Few people have seen the entire reef – it’s 3,000km long! Each part of the reef is unique, but those who have visited even one corner of this amazing underwater world talk in wonder of the exquisite, vibrant colours and shapes of diverse marine life. Diving the reef is almost like stepping into a parallel universe, experiencing a vision that inspires awe and respect for nature. I have a personal fondness for the reef, having worked up and down its length in my early 20′s, mapping the reef for the Australian bid for UNESCO World Heritage status, given in 1981.
Archive for ‘Oceans’
Cattle – not climate change – killing the Great Barrier Reef
Sunday, July 28th, 2013
Fungi Expert’s Solution for Oil Spill
Tuesday, September 14th, 2010
Now the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico has been contained, few in the media are delving into the severity of its continued impact on the planetary ecosphere. But mushroom expert, author and Bioneer, Paul Stamets, has a viable solution for the long-term clean-up procedure. Recently named as one of the ‘50 Visionaries Who Are Changing Your World’, he has made extraordinary discoveries about how the humble mushroom could be the key.
Fungi were the first life forms to inhabit the land 1.3 billion years ago; 600 million years before plants evolved. After asteroid impacts darkened the skies, de-greened the Earth and caused mass extinctions 65 million years back, the only organisms to survive were the ones that ‘paired up’ with fungi and learnt how to
“It’s time for another re-greening,” Paul thinks, “as Earth recoils from the on-going catastrophes inflicted by our species.” And cleaning up after oil spills, pollution, storm damage, floods and volcanic clouds is just another day at the office for fungi. It’s a process he has called mycoremediation and here’s how it works.
Beneath the fruit – or mushroom as we call it – fungal roots, known as Mycelia, spread outwards to create a vast mat of underground cells that permeate the soil. Now known to be the largest biological entities on the planet, a single colony can cover an area equal to 1,665 football fields and travel several inches a day. A massive network of whispering spaghetti, these ‘neurological’ tendrils intersect with neighbouring colonies and even fuse with the roots of other species to share water, food and communicate vital information.
“Mycelia are the Earth’s natural internet – the essential wiring of the Gaian consciousness. The creation of the computer internet is merely an extension of a successful biological model that has evolved over billions of years.”
Once the Mycelium has taken root, it gets to work as a super-filter, producing enzymes and acids that break down the components of woody plants. But importantly, these same enzymes are excellent at disintegrating hydrocarbons – the base structure of all oils, petroleum products, pesticides and pollutants.
Through a series of trials, Paul’s team at Battelle Laboratories, in the US, made some astonishing findings. Soil that had been heavily contaminated with oil and hydrocarbons was inoculated with Oyster mushroom spawn. After four weeks, it was bursting with fruit, while 99% of the hydrocarbons had been destroyed. Only non-toxic components remained and even the mushrooms themselves revealed no traces
“And then came another startling revelation,” Paul says. “As the mushrooms rotted, flies arrived. The flies laid eggs, which became larvae. The larvae, in turn, attracted birds, who apparently brought in seeds. Soon it was an oasis, teeming with life!”
Amazingly, Paul’s team also found that Oyster mushrooms are tolerant to salt water. Mixed with straw, which will also absorb oil, and encased in biodegradable hemp-socks that are called MycoBooms, the Mycelium is able to colonize and get to work underwater. Myceliated straw and woodchip tubes could also be placed at the shoreline to capture and break down the incoming hydrocarbons. Meanwhile, the mushrooms sprout to create floating gardens; gnats and flies gather, and fish, birds, bats and insects benefit from the emerging food source.
Ahead of the game, back in 1994, Paul proposed that world governments set up Mycological Response Teams who could be deployed after events, such as hurricanes and oil spills.
Mycoremediation centres could be hubs of learning; places to cross-educate others and build central bodies of knowledge for our future generations. In time, world leaders, policy makers, scientists, students and citizens would have all of the Mycoremediation tools necessary to address every single environmental event.
During his 30 years working with fungi, Paul has also made other significant discoveries. Mycelium can protect human blood cells from major infections, such as smallpox, hepatitis B, influenza, HIV and various strains of cancer. Another type of fungi consumes and effectively eliminates the bacteria E. coli, while one species – and the research is currently classified by the Department of Defence – will destroy biological and chemical warfare agents; especially VX, the same deadly nerve gas that Saddam Hussein was accused of using in the Gulf War.
