Lapointe, B.E.; Herren, L.W., and Bedford, B.J., 2012. Effects of hurricanes, land use, and water management on nutrient and microbial pollution: St. Lucie Estuary, southeast Florida. Journal of Coastal Research, 28(6), 1345–1361. Coconut Creek (Florida), ISSN 0749-0208.
Multiple hurricanes impacted southeast Florida during 2004 and 2005, producing record rainfall and large-scale stormwater runoff into the urbanized St. Lucie Estuary (SLE). To assess effects on water quality, field samples were taken in June and November 2005 and March 2006 along the SLE’s three main segments: the South Fork, connected via the C-44 canal to Lake Okeechobee; the North Fork, which receives residential and agricultural runoff from the C-23 and C-24 canals; and the Middle Estuary, which flows into the Indian River Lagoon and Atlantic Ocean. Salinities were ,1% throughout the normally brackish estuary during the 2005 samplings, but returned to near-normal levels by March 2006 in all but the South Fork. Low salinities in 2005 correlated with low dissolved oxygen, high turbidity, elevated nitrogen and phosphorus concentrations, and high fecal and total coliform counts. Highest turbidity (84.4 NTU), nitrate (37.9 mM), and total dissolved nitrogen (130.8 mM) concentrations occurred in the South Fork, whereas the highest ammonium (15.4 mM), soluble reactive phosphorus (10.5 mM), and total dissolved phosphorus (13.8 mM) concentrations occurred in the North Fork. High fecal and total coliform counts occurred in tidal creeks adjacent to dense residential areas that rely on septic tanks for on-site sewage disposal. The data suggest that increased stormwater retention, minimization of freshwater releases from Lake Okeechobee, and enhanced treatment of both stormwater and sewage are needed to mitigate future stormwater-driven water quality perturbations in the SLE.
Scientists have captured footage of an elusive giant squid, estimated to have grown as large as eight metres long, that roams the depths of the Pacific Ocean. Japan's National Science Museum succeeded in filming the deep-sea creature in its natural habitat for the first time, working with Japanese public broadcaster NHK and America's Discovery Channel. The massive invertebrate is the stuff of legend, with sightings of a huge ocean-dwelling beast reported by sailors for centuries. The creature is thought to be the genesis of the Nordic legend of Kraken, a sea monster believed to have attacked ships in waters off Scandinavia over the past millennium. Modern-day scientists on their own Moby Dick-style search used a submersible to get them into the dark and cold depths of the northern Pacific Ocean, where at around 630 metres they managed to film a three-metre specimen. After around 100 missions, during which they spent 400 hours in the cramped submarine, the three-man crew tracked the creature from a spot around 15 kilometres east of Chichi Island. Giant squid filmed in depths of Japanese ocean.
Museum researcher Tsunemi Kubodera says they followed the enormous mollusc to a depth of 900 metres as it swam into the ocean abyss. NHK showed footage of the silver-coloured creature, which had huge black eyes, as it swam against the current, holding a bait squid in its arms. For Mr Kubodera it was the culmination of a lengthy quest for the beast. "It was shining and so beautiful," he said. "I was so thrilled when I saw it first-hand, but I was confident we would because we rigorously researched the areas we might find it, based on past data." Mr Kubodera says the creature had its two longest arms missing. He estimates it would have been eight metres long if it had been whole. He says it is the first video footage of a live giant squid in its natural habitat – the depths of the sea where there is little oxygen and the weight of the water above exerts enormous pressure.
Emerging consensus shows climate change is already having major effects on ecosystems and species
December 2012. Plant and animal species are shifting their geographic ranges and the timing of their life events – such as flowering, laying eggs or migrating – at faster rates than researchers documented just a few years ago, according to a technical report on biodiversity and ecosystems used as scientific input for the 2013 Third National Climate Assessment.
