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Cuban coral reefs: A new frontier for the US

Published 2015-07-21

As the United States and Cuba re-established diplomatic relations this week for the first time since 1961, Cuba has been in the spotlight for a number of reasons, among them, its near pristine marine preserves and expectations of what the new relations will bring to the future of Cuban coral reefs. Until very recently, Cuba has been somewhat of a black box for most Americans, as news reaching the U.S. of what goes on inside Cuba is sparse. Several recent articles however, including a feature article in the Science section of the New York Times, has focused on Cuba's thriving marine ecosystems... (more)

Acidification impacting shellfish hatcheries

Published 2015-07-14

Ocean acidification, caused by the increased absorption of CO2 into the ocean from increased CO2 emission into the atmosphere, has been shown to impact many biological systems. Corals, shellfish, and other calcifying organisms are now growing in waters that are more corrosive to calcium carbonate minerals, which forms the building blocks that these organisms use to build skeletons and shells. Recently, NOAA scientists described the effects of acidification on shellfish in Alaska, finding that fisheries for clams, oysters, and scallops may face series difficulties by the year 2040. A team... (more)

Shark conservation wins

Published 2015-07-07

It seems only fitting on Shark Week to discuss sharks on our seaHarmony blog, so this week we're writing about some conservation wins for these charismatic megafauna. Over the last year, there has been an expansion of shark conservation laws across the globe which will help protect a myriad of shark species. Here's some of the landmark changes in shark protection. 1: The Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species is now regulating global trade of commercially exploited sharks. 2: The largest shark sanctuary in the world was created in Micronesia covering nearly 3 million square... (more)

Ocean Acidification's Economic Impact

Published 2015-06-30

In recent years, scientists, economists, and managers have tried to assign a dollar amount for the value of resources for human populations from the ocean and marine life. In an era of climate change, there is even more need to understand the financial and economic impacts of marine habitat degradation from large-scale impacts like increasing temperatures and acidification. This month, the UN Convention on Biological Diversity released a report addressing this topic. The report states that by the end of the century, the loss of ecosystem protection from marine structures alone, like coral... (more)

Evolution of a water flea in a warming planet

Published 2015-06-24

Almost every experiment designed to test how animals will respond to warming temperatures leads us to believe organisms will not fare well in the future – resulting in extinctions, extirpation or forced adaptations. There is much debate as to whether animals can evolve as rapidly as the Earth is warming and until recently, very few studies have directly tested this hypothesis. In April 2015, a group of scientists from the U.K. published an innovative study in Nature Climate Change directly testing the genetic capacity of the water flea (Daphnia magna) to adapt to warming over ecologically... (more)

Dolphin Mortality and the Deepwater Horizon

Published 2015-06-16

In April of 2010, the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill became the largest offshore oil spill in US history. Even five years later, cleanup efforts are continuing and researchers are paying close attention to any lasting effects of the spill on marine organisms. In a recently published study, researchers with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration report that stranded dolphin deaths are definitely linked with exposure to petroleum. In the study, researchers looked at the lung and adrenal cortex of dolphins that died in the Gulf of Mexico and from dolphins that died at different... (more)

Invisible borders to shifting habitat niches

Published 2015-06-09

Ecologists often study organisms' ecological niches, or the specific environmental conditions needed for an organism to live. Global climate change is altering environmental conditions worldwide, and thus, will likely affect the areas where organisms can live in the future. Most scientific studies suggest that organisms will move poleward as the Earth warms, but two new studies published in the journal Science this week suggest that just because habitats farther north may be warmer, they may not be hospitable for a variety of marine organisms to live. A study by Deutsch et al. identified... (more)

Tackling the Garbage challenge

Published 2015-06-02

A non-profit organization in Japan has taken a major step in combating the problem of increasing garbage and waste from human populations in our oceans. The groups has developed a plan to deploy a garbage cleaning device in 2016 that collects plastic, debris, and other types of trash. The CEO of the organization called The Ocean Cleanup announced that the cleaning system would be deployed off the coast of the island of Tsushima, located between Japan and South Korea. In Tsushima, about one cubic meter of plastic per person per year is released into the ocean. In addition to efforts to... (more)

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)