It’s the end of another week, which means Andrew and I get the chance to nerd out on some ocean science and conservation news on today’s Ocean Talk Friday. We discuss four articles or publications that we think you should know about heading into the weekend.
- Some reef fish like to be close to home
The first article Andrew and I talked about today comes from Cassidy D’Aloia out of the University of Toronto and her colleagues. Their study, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, shows that some coral reef fish have high rates of natal retention, meaning they don’t disperse far from where they were born. The author’s specifically looked at the neon goby, but since gobies (from the family Gobiidae) are the most diverse marine fishes this finding may apply to other species as well. These types of studies on actualized dispersal among and between coral reefs can inform the development of future marine protected areas, especially in cases where the MPA seeks to increase fish populations. In these situations, it may be more beneficial to construct a network of smaller MPAs in close proximity, rather than a few MPAs further away, to allow for fish dispersal between reefs.
- Sorting out what’s going on in the Pacific
We’ve talked before about the giant mess that is currently the Pacific Ocean. Warming temperatures, larger storms, and coral bleaching in the area can all be tangentially tied to man made climate change, but a recent article in the New York Times tries to sort out the major players and their resulting impacts on the marine ecosystem and our weather patterns. The Blob, a abnormal patch of warm water stretching along the US coast, has caused shifts in species distributions, and could be one of the causes for the both the global coral bleaching event and the harmful algal blooms that we’re experiencing. While the El Niño is largely blamed for the unusual weather patterns we’ve been experiencing globally, it also may be influencing a shift in the Pacific Decadal Oscillation from a cooling phase to a warming phase. If we’re indeed seeing a switch in the PDO, we should be prepared for an increase in global average surface temperatures.
These three phenomena usually operate on different timescales; what we’re experiencing now is their synchronization and the associated impacts. Researchers hope that the recent changes we’ve been seeing to our climate and our marine ecosystems, especially in the Pacific, may wake people up to the reality of climate change.
- Baby Manta Rays!
Now for some happy news: Researchers have discovered the first known manta ray nursery in Raja Ampat, Indonesia! This discovery is a huge win not only for manta ray biologists but also for conservationists and the ecotourism industry. Though the nursery lies in a protected area, many of the rays that utilize this habitat migrate through popular ray hunting areas. This is a problem because manta rays are especially vulnerable to overfishing. Their a k-selected species, meaning that they exhibit a slow growth rate, a long natural lifespan, and birth only a small number of offspring each year. All of this makes it difficult for the species to recover from population declines The demand for manta ray gill plates in Chinese medicine has created an industry that incentivizes the catching and killing of these k-selected species. Therefore, it’s critical that conservationists and researchers work with the local community to protect these populations from being killed on their way to this newly-dsicovered nursery habitat.
- Why We Should Be Concerned with Melting Arctic Sea Ice
Finally, Andrew and I discussed why policy makers should be concerned with the rapid melting of Arctic sea Ice. A couple of articles out of Scientific American and Environment and Energy Publishing outline the situation pretty well; man-made climate change is causing a rapid melting of sea ice in the Arctic region, which in turn means more access to this area for fishing and cruise ships, warmer sea surface temperatures, and greater land loss for Arctic communities. And unless increased fishing activity in the Arctic can be managed sustainably, we’re likely to see an overall decline in this ocean’s ecological productivity. Arctic communities will most likely face an increase in plastic pollution and coastal erosion over the next few years unless policies and regulations are put in place to preserve this sea ice.
Enjoy The Podcast!