The report, Impacts of Climate Change on Biodiversity, Ecosystems, and Ecosystem Services, synthesizes the scientific understanding of the way climate change is affecting ecosystems, ecosystem services and the diversity of species, as well as what strategies might be used by natural resource practitioners to decrease current and future risks. More than 60 US federal, academic and other scientists, including the lead authors from the U.S. Geological Survey, the National Wildlife Federation and Arizona State University in Tempe, authored the assessment.
Wide-ranging change to ecosystems
"These geographic range and timing changes are causing cascading effects that extend through ecosystems, bringing together species that haven't previously interacted and creating mismatches between animals and their food sources," said Nancy Grimm, a scientist at ASU and a lead author of the report.
Other key findings of the report include:
- Changes in precipitation and extreme weather events can overwhelm the ability of natural systems to reduce or prevent harm to people from these events. For example, more frequent heavy rainfall events increase the movement of nutrients and pollutants to downstream ecosystems, likely resulting not only in ecosystem change, but also in adverse changes in the quality of drinking water and a greater risk of waterborne-disease outbreaks.
- Changes in winter have big and surprising effects on ecosystems and their services. Changes in soil freezing, snow cover and air temperature affect the ability of ecosystems to store carbon, which, in turn, influences agricultural and forest production. Seasonally snow-covered regions are especially susceptible to climate change because small precipitation or temperature shifts can cause large ecosystem changes. Longer growing seasons and warmer winters are already increasing the likelihood of pest outbreaks, leading to tree mortality and more intense, extensive fires. Decreased or unreliable snowfall for winter sports and recreation will likely cause high future economic losses.
- The ecosystem services provided by coastal habitats are especially vulnerable to sea-level rise and more severe storms. The Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico coasts are most vulnerable to the loss of coastal protection services provided by wetlands and coral reefs. Along the Pacific coast, long-term dune erosion caused by increasing wave heights is projected to cause problems for communities and for recreational beach activities. However, other kinds of recreation will probably improve due to better weather, with the net effect being that visitors and tourism dollars will shift away from some communities in favour of others.
- Climate change adaptation strategies are vital for the conservation of diverse species and effective natural resource policy and management. As more adaptive management approaches are developed, resource managers can enhance the country's ability to respond to the impacts of climate change through forward-looking and climate science-informed goals and actions.
- Ecological monitoring needs to be improved and better coordinated among federal and state agencies to ensure the impacts of climate change are adequately monitored and to support ecological research, management, assessment and policy. Existing tracking networks in the United States will need to improve coverage through time and in geographic area to detect and track climate-induced shifts in ecosystems and species.
on 7 January 2013, 3:10 PM. Science Now
Climate change is expected to devastate coral reefs, as warmer oceans are believed to be inhospitable to corals. But corals may be more robust than commonly thought. A number of studies have found coral colonies that endure high water temperatures. Now, a team of scientists has taken a step toward identifying the genetic mechanisms that might be giving some corals a natural resilience to thermal stress.
Coral reef ecologist Daniel Barshis and colleagues at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, took advantage of markedly different environmental conditions in two nearby but separate pools on a reef at Ofu Island, American Samoa. Because of local factors that isolate some areas of the reef from winds and waves that might mitigate temperature extremes, some pools in the reef are highly variable in temperature, with summertime water temperatures topping 34°C, which, depending on other factors, can trigger bleaching, or a damaging loss of the symbiotic algae that corals depend on. Yet Acropora hyacinthus, a common reef-building coral found in these pools, grows faster and is more thermally tolerant than corals of the same species in nearby pools that do not get as hot. The team took samples of corals from both the highly variable and the moderately variable pools and subjected them to thermal stress experiments under laboratory conditions while monitoring the levels of expression, or activity, of a wide range of genes.
Environmentalist warn that heavy commercial fishing, poorly planned land use and forms of destructive resource raids including mass fish poisoning, oil exploration and coral reef extraction are depleting sea life in the South China Sea and surrounding waters. [Nguyen Van Long/United Nations Environment Program]
Triggered by a decade of extraordinary economic and population growth, China’s quest for energy and protein resources could potentially destroy a third of the world’s marine biodiversity, according to environmentalists.
