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Investigative journalism and climate refugees

Published 2015-05-26

It seems that every day we are bombarded with news about climate change and associated catastrophes that are expected in the next century, but how do we present this information in a way that is meaningful enough to encourage people to change their behaviors? John D. Sutter, a CNN columnist and investigative journalist, is trying to spread this message loud and clear in a surprisingly refreshing way. For the past several years he has let voters democratically decide his next project, which has taken him all around the globe. For the next year he’ll be focusing on climate change, and the... (more)

Shifting Baselines and Shifting Communities

Published 2015-05-19

The word “pristine” is often used to describe ecosystems like coral reefs, mangrove forests, or rocky intertidal zones that are relatively undisturbed by human impacts in comparison to others. We often compare these less disturbed ecosystems to those that are extremely degraded, damaged, or changing in structure to establish a baseline and to determine the desired habitat state in areas that are targeted for management. Scientists lack complete descriptions of the biological and physical state of these ecosystems before humans began making impacts in the marine environment. In the past,... (more)

What about the parasites?

Published 2015-05-12

Much research has supported that primary productivity and fishing pressure shapes the abundance, species composition and diversity of marine life, but few studies have characterized this relationship in communities that are difficult to survey with the naked eye. A study recently published in the journal Ecology investigated the effects of productivity and fishing pressure on variation in parasitic communities in the Line Islands, equatorial Pacific. The authors of this study wanted to know if parasites respond to productivity in the same way as free-living marine species respond to... (more)

Polluting our Oceans with Light

Published 2015-05-05

Aside from city runoff, coastal pollution, and garbage disposal, coastal urban areas are producing yet another type of pollution: light. New research from the University of Exeter describes the effects of night-time light on marine ecosystems and found that artificial light altered the behavior of coastal organisms. As light pollution from coastal communities, shipping, and offshore developments increases, it is important to understand its effects on organisms so that management decisions can be made to minimize negative impacts on marine life. Dr. Tom Davies and other researchers used a... (more)

How connected are marine populations?

Published 2015-04-28

The spatial range occupied by any species is largely driven by dispersal (species movement) and plays an important role in population dynamics and evolutionary processes. In the marine environment, dispersal refers to the movement of larval, juvenile or adult stages. Scientists once believed that the ocean was barrier-less, enabling marine organisms to disperse far and wide, especially species with long pelagic larval duration (PLD). However, that theory of marine population connectively is tenuous at best, as mounting evidence suggests strong structure within marine populations driven by... (more)

Training Corals on Environmental Treadmills

Published 2015-04-21

During the summer of 2014, coral reefs in Hawaii experienced a large bleaching event due to higher than normal sea surface temperatures. This massive bleaching event had detrimental impacts on the growth, survival, and reproduction of corals, also affecting fish and invertebrates that call the reef home. Unfortunately, El Nino conditions forecast another massive bleaching event in the upcoming summer of 2015. Researchers at the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology (HIMB) immediately began monitoring reefs in Hawaii during the last bleaching event to understand the extent of the disturbance and... (more)

How long until fisheries recover?

Published 2015-04-14

In order to develop viable management plans for fisheries recovery in coral reef regions, it is crucial to understand expected biomass in the absence of fishing and expected time ranges for full recovery. Until very recently however, these seemingly simple and obvious metrics were not well understood. MacNeil and colleagues recently published their research in the journal Nature focused on exploring the status of reef fish biomass and assemblages at 832 reefs worldwide along a gradient of exploitation to answer these questions. Using this massive data set, they were able to determine... (more)

Raising Baby Corals

Published 2015-04-07

Coral reefs in the Caribbean Sea are facing many stressors and are heavily impacted by human activity. Reefs in the small sea are subject to problems like overfishing, sewage run off, fertilizer exposure, rising temperatures, disease, and increasing acidity to name a few. Not only are these reefs important for fish, invertebrates, and mammal species, they are necessary for humans. Reefs in the Caribbean provide food, shoreline protection, and a source of tourism to small islands that otherwise hold no source of industry. Researchers are focusing on understanding how these reefs are changing... (more)

Changing ocean temperatures and coral disease

Published 2015-03-31

Major reef-building corals in the Caribbean have dramatically declined over the past 40 years and this loss in coral cover has been partially attributed to disease outbreaks. Last year, Acropora palmata and Acropora cervicornis were listed as critically endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List of Threatened Species, and thus, there is much effort towards protecting these Caribbean coral reef populations. White-band disease, the primary disease causing regional coral declines, is a syndrome where coral tissue disassociates from the coral skeleton. The disease... (more)

Pitcairn’s Bounty, Re-found

Published 2015-03-24

The United Kingdom recently established the world’s largest continuous marine protected area (MPA) in the world, located around the Pitcairn Islands in the Pacific Ocean. Pitcairn may be most well known as home to descendants of the Bounty mutineers and currently has a population of just 65. This small population however, is setting a huge precedence for protecting the world’s oceans. The Pitcairn Islands Marine Reserve, 834,334 square kilometer of protected ocean, is a refuge for over 1200 species of marine mammals, seabirds and fish according to Pew Charitable Trusts and the National... (more)