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
A natural product produced by marine algae shows promise in stroke recovery. Creighton University School of Medicine is involved in a new study using brevetoxin-2, a compound produced naturally by marine algae, that stimulated nerve cell growth and plasticity in cultured mouse neurons. This research advances a potentially new pharmacological treatment to aid recovery of brain function following a stroke or other traumatic brain injury.
Stroke is a leading cause of death in the United States with more than 795,000 people suffering a stroke each year, according to the Center for Disease Control. Stroke is a leading cause of serious long-term disability and there is currently no drug treatment for post-stroke rehabilitation. Read the full article
From: Olivier De Schutter, Ecologist, www.enn.com
Published November 15, 2012 08:43 AM
All over the world, food systems and the ecosystems they rely on are coming under pressure from the over-exploitation of natural resources. But nowhere are these impacts occurring as rapidly and dramatically as in the world’s oceans.
Between 1970 and 1990, buoyed by generous fuel and boat-building subsidies, the harvesting capacity of the worlds combined fisheries grew eight times faster than the rate of growth in landings. This led to a situation where the capacity of the global aggregate fishing fleet is at least double what is needed to exploit the oceans sustainably.
A vicious cycle has ensued whereby fishing vessels have gone further and deeper in their hunt for fish, degrading marine environments and depleting stocks ever further. Fishing methods such as industrial bottom trawling – the equivalent of deforestation in deep waters — have proved particularly destructive and wasteful, while climate change, ocean acidification and pollution have further destabilized marine environments. Read the full article
Saturday 10 November 2012. The Guardian
Science could harness genetic secrets of newly discovered microbial life – but there are fears of ecosystem damage
Scientists have pinpointed a new treasure trove in our oceans: micro-organisms that contain millions of previously unknown genes and thousands of new families of proteins.
These tiny marine wonders offer a chance to exploit a vast pool of material that could be used to create innovative medicines, industrial solvents, chemical treatments and other processes, scientists say. Researchers have already created new enzymes for treating sewage and chemicals for making soaps from material they have found in ocean organisms.
“The potential for marine biotechnology is almost infinite,” said Curtis Suttle, professor of earth, ocean and atmospheric sciences at the University of British Columbia. “It has become clear that most of the biological and genetic diversity on Earth is – by far – tied up in marine ecosystems, and in particular in their microbial components. By weight, more than 95% of all living organisms found in the oceans are microbial. This is an incredible resource.”
However, the discovery of the ocean’s biological riches, including hundreds of thousands of new sponges, bacteria and viruses, also raises worries about the damage that could ensue from the new science of marine biotechnology.
ScienceDaily (Nov. 9, 2012) — With millions of gallons of raw sewage dumping into New Jersey waterways following Hurricane Sandy, University of Delaware scientists are using satellites to help predict the sludge’s track into the ocean.
“Technically, you can’t identify raw sewage from a satellite, but you can find river discharge that you suspect has raw sewage,” said Matthew Oliver, assistant professor of oceanography in the College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment. “The reason why is because river discharge usually has a very different temperature and color than the surrounding waters.”
Oliver and his students have previously examined the ability of satellites to detect coastal plumes.
Oliver participates in the Mid-Atlantic Regional Association Coastal Ocean Observing System (MARACOOS), which has been carefully following Hurricane Sandy and its after effects. Headquartered at UD, the organization aggregates ocean data collected along the Atlantic coast from Massachusetts to North Carolina to share with researchers, government officials and the public.
ScienceDaily (Nov. 11, 2012) — Scientists from the University of Hawaii at Manoa (UHM) published a study today in Nature Climate Change showing that besides marine inundation (flooding), low-lying coastal areas may also be vulnerable to “groundwater inundation,” a factor largely unrecognized in earlier predictions on the effects of sea level rise (SLR). Previous research has predicted that by the end of the century, sea level may rise 1 meter.
Kolja Rotzoll, Postdoctoral Researcher at the UHM Water Resources Research Center and Charles Fletcher, UHM Associate Dean, found that the flooded area in urban Honolulu, Hawaii, including groundwater inundation, is more than twice the area of marine inundation alone. Specifically, a 1-meter rise in sea level would inundate 10% of a 1-km wide heavily urbanized area along the shoreline of southern Oahu and 58% of the total flooded area is due to groundwater inundation.
“With groundwater tables near the ground surface, excluding groundwater inundation may underestimate the true threat to coastal communities,” said Rotzoll, lead author of the study.
“This research has implications for communities that are assessing options for adapting to SLR. Adapting to marine inundation may require a very different set of options and alternatives than adapting to groundwater inundation,” states Fletcher, Principle Investigator on the grant that funded the research.
Groundwater inundation is localized coastal-plain flooding due to a simultaneous rise of the groundwater table with sea level. Groundwater inundation is an additional risk faced by coastal communities and environments before marine flooding occurs because the groundwater table in unconfined aquifers typically moves with the ocean surface and lies above mean sea level at some distance from the shoreline. Read the full article
Below is a guest post (her first!) by Dr Emily Darling, about one of the 17 chapters of her PhD dissertation:
The ongoing loss of coral cover and flattening of reef architecture is leading to dramatic and drastic changes for coral reef ecosystems. But not all reef-building corals are affected in the same way. We know that some species are winners and others are losers – but which ones, and why? Corals are the backbone of tropical reefs – identifying changes in their species diversity and composition can help scientists and managers understand what future reefs will look like, and the function and services that reefs can continue to provide.