A host of environmental impact studies recommends that China reverse practices harmful to land and sea and implement solutions to correct the country’s stake in contributing to potential irreversible consequences. Officials from neighboring coastal countries have demanded the termination of China’s approach, describing the actions as “environmental plunder.”
Heavy commercial fishing, poorly planned land use and various forms of destructive resource raids, such as mass fish poisoning, oil exploration and coral reef extraction, show evidence of sustained damage to the ecological balance surrounding the South China Sea, according to an ongoing United Nations Development Program study.
NOAA press release: November 30, 2012
In compliance with a federal court ordered deadline, and consistent with existing international protections, NOAA Fisheries announced today that it is proposing Endangered Species Act (ESA) listings for 66 coral species, including 59 in the Pacific and seven in the Caribbean. This science-based proposal is more limited than the 2009 original petition that led to a settlement agreement and the court order. In order to ensure robust input, NOAA has been engaging the public since the process began three years ago. Before this proposed listing is finalized in late 2013, there will be a 90-day public comment period during which NOAA will hold 18 public meetings.
Earlier this year, the President directed that any potential future designations of critical habitat carefully consider all public comments on relevant science and economic impact, including those that suggest methods for minimizing regulatory burdens. Therefore, any potential future critical habitat designation in connection with today’s proposed listing will include a full analysis of economic impact, including impact on jobs, and to the extent permitted by law, adopt the least burdensome means, including avoidance of unnecessary burdens and costs on states, tribes, localities, and the private sector of promoting compliance with the ESA. As this process moves forward, NOAA will work with stakeholders to minimize any potential impacts of possible future action on the economy and jobs and, in particular, on construction, fishing, farming, shipping, and other important sectors.
Elkhorn coral is an icon of the Florida Keys, but was listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act in 2006. (Credit: NOAA.)
“Healthy coral reefs are among the most economically valuable and biologically diverse ecosystems on earth,” said Jane Lubchenco, Ph.D., under secretary for commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator. “Corals provide habitat to support fisheries that feed millions of people; generate jobs and income to local economies through recreation, tourism, and fisheries; and protect coastlines from storms and erosion. Yet, scientific research indicates that climate change and other activities are putting these corals at risk. This is an important, sensible next step toward preserving the benefits provided by these species, both now and into the future.”
NOAA is proposing seven species as endangered and 52 as threatened in the Pacific, and five as endangered and two as threatened in the Caribbean. In addition, the agency is proposing that two Caribbean species already listed under the Act be reclassified from threatened to endangered. NOAA is seeking public comment on the proposed listing before making a final listing decision by December 2013.
Corals have measurable economic value for communities around the world. One independent study reported that coral reefs provide approximate $483 million in annual net benefit to the U.S. economy from tourism and recreation activities and a combined annual net benefit from all goods and services of about $1.1 billion. NOAA also estimates the annual commercial value of U.S. fisheries from coral reefs to be more than $100 million; reef-based recreational fisheries generate an additional $100 million annually.
Listing species as endangered does not prohibit activities like fishing or diving, but prohibits the specific “take” of those species, including harming, wounding, killing, or collecting the species. It also prohibits imports, exports, and commercial activities dealing in the species. These protections are not automatic for species listed as threatened, but can be established for them as well. Furthermore, if species are eventually listed, NOAA will consult with other federal agencies that permit projects that may harm corals to help avoid further damage. The consultation process allows NOAA to work with federal agencies and project proponents to develop ways for projects to proceed, but in a way that protects the long-term health of these important species.
NOAA has identified 19 threats to the survival of coral, including rising ocean temperatures, ocean acidification, and coral disease. As carbon dioxide increases in the atmosphere, the oceans warm beyond what corals can withstand, leading to bleaching, and the frequency and severity of disease outbreaks increase, causing die-offs.