“The time to act is now,” Paul says. “Waiting for science and society to wake up to the importance of these ancient old growth fungi is perilously slow and also narrow in vision… But an unfortunate circumstance we face,” he continues, “is that mycology is poorly funded in a time of intense need. We need to educate our friends, family and policy makers about these solutions and bring local leaders up to speed.”
In order to appreciate the many benefits of mycotechnology, including the ones not yet discovered, Paul believes we need to adopt a ‘mycelial perspective’ of the world and wholly understand how it is interconnected with every living being on the planet.
“Your job,” he tells us, “is to become embedded into the mind-set of Mycelium and to run with it… Earth is calling out to us, and we need to listen.”
Source: Positive News UK
Date: 14 September 2010
Cleaner Water Mitigates Climate Change Effects on Florida Keys Coral Reefs, Study Shows
Wednesday, July 7th, 2010
Improving the quality of local water increases the resistance of coral reefs to global climate change, according to a study published in June in Marine Ecology Progress Series.
Florida Institute of Technology coral reef ecologist Robert van Woesik and his student Dan Wagner led the study, which provides concrete evidence for a link between environmental health and the prospects for reefs in a rapidly changing world.
- When waters in the Florida Keys warmed over the last few summers, corals living in cleaner water with fewer nutrients did well. On the other hand, corals in dirtier water became sick and bleached.
- In the face of climate change and ocean warming, this study gives managers hope that maintaining high water quality can spare corals.
- Regulating wastewater discharge from the land will help coral reefs resist climate change.
Source: Cleaner Water Mitigates Climate Change Effects on Florida Keys Coral Reefs, Study Shows - sciencedaily
Date: 07 July 2010
Arctic sea ice melting faster: Study
Thursday, June 17th, 2010
Arctic sea ice melted 50% faster than the average rate during May 2010, with combined global land and ocean surface temperature being the warmest on record for the period from January-May, studies have suggested.
Research at the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has shown that the combined global land and ocean surface temperature was the warmest on record for the period from January-May.
During May 2010, Arctic sea ice melted 50% faster than the average May melting rate, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Centre.
Source: Arctic sea ice melting faster: Study – economictimes.indiatimes
Date: 17 June, 2010
Scientist Takes Comprehensive Look at Human Impacts on Ocean Chemistry
Thursday, June 17th, 2010
Numerous studies are documenting the growing effects of climate change, carbon dioxide, pollution and other human-related phenomena on the world’s oceans. But most of those have studied single, isolated sources of pollution and other influences.
Now, a marine geochemist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) has published a report in the latest issue of the journal Science that evaluates the total impact of such factors on the ocean and considers what the future might hold.
“What we do on land — agriculture, fossil fuel combustion and pollution — can have a profound impact on the chemistry of the sea,” says Scott C. Doney, a senior scientist at WHOI and author of the Science report.
“A whole range of these factors have been studied in isolation but have not been put in a single venue.”
Doney’s paper represents a meticulous compilation of the work of others as well as his own research in this area, which includes ocean acidification, climate change, and the global carbon cycle.
He concludes that climate change, rising atmospheric carbon dioxide, excess nutrient inputs, and the many forms of pollution area “altering fundamentally the…ocean, often on a global scale and, in some cases, at rates greatly exceeding those in the historical and recent geological record.”
Source: Scientist Takes Comprehensive Look at Human Impacts on Ocean Chemistry – physorg
Date: 17 June, 2010
Sperm whale faeces ‘helps oceans absorb CO2′
Tuesday, June 15th, 2010
Sperm whale faeces may help oceans absorb carbon dioxide from the air, scientists say.
Australian researchers calculate that Southern Ocean sperm whales release about 50 tonnes of iron every year.
This stimulates the growth of tiny marine plants – phytoplankton – which absorb CO2 during photosynthesis.
The process results in the absorption of about 400,000 tonnes of carbon – more than twice as much as the whales release by breathing, the study says.
The researchers note in the Royal Society journal Proceedings B that the process also provides more food for the whales, estimated to number about 12,000.
