Category Archives: Environment

Map of the day: Agriculture’s greenhouse gases


From Feeding Climate Change, a new report from Oxfam, regional greenhouse gas emissions produced by agriculture and the crops responsible:

Share of annual GHG emissions among the seven commodities with the highest emissions in each region [in metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent].

Share of annual GHG emissions among the seven commodities with the highest emissions in each region [in metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent].

Climate change poses another threat to fish


We’ve posted previously about the climate change threats to the coral reefs sheltering the young of many of the fish compromising the main source of protein from many of the world’s nations.

Reefs provide a protective environment the fry of many fish species.

Now comes word of another climate change threat to developing young fish species.

From the University of Adelaide:

A common close partnership which sees baby fish sheltering from predators among the poisonous tentacles of jellyfish will be harmed under predicted ocean acidification, a new University of Adelaide study has found.

Published today in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, the researchers say that modification of this baby fish-jellyfish symbiotic relationship is likely to lead to higher mortality among the affected fish species which include some of the common commercial fish. A well-known example of marine symbiosis is the relationship between anemones and clown-fish, popularised in the animated movie, Finding Nemo.

“These intricate, interdependent relationships between different species─symbioses─are common in both the marine and terrestrial environments,” says study leader Associate Professor Ivan Nagelkerken, in the University of Adelaide’s Environment Institute.

“But, apart from the well-known relationship between coral and microalgae and what happens during a bleaching event, little is known about how climate change and predicted ocean acidification will affect such relationships.

“This is the first study that demonstrates how climate change will disturb such a symbