Look, I understand that Nina Dobrev is a celebrity and celebrities are judged based on their looks (well the women are for the most part), but she is also a person who dedicates a lot of her time to raise awareness for animals, a noble act that shows intelligence and compassion. Do we really need to worry about what Nina is wearing while she is trying to raise awareness for animals? Seriously folks, as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said: it’s 2017 (I’m paraphrasing). Read More
Paddle boarders are similar to surfers (they may also be surfers!) as they love being in the Ocean. Social media is full of images and videos where paddle boarders interact with Ocean Life observing the sea as if they were guests at a public aquarium. I’ve never paddle boarded, but I would love to experience looking at wildlife in the Ocean…the experience would be phenomenal. It would be easy to argue that paddle boarders are for the protection of the Ocean, from maintaining healthy water quality to protecting wildlife from harm. So you can imagine my surprise when I saw a story published in the Washington Post of a paddle boarder who killed a Deep-Sea Squid because he thought it was dying. Read More
I have known and worked with Dr Peter Macreadie for five years, so it was exciting to be present at his first plenary lecture at the 12th International Seagrass Biology Workshop in Wales last October. The topic of the plenary, seagrass carbon storage, centred on how seagrasses and their mud, or ‘blue carbon’, are important for dealing with our global climate change problem. Yes, we do work with mud, and blue carbon research has turned out to be quite a dirty and smelly job. I personally did not expect to enjoy playing in the mud well beyond my childhood (while getting paid for it!). But in his plenary, Macreadie laid out how much more there is to the story of blue carbon…
Macreadie began his talk with the facts about blue carbon biosequestration – a long word to describe how plants remove the atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) into their tissues or into their sediments. Terrestrial habitats are the most well-known ecosystems that biosequester carbon, but we are finding trees cannot take care of all the CO2 we have produced. A decade ago, clever scientists noticed that coastal or ‘blue’ carbon ecosystems can also biosequester carbon at a rate ~40 times higher than their ‘green’ carbon counterparts. These blue carbon habitats, including seagrasses, mangroves and tidal marshes, can also retain this carbon for hundreds to thousands of years without reaching full capacity. Seagrasses, in particular, not only have the power to help mitigate climate change, but their ecosystems are incredibly important for supporting half of the world’s fisheries and stabilising the coast against erosion.
Macreadie went on to describe the main questions in blue carbon research: 1) ‘Where is the blue carbon and how much is there?’ 2) ‘How do blue carbon stocks change under different conditions like habitat loss, sea level rise and increased temperatures?’ and 3) given that blue carbon ecosystems are a powerful tool against climate change, ‘How can blue carbon be incorporated into global carbon off-set initiatives?’
He highlighted a few areas of seagrass blue C research ranging from carbon loss after disturbance to microbes as the drivers of the carbon cycle to how to optimise carbon biosequestration through management. As a self-proclaimed ‘lab rat’ (with the occasional day out in the water), I enjoy researching these detailed dynamics of blue carbon science. And it is these nitty-gritty questions around seagrass biosequestration that we have answered over the last decade that are paving the way for blue carbon to shine on a cross-disciplinary, international platform.
Specifically, seagrass (and other blue C) habitats are gaining recognition for their monetary value. Valuating seagrasses helps translate their ecosystems services to policymakers, management agencies, and industry. While there are some that consider this valuation process to be a form of profiting off of nature, this new frontier is a priority for many blue carbon scientists, including Macreadie and his colleagues, because of the opportunity to see emphasis put on conserving these ecosystems we love and an opportunity for new funding to be put towards blue carbon restoration research. Many government bodies are coming out in support of both green and blue carbon biosequestration for its role in climate change mitigation, providing a great opportunity for blue carbon experts to be involved in blue carbon off-setting development.
At the end of the plenary, Macreadie circled back to answer the open question: Is seagrass blue carbon just mud? He answered with a yes with the hope that others can see the importance of this mud as a way to both mitigate climate change as well as an innovative pathway for seagrass restoration. As it turns out, we are never too old to play in the mud!
The tendency in ocean conservation, and really news in general tends to be pretty depressing. It seems like every day a new species is at risk of extinction, a new global threat will imminently have massive effects on the planet, etc. If you’re a regular reader of this blog or any number of others you know what I’m talking about.