Phytoplankton are the basis of the marine food web in this part of the world, and the growth of these tiny plants is limited by the amount of nutrients available, including iron.
Over the last decade or so, many groups of scientists have experimented with putting iron into the oceans deliberately as a “fix” for climate change.
Not all of these experiments have proved successful; the biggest, the German Lohafex expedition, put six tonnes of iron into the Southern Ocean in 2008, but saw no sustained increase in carbon uptake.
Although 400,000 tonnes of carbon is less than one-ten-thousandth of the annual emissions from burning fossil fuels, the researchers note that the global total could be more substantial.
There are estimated to be several hundred thousand sperm whales in the oceans, though they are notoriously difficult to count; and lack of iron limits phytoplankton growth in many regions besides the Southern Ocean.
So it could be that whale faeces are fertilising plants in several parts of the world.
Crucial to the idea is that sperm whales are not eating and defecating in the same place – if they were, they could just be absorbing and releasing the same amounts of iron.
Releasing the iron here is ultimately good for the whales as well, say the researchers – led by Trish Lavery from Flinders University in Adelaide.
Phytoplankton are eaten by tiny marine animals – zooplankton – which in turn are consumed by larger creatures that the whales might then eat.
The scientists suggest a similar mechanism could underpin the “krill paradox” – the finding that the abundance of krill in Antarctic waters apparently diminished during the era when baleen whales that eat krill were being hunted to the tune of tens of thousands per year.
Source: Sperm whale faeces ‘helps oceans absorb CO2′ – BBC News UK
Date: 15 June 2010
Ocean Stored Significant Warming Over Last 16 Years, Study Finds
Saturday, May 22nd, 2010
The upper layer of the world’s ocean has warmed since 1993, indicating a strong climate change signal, according to a new study. The energy stored is enough to power nearly 500 100-watt light bulbs per each of the roughly 6.7 billion people on the planet.
“We are seeing the global ocean store more heat than it gives off,” said John Lyman, an oceanographer at NOAA’s Joint Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research, who led an international team of scientists that analyzed nine different estimates of heat content in the upper ocean from 1993 to 2008.
“The ocean is the biggest reservoir for heat in the climate system,” said Josh Willis, an oceanographer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and one of the scientists who contributed to the study.
“So as the planet warms, we’re finding that 80 to 90 percent of the increased heat ends up in the ocean.”
A warming ocean is a direct cause of global sea level rise, since seawater expands and takes up more space as it heats up. Scientists say that this expansion accounts for about one-third to one-half of global sea level rise.
Combining multiple estimates of heat in the upper ocean — from the surface to about 2,000 feet down — the team found a strong multi-year warming trend throughout the world’s ocean. According to measurements by an array of autonomous free-floating ocean floats called Argo as well as by earlier devices called expendable bathythermographs or XBTs that were dropped from ships to obtain temperature data, ocean heat content has increased over the last 16 years.
Source: Ocean Stored Significant Warming Over Last 16 Years, Study Finds – Science Daily
Date: 22 May 2010
The Perfect Storm: Six Trends Converging on Collapse
Wednesday, May 19th, 2010
Failure is not in falling down, but in refusing to get up. –Chinese Proverb
There are dark clouds gathering on the horizon. They are the clouds of six hugely troubling global trends, climate change being just one of the six. Individually, each of these trends is a potential civilization buster. Collectively, they are converging to form the perfect storm–a storm of such magnitude that it will dwarf anything that mankind has ever seen. If we are unsuccessful in our attempts to calm this storm, without a doubt it will destroy life as we know it on Planet Earth!
The following six trends are converging to form the perfect storm for global destruction, each of which is a potential civilization buster in its own right, if left unchecked:
1. Climate Change: with a 90% degree of certainty, the world’s top scientists believe that our planet’s climate is changing at an accelerating pace, that these changes are caused by man, and will have increasingly severe consequences for our world. Naysayers stress the 10% scientific probability that man is not the cause of current climate changes, but would you board a plane if you were told it had a 9 out of 10 chance of crashing? It is a rare person over the age of thirty who will tell you that the weather is not quite different now from when they were a child. Certainly far more erratic, though not necessarily always hotter.