The biggest hurdle to understanding changes in coral communities is that there are hundreds of different species of scleractinian corals (and a lot of them look alike and are tricky to identify!) We wanted to find a way to simplify the remarkable diversity of scleractinian corals. Classic work in ecology suggests there may only be a few ways that organisms ‘make a living’ in order to survive, grow and reproduce. These fundamental characteristics (and their trade-offs) describe an organism’s life history. With this in mind, we looked for major life histories of reef-building corals.
Where did we look? We headed for the scientific literature and pulled together bits and pieces of data from published articles, taxonomic descriptions and species identification guidebooks on 11 different species characteristics for reef corals all over the world.
We found evidence for up to four major ‘lifestyles’ of reef corals, which we called competitive, stress-tolerant, weedy, and generalist. Each life history has unique characteristics that can allow species to cope with different environments.
- Competitive corals can grow fast and create canopies that overtop slower growing corals – these corals do really well in good conditions, but not so well when the going gets tough, such as in harsher environments or after disturbances like hurricanes or coral bleaching.
- Stress-tolerant corals employ a different strategy by growing slowly and living a long time – these species also seem to cope better with harsher environments, like less light on deeper reefs.
- Weedy corals ‘live fast and die young’ – these are smaller corals that produce baby corals by a type of reproduction called brooding – this might help these pioneer species quickly colonize space that opens up after disturbances.
- And finally a handful of species have a ‘grab bag’ of characteristics and share features in common with all three of the other groups – we called these corals ‘generalists’.
November 13, 2012. http://www.redorbit.com/
ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies
Big fish that have grown up in marine reserves don’t seem to know enough to avoid fishers armed with spear guns waiting outside the reserve.
The latest research by an Australian team working in the Philippines into the effects of marine reserves has found there is an unexpected windfall awaiting fishers who obey the rules and respect reserve boundaries – in the form of big, innocent fish wandering out of the reserve.
“There are plenty of reports of fish, both adults and juveniles, moving out of reserves and into the surrounding sea. Having grown up in an area where they were protected from hunting, we wondered how naïve they would be with regard to avoiding danger from humans,” says Fraser Januchowski-Hartley of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies.
The answer is: pretty naïve. “Educated fish normally turn tail and flee when a diver armed with a spear gun approaches within firing range of them. The typical flight distance is usually just over four metres,” he explains.
“However in our studies of marine reserves in the Philippines, Vanuatu and Papua New Guinea, where spearfishing remains a major way of harvesting table fish, we discovered that reserve-reared fish were much less wary and allowed people to get much closer.
“The fish are literally more catchable.”
The team studied fish across the boundaries of marine reserves from 200m inside the protected areas to 200m into the fished areas. They used underwater markers and measuring tapes to measure the ‘flight initiation distance’ of fish targeted locally by spearfishers. This indicates how close a skin diver can approach to a large fish before it decides to turn and flee.
They found that target fish living in fished areas were typically much warier of divers, and took flight at distances a meter or two further away, than ones living within the reserve.
They also established that the ‘naivete radius’, whereby more catchable fishes spill out of the marine reserves extended for at least 150 metres from the boundary.
The team’s findings suggest that fishers are more likely to catch fish that stray out of the reserve, and so improve the local fish harvest. This may help fishers become more supportive of marine reserves.
“In these parts of the oceans, spear fishing is still very much about survival for humans and putting food on the family table – so it is important that local fishers feel they are deriving some benefit from having a local area that is closed to fishing, or they may not respect it,” says Dr Nick Graham, a co-author on the study.
“This information is also useful in traditional reserves where fishing is taboo most of the time, but then they are opened for fishing by village elders just a few days a year.
“On the face of it, this work suggests that marine reserves can play an important role in putting more fish on the table of local communities in these tropical locations – as well as conserving overall fish stocks and replenishing those outside the reserve,” Januchowski-Hartley says.
The team’s paper ‘Spillover of fish naïveté from marine reserves’ by Fraser A. Januchowski-Hartley, Nicholas A. J. Graham, Joshua E. Cinner and Garry R. Russ appears in the latest issue of the scientific journal Ecology Letters.
New guide for lionfish control and management edited by James A. Morris Jr. is available at http://lionfish.gcfi.org/manual/ or click Invasive Lionfish: A Guide to Control and Management
ScienceDaily (Oct. 21, 2012) — Silvery fish such as herring, sardine and sprat have evolved special skin that gets around a basic law of physics, according to new research from the University of Bristol published Oct. 21 in Nature Photonics.
Reflective surfaces polarize light, a phenomenon that fishermen or photographers overcome by using polarizing sunglasses or polarizing filters to cut our reflective glare. However, PhD student Tom Jordan and his supervisors Professor Julian Partridge and Dr Nicholas Roberts in Bristol’s School of Biological Sciences found that these silvery fish have overcome this basic law of reflection — an adaptation that may help them evade predators.
Previously, it was thought that the fish’s skin — which contains “multilayer” arrangements of reflective guanine crystals — would fully polarize light when reflected. As the light becomes polarized, there should be a drop in reflectivity. Read more