One of the most destructive invasive species in Europe is the American crayfish (Procambarus clarkii), and in America the most destructive invasive species is the European green crab (Carcinus maenas). You can find this crab in almost every coastline in the world. They are very aggressive in that they can eat every kind of food and they chase and kill native species, which sounds terrible. But…
Normally, I share a story with you Ocean Leaders that involves something positive or something cool that happened in the Ocean…but today is different…today’s story is one of epic failure by some guys who did a lot of bad things.
We have talked many times about the threats a coral reef has to face, like ocean acidification or global warming. But they don’t affect just the coral itself! A healthy coral has a balance between growth of new parts and erosion of the older ones, which is done by waves, fishes and photosynthetic microborers. Well, these microborers seem to be more effective in warm and acidic oceans.
The microborers can be algae, blue-green algae or fungi, and they make little holes in the coral skeleton, “eating” the carbonate part, the skeleton. Which is less consistent due to acidification, because it reduces the amount of carbonate in the water. To see exactly what the effects can be of the warm and acidic environment combination, researchers from ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies (CoECRS) and The University of Queensland (UQ) designed an experiment with three different scenarios: one with present-day conditions as a control, and another two with the predicted conditions for the end of the century, with medium and high predictions. Other coral samples were kept in the dark. They used two kinds of reef-building corals. Porites cylindricaand Isopora cuneata.
Looking at their results, they concluded that microborers were essential in the skeleton dissolution, as the samples in the dark didn’t decalcify. On the high futuristic scenario, the conditions were made thinking that humans won’t do anything to decrease CO2 emissions. And the rate of erosion by the microborers was almost the double compared to the control!
In P. cylindrica the rate was 89% higher than the control, per month! And in I. cuneata it was 46% higher. They also associated enhanced skeletal dissolution with increased endolithic biomass and respiration under high CO2 temperature conditions.
The principal microborer identified is the green algae Ostreobium spp, which inhabits 85% of the world’s corals. That means that maybe these results could be applicable to many corals species.
Everyday we discover new awful threats to the coral reefs, so do you think its time to take this studies more seriously?
Imagine the perfect underwater location, full of reefs, little fish, sharks, with thousands of different colors,… Most of you are imagining something like the Great Barrier of Reef for sure! And at this time, you know many of the threats it has to face… Here comes another one that you might not expect: URANIUM. Yes! Uranium! There has been a ban in Queensland on uranium mining for 28 years, but last October Queensland Premier, Campbell Newman ended the ban.
The problem is that the Great Barrier is located off the coast of Queensland, so every ship exporting uranium must go travel across the gorgeous sets of coral reefs. They say that it would not only create hundreds of jobs, but it would bring a lot of money to the citizens… they are talking of about $2 billion! The potential of this industry could be $10 billion, according to the uranium businessmen. It looks like a huge amount of money… but the Great Barrier makes $5 billion every year in tourism, employing about 54,000 people, and many argue argue that the Great Barrier Reef is priceless!
The Mining Minister received 40 recommendations by a uranium mining implementation committee investigation. They tried to look for a solution to preserve the Great Barrier while developing the uranium industry. And that was transporting the uranium oxide by truck South to Adelaide or Northwest to Darwin, with existing ports. But the Minister, Mr. Cripps, wants to build a new port in Townsville (the most important touristic city for divers), because it is “necessary!” So the uranium would be exported through the reef. What is funnier, is that the current political party won the elections with a non-mining position. Politicians…Go Figure!?!?!?
This is not only an Australian problem, is a global one! Even UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific, Cultural Organization) had threatened the Australian authorities, which agree with the uranium project, with taking off the World Heritage status, because of an increase in coastal development and shipment (with the current gas and coal industries expansion, it is estimated that 7000 ships a year will cross the Great Barrier). The UNESCO committee will have a meeting with the Federal Government in June, so we’ll have to wait to what will happen until then.
Politicians are promising strict laws to protect the reef from the uranium, but do you think they will work? It worth it to put at risk a unique place like the Great Barrier, just for a few years of benefits?