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Human impacts

This category contains 104 posts
Fig. 4: Ringed seal pup. Author: Shawn Dahle, NOAA, Polar Ecosystems Program research cruise. Source: Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Pusa_hispida_pup.jpg

Throwing Babies out with the Sea Ice: Ringed Seals Response to Ice Decline

As the Earth warms, sea ice declines. What happens to those animals who rely on the ice? Today’s oceanbites looks at one animal, the ringed seal, and how it may be affected by climate change!

Red Crown-of-Thorns Starfish eating coral. Author Matt Kieffer, Flickr. No modifications made. https://www.flickr.com/photos/mattkieffer/3016449061 Link to license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/legalcode

Small MPAs: the new all-you-can-eat buffets?

Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) are a popular conservation tool and are in many situations very effective. Unfortunately, as with many plans, there may be some unintended consequences, as seen in the case of small MPAs in Fiji, where they appear to have attracted corallivorous crown-of-thorns sea stars (Acanthaster spp.). Find out more in today’s oceanbites!

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Fisheries and Food Security

Fish have provided sustenance for millions of people, but in a world where stocks are rapidly depleting, what are the consequences of trying to save and rehabilitate their populations?

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Working with the coast

The coast is very dynamic and at the constant mercy of wind and water energy. Often times, humans will try to control the coast by constructing seawalls and groins. Such projects have major impacts on sediment transport that can affect natural ecosystems and recreational beaches. Read here about a group of scientists who sought to quantify just how much of an impact seawall and groin development had on a section of coast in southeast India.

Soft coral dominated reef. Author: Matt Kieffer. Source: Flickr (https://www.flickr.com/photos/mattkieffer/15439205306)

Hard Coral or Macroalgae? Coral Reefs May Have Another Option

Most of the time coral reef communities are discussed, it seems the focus is whether they’re dominated by hard coral or algae. It turns out there may be other possible outcomes for reefs in the future. Find out more in today’s oceanbites!

Fig. 1: Massive kelps are good at creating habitat for others but have proven sensitive to changes in climate. Could they be canaries in the coal mine for detecting climate change? (Photo: Riverview Science)

The Kelp in the Coal Mine: can kelps act as an indicator for climate change?

Many scientific studies have shown that kelp species are sensitive and vulnerable to climate change. Some scientists think of them as sentinel species, or early warning indicators of climate change. Recently, a large mass of warm water, affectionately known as “The Blob,” covered the northeast Pacific, resulting in a long-term elevation of ocean temperature. With existing ecological records of kelp forests in California, this provided an opportunity for researchers to test whether these giant kelps are indeed a sentinel species and can warn us about the looming effects of climate change.

(source: culture.oasiscollections.com)

Paradise Loss: How humans are impacting coastal reef communities

Humans are drawn to beautiful beaches and warm water, and with us come the conveniences of modern day civilization. While life may be flourishing in the shops, restaurants and luxury hotels, this development is taking its toll on the fragile reef community just off shore. Although reefs may appear healthy to the naked eye, researchers have discovered coastal development impacts their biological diversity, and this may be an indication of more serious, long-term damage.

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The Rebirth of the “Mighty-I”

Happy Halloween! This is the true, spooky tale of life, death, and rebirth beneath the waves. To end off OceanBites’ haunting Halloween theme week, read the story of USS Independence – an aircraft carrier that participated in atomic bomb trials at Bikini Atoll.

Fig. 3. Entangled Sea Turtle. Source: NOAA.

Let’s Ghost Fishing for Halloween!

Ghost fishing is ghastly because it creates underwater graveyards for wildlife. The authors covered here wrote a new review of gear entanglement among mammals, reptiles, and sharks. Find out what they discovered by reading today’s post!

Figure 1: Oilrig and platform locations in the North and Irish Seas. (Taken from Todd et al. (2016) Figure 1.)

Oil rigs, the food trucks of the sea?

We humans don’t always take time to assess how we impact other environments; more often we survey before we enter the ecosystem, but what happens when we leave? Oil rigs in the North Sea have provided a great opportunity for scientists to start investigating. Click here to find out more!

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Big animals face big trouble in our oceans

Many believe we are in the midst of another mass extinction both on land and in the ocean. What marine animals are most at risk of extinction? Using current and past extinction data, researchers were able to pinpoint the most vulnerable types of marine animals.

Figure 1: H. trimaculatus (source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Hippocampus_trimaculatus,_Osezaki.jpg)

From Wastewater to Seahorses to the Medicine Cabinet

Pollution of metals could be getting into the tissue of seahorses–the very tissues that are used to make a special Chinese medicine. Now scientists fear that the metal pollutants could harm the patients who take the medicine. Read more to find out what they learned about the accumulation of metals in seahorse tissues.

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Ancient swimmers: Greenland sharks live for centuries

Using radiocarbon dating, scientists have discovered that the Greenland shark can live longer than any other known vertebrate. How long have some of these individuals been alive?

Figure 3: Oysters held at cooler temperatures had a slower clearance rate of the human norovirus. Credit: Flickr (https://c2.staticflickr.com/8/7032/6755685221_f717c1e69f_b.jpg)

Oysters going viral

The human norovirus persisted longer than 6 weeks in contaminated oysters held at lower water temperatures, suggesting that the water temperature oysters are held at during depuration should be considered when determining if a contaminated oyster bed is safe to eat .

Big container shrimp moving across a lot of marine habitat. Credit: NOAA

Eavesdropping prawns get more than they bargained for

Marine animals living below the surface have to put up with noise generated by human activity. Heavy shipping traffic can bring a lot of noise. How does the common prawn respond?

Fig 1: Marine debris on the beach at Green Island in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. Author: Keeley Belva, NOAA. Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Kure_debris_440.jpg

To I.D. Debris: LIDAR as a tool to identify trash on the beach

Scientists may have a new option for figuring out how much debris litters our beaches and what it all is! Find out more in today’s World Oceans Day post on marine debris!

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Aliens attack: Predicting the spread of marine invasive species

Species invasions have become serious issues in the marine environment, mostly as a result of increased ship traffic. Once a new species invades an area, it is next to impossible to draw it out. What if there was a way to predict the arrival of alien species to new locations in the ocean? Would this predictive power help minimize future invasions?

Pretty, isn't it? "The Blue Marble" photograph of Earth, taken when the Apollo 17 mission travelled to the moon in 1972. This picture is featured on the official Earth Day Flag. [Wikimedia]

Go Green for Earth Day!

Do Mother Nature a solid with these helpful tips & tricks to go green today!

Image 5: A wide array of plastic fragments found in a freshwater river.

A Million Little Pieces….of plastic

Trillions of tiny plastic fragments are floating in the Earth’s ocean. These microplastics can attract organic pollutants, be ingested by marine organisms, and even end up in table salt. This Earth Week post gives a broad introduction to microplastics and examples of how we can all help to reduce this problem!

Figure 1: There are less fish in the sea then there were just a few decades ago. Image from World Wildlife Fund

Earth Week: Overview on Overfishing

We rely heavily on the oceans as a source of food. Unfortunately, fish populations have declined by over 50 percent over the past several decades. This can spell disaster for us and ocean ecosystems. Read on for to find out more about how we are impacting the oceans through overfishing.

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