This proposed listing is in response to a 2009 petition from the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) to list 83 coral species as threatened or endangered under the ESA. In 2011, NOAA and the CBD entered into a stipulated settlement agreement requiring NOAA to submit for publication a proposal as to 82 of the 83 coral species by April 15, 2012. In March 2012, the District Court for the Northern District of California approved an amended settlement agreement ordering NOAA to submit a proposal regarding the 82 coral species on or before December 1, 2012. All of these coral species being proposed for listing are already protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species.
NOAA used the best available scientific information to assess the status of the species and decide if the species met the ESA’s definitions of endangered or threatened. Earlier this year, after publication of a peer-reviewed status review report and a draft management report, NOAA took an additional step of seeking public comment prior to proposing the listing. NOAA received approximately 42,000 comments and collected 400 relevant scientific articles, reports, or presentations, which were all considered when making the proposed determination.
NOAA’s mission is to understand and predict changes in the Earth's environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and to conserve and manage our coastal and marine resources. Visit us at www.noaa.gov and join us on Facebook, Twitter and our other social media channels.
For more information, background documents, and instructions on submitting comments, go to http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/stories/2012/11/82corals.html
Luiz Rocha, December 12, 2012, http://www.nytimes.com/
Luiz Rocha, the curator of ichthyology at the California Academy of Sciences, writes from Belize, where he conducts research on one of the world’s most endangered fish.
There’s a lion on the loose, and it’s hunting endangered prey. I’m on my way to Belize to see what I can do about it.
Belize is home to a portion of the largest barrier reef in the Caribbean, the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System. Hundreds of species of fish inhabit this diverse coral reef system, many of them unique to the region. This week I will conduct field work there, joining forces with a team from the Smithsonian Institution led by fish curator Carole Baldwin.
Our team will look specifically at the population status and habitat conditions of the social wrasse, Halichoeres socialis.
But why pick this one species from the hundreds to be found there? The social wrasse is currently listed as “critically endangered” (the highest threat category) in the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List of Threatened Species. There are two reasons the social wrasse is listed as critically endangered: it has a very small geographical range, and the quality of its habitat has continued to decline in the face of accelerated coastal development.
Dec. 10, 2012 — Renewable energy could fully power a large electric grid 99.9 percent of the time by 2030 at costs comparable to today's electricity expenses, according to new research by the University of Delaware and Delaware Technical Community College.
A well-designed combination of wind power, solar power and storage in batteries and fuel cells would nearly always exceed electricity demands while keeping costs low, the scientists found.
"These results break the conventional wisdom that renewable energy is too unreliable and expensive," said co-author Willett Kempton, professor in the School of Marine Science and Policy in UD's College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment. "The key is to get the right combination of electricity sources and storage — which we did by an exhaustive search — and to calculate costs correctly."
In the first comprehensive review of its kind, the Stockholm Environment Institute, based at Tufts University, has released a white paper that finds that algae and red tide outbreaks caused by water pollution cost Floridians between $1.3 and $10.5 billion each year.
HANALEI, Hawaii — When compiling a list of places that may be described as paradise, Hanalei Bay on the rugged north shore of the island of Kauai surely qualifies.
The perfect crescent bay, rimmed by palm trees, emerald cliffs and stretches of white sand, has always had a dreamy kind of appeal. It was on these shores that sailors in the movie “South Pacific” sang of the exotic but unattainable “Bali Ha’i.”
The problem is what lies below the surface of the area’s shimmering blue waters.
Since June, a mysterious milky growth has been spreading rapidly across the coral reefs in Hanalei and the surrounding bays of the north shore — so rapidly that biologist Terry Lilley, who has been documenting the phenomenon, says it now affects 5% of all the coral in Hanalei Bay and up to 40% of the coral in nearby Anini Bay. Other areas are “just as bad, if not worse,” he said. Read more