Recent estimates by a collaborative team of climate scientists, including a group from MIT, calculate that even if we implemented the most stringent greenhouse gas limits currently proposed by some of the world’s governments, it is quite likely that our world’s climate will warm by 6.3F or more over the next century, leading to disastrous crop failures in most of the world’s productive farmlands and “breadbaskets”.
2. Peak Oil: Our global economy and culture are built largely upon a reliance on cheap oil. From the cars we drive, to the jets we fly, to the buildings we live in, to the food we eat, to the clothes we wear–almost everything that encompasses the fabric of our modern life is either powered by oil, built from oil, or made/grown via machines powered by oil. When the price of oil rose to $140 a barrel in 2008, the world’s economy went into a tailspin–collapsing local economies, reducing consumption, and bringing the price of oil back down to a fraction of what it had been just a few months earlier. Global output of traditional crude oil peaked around 2005-2006 and is currently declining. Expensive alternate oil and oil-equivalent sources, like tar sands, deep ocean oil wells, and bio fuels have taken up the slack for the time being, but these are limited resources and their utilization is not growing as quickly as anticipated to fill in the gap caused by the shrinking output from the world’s mature oil fields. In 2008 the International Energy Agency (IEA) estimated that decline at a rate of the world’s mature oil fields at 9.1% annually, with a drop to “only” 6.4% if huge capital investments are made to implement “Enhanced Oil Recovery” technologies on a massive scale.
3. Collapse of the World’s Oceans: with 11 out of 15 of the world’s major fisheries either in collapse, or in danger of collapse, our world’s oceans are in serious trouble! The ocean’s planktons form the bottom of both the food chain and the bulk of the carbon-oxygen cycle for our planet. According to a recent British government report, the oceans have lost 73% of their zooplankton since 1960, and over 50% of this decline has been since 1990, and the phytoplanktons are also in serious decline! Unfortunately, the coral reefs aren’t doing much better than the planktons. By 2004, an estimated 20 percent of the world’s coral reefs had been destroyed (up from just 11 percent in 2000), an additional 24 percent were close to collapsing, and another 26 percent were under long-term threat of collapse.
4. Deforestation: Over 50% of the world’s forests have already disappeared, and much of the rest is in threatened. Deforestation contributes approximately 25% of all global greenhouse gasses, nearly double the 14% that transportation and industry sectors each contribute. Additionally, the forests of the world are a critical part of the weather cycle as well as the carbon-oxygen cycle. Each large mature tree acts as a giant water pump, recycling millions of gallons of water back into the atmosphere via evaporation from its leaves or needles. It has been estimated that a single large rainforest or coniferous tree has an evaporative surface area roughly equal to a 40 acre lake. When the trees are decimated in a region, a process called “desertification” tends to occur downwind because the trees are no longer there to pump groundwater back into the atmosphere to fall back to Earth as additional rainfall at some down wind location.
5. The Global Food Crisis: Soils, Weather and Water. For the first time since the “green revolution” started, our world is producing less food each year, yet its population continues to rise as we loose more top soil, arable land, and have less water for irrigation. Climate change is currently contributing more to losses than technology is to gains. In 2008 and 2009, food riots threatened the stability of many governments. In 2010 extended droughts in the breadbaskets of both China and India are threatening the food supply for over 1/3 of the world’s population!
6. Over Population: This is the elephant in the room that few are talking about. In the last decade, we have added more people to the population of our planet than were added between the births of Jesus and Abraham Lincoln. In the mid 1980s our world first overshot its capacity to provide for its human population, yet this population continues to grow and we continue to live on borrowed time. One thousand years after Jesus walked the Earth, human population was around 1/2 billion. Eight hundred years later this population doubled to 1 billion. It took only 130 more years to double to 2 billion in 1930. When I was a kid in 1960, world population hit 3 billion people and it only took another 40 years to double to 6 billion in the year 2000.
Source: The Perfect Storm: Six Trends Converging on Collapse - The Huffington Post
Date: 19 May, 2010
Jeremy Jackson: How We Wrecked the Ocean – TED video
Wednesday, May 5th, 2010
In this bracing talk, coral reef ecologist Jeremy Jackson lays out the shocking state of the ocean today: overfished, overheated, polluted, with indicators that things will get much worse.
Astonishing photos and stats make the case.
Jeremy Jackson is the Ritter Professor of Oceanography and Director of the Center for Marine Biodiversity and Conservation at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. Painting pictures of changing marine environments, particularly coral reefs and the Isthmus of Panama, Jackson’s research captures the extreme environmental decline of the oceans that has accelerated in the past 200 years.
Jackson’s current work focuses on the future of the world’s oceans, given overfishing, habitat destruction and ocean warming, which have fundamentally changed marine ecosystems and led to “the rise of slime.” Although Jackson’s work describes grim circumstances, even garnering him the nickname Dr. Doom, he believes that successful management and conservation strategies can renew the ocean’s health.
Source: Jeremy Jackson: How We Wrecked the Ocean – Huffington Post
Date: 5 May 2010
Source: Jeremy Jackson bio – TED
‘Acidifying oceans’ threaten food supply, UK warns
Wednesday, April 21st, 2010
Acidification of the oceans is a major threat to marine life and humanity’s food supply, Hilary Benn has warned.
The UK environment secretary said that acidification provided a “powerful incentive” to cut carbon emissions.
Ocean chemistry is changing because water absorbs extra CO2 from the air.
Some believe this impact of rising CO2 levels could be as significant as climatic change, though it is rarely discussed at the UN climate convention.
The science has come to prominence only within the last five or six years, and most of the details were not available when the convention was signed in 1992.
“We know that the increasing concentration of CO2 [in the air] is making the oceans more acidic,” Mr Benn told BBC News.
“It affects marine life, it affects coral, and that in turn could affect the amount of fish in the sea – and a billion people in the world depend on fish for their principal source of protein.”
“It doesn’t get as much attention as the other problems; it is really important.”
In September, the UN-backed study into The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (Teeb) concluded that the widely-endorsed target of trying to stabilise atmospheric concentrations of CO2 or their equivalent to around 450 parts per million (ppm) would prove lethal to much of the world’s coral.
Mr Benn made his speech during the summit’s “oceans day” at a meeting organised by Stanford University and Scripps Institution of Oceanography, both based in California.
“Unlike global warming, which can manifest itself in nuanced, complex ways, the science of ocean acidification is unambiguous,” said Andrew Dickson, a Scripps professor of marine chemistry.
“The chemical reactions that take place as increasing amounts of carbon dioxide are introduced to seawater have been established for nearly a century.”
The oceans and atmosphere are constantly exchanging CO2.
Concentrations in the atmosphere are now about 30% higher than in pre-industrial times; a proportion of this is absorbed by seawater, which results in rising concentrations of carbonic acid.
As a result, the pH of seawater has fallen by about 0.1, and a further change of 0.3-0.4 is expected by the end of the century.
This is likely to affect the capacity of organisms including molluscs, coral and plankton to form “hard parts” of calcium carbonate.
A 2007 study showed that rates of coral growth on the Great Barrier Reef had fallen by 14% since 1990.
Mr Benn said that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) should investigate ocean acidification during its next major assessment of the Earth’s climate, scheduled for release in 2013.
- Up to 50% of the CO2 released by burning fossil fuels over the past 200 years has been absorbed by the world’s oceans
- This has lowered the pH value of seawater – the measure of acidity and alkalinity – by 0.1
- The vast majority of liquids lie between pH 0 (very acidic) and pH 14 (very alkaline); 7 is neutral
- Seawater is mildly alkaline with a “natural” pH of about 8.2
The IPCC forecasts that ocean pH will fall by “between 0.14 and 0.35 units over the 21st Century, adding to the present fall of 0.1 units since pre-industrial times”
1. Up to one half of the carbon dioxide (CO2) released by burning fossil fuels over the past 200 years has been absorbed by the world’s oceans
2. Absorbed CO2 in seawater (H2O) forms carbonic acid (H2CO3), lowering the water’s pH level and making it more acidic
3. This raises the hydrogen ion concentration in the water, and limits organisms’ access to carbonate ions, which are needed to form hard parts
Source: ‘Acidifying oceans’ threaten food supply, UK warns – BBC
Date:14 December 2009
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