful piece of coral is made up of thousands of tiny animals called polyps, which create cup-like limestone skeletons around themselves using calcium from seawater. Coral gets its beautiful colors from microalgae that live symbiotically with it. Read the full article at http://www.ipsnews.net/2012/07/scientists-discover-new-threats-to-corals/
By Associated Press | July 9, 2012
(SYDNEY) — Ocean acidification has emerged as one of the biggest threats to coral reefs across the world, acting as the “osteoporosis of the sea” and threatening everything from food security to tourism to livelihoods, the head of a U.S. scientific agency said Monday.
The speed by which the oceans’ acid levels has risen caught scientists off-guard, with the problem now considered to be climate change‘s “equally evil twin,” National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration chief Jane Lubchenco told The Associated Press.
“We’ve got sort of the perfect storm of stressors from multiple places really hammering reefs around the world,” said Lubchenco, who was in Australia to speak at the International Coral Reef Symposium in the northeast city of Cairns, near the Great Barrier Reef. “It’s a very serious situation.”
Oceans absorb excess carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, leading to an increase in acidity. Scientists are worried about how that increase will affect sea life, particularly reefs, as higher acid levels make it tough for coral skeletons to form. Lubchenco likened ocean acidification to osteoporosis — a bone-thinning disease — because researchers are concerned it will lead to the deterioration of reefs.
Scientists initially assumed that the carbon dioxide absorbed by the water would be sufficiently diluted as the oceans mixed shallow and deeper waters. But most of the carbon dioxide and the subsequent chemical changes are being concentrated in surface waters, Lubchenco said.
“And those surface waters are changing much more rapidly than initial calculations have suggested,” she said. “It’s yet another reason to be very seriously concerned about the amount of carbon dioxide that is in the atmosphere now and the additional amount we continue to put out.”
Higher acidity levels are especially problematic for creatures such as oysters, because they slow the growth of their shells. Experiments have shown other animals, such as clown fish, also suffer. In a study that mimicked the level of acidity scientists expect by the end of the century, clown fish began swimming toward predators, instead of away from them, because their sense of smell had been dulled.
July 9, 2012. AFP
SYDNEY — More than 2,600 of the world’s top marine scientists Monday warned coral reefs around the world were in rapid decline and urged immediate global action on climate change to save what remains.
The consensus statement at the International Coral Reef Symposium, being held in the northeastern Australian city of Cairns, stressed that the livelihoods of millions of people were at risk.
Coral reefs provide food and work for countless coastal inhabitants globally, generate significant revenues through tourism and function as a natural breakwater for waves and storms, they said.
The statement, endorsed by the forum attendees and other marine scientists, called for measures to head off escalating damage caused by rising sea temperatures, ocean acidification, overfishing and pollution from the land.
“There is a window of opportunity for the world to act on climate change, but it is closing rapidly,” said Terry Hughes, convener of the symposium, held every four years, which attracted some 2,000 scientists from 80 countries.
Jeremy Jackson, senior scientist at the Smithsonian Institution in the United States, said reefs around the world have seen severe declines in coral cover over the last several decades.
In the Caribbean, for example, 75-85 percent of the coral cover has been lost in the last 35 years.
Even the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, the best-protected reef ecosystem on the planet, has witnessed a 50 percent decline in the last 50 years.
Jackson said while climate change was exacerbating the problem, it was also causing increased droughts, agricultural failure and sea level rises at increasingly faster rates, which implied huge problems for society.
“That means what’s good for reefs is also critically important for people and we should wake up to that fact,” he said.
“The future of coral reefs isn’t a marine version of tree-hugging but a central problem for humanity.”
Stephen Palumbi, director of Stanford University’s Hopkins Marine Station, said addressing local threats, such as poor land development and unsustainable fishing practices, was also critical.
More than 85 percent of reefs in Asia’s “Coral Triangle” are directly threatened by human activities such as coastal development, pollution, and overfishing, according to a report launched at the forum earlier Monday.
The Coral Triangle covers Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, The Solomon Islands, and East Timor and contains nearly 30 percent of the world’s reefs and more than 3,000 species of fish.
International Society for Reef Studies president Robert Richmond stressed that the consensus statement was not just another effort at documenting the mounting problems.
Instead he said it was also about making the best available science available to leaders worldwide.
“The scientific community has an enormous amount of research showing we have a problem. But right now, we are like doctors diagnosing a patient’s disease, but not prescribing any effective cures,” he said.
“We have to start more actively engaging the process and supporting public officials with real-world prescriptions for success.”
Copyright © 2012 AFP. All rights reserved.
From: Jonathan Kalmuss-Katz, Sive Paget & Riesel, P.C.,
Published June 28, 2012
The nation’s first limits on greenhouse gas (“GHG”) emissions survived a major legal challenge yesterday, as the District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals upheld two Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) climate change regulations on the merits and dismissed challenges to two others for lack of standing. The unanimous ruling from a three-judge panel (which included one of the Court’s most conservative members) resolved consolidated lawsuits filed by states, industry trade associations, and other opponents of the embattled climate regulations.
From: Center for Biological Diversity
Published June 29, 2012
SAN FRANCISCO— The Obama administration announced plans on Thursday to dramatically expand offshore oil drilling, including in the Arctic and the heart of critical habitat for polar bears. The plan will also expand high-risk, ultra-deepwater drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, which is still suffering the effects of the Deepwater Horizon disaster that spilled more than 200 million gallons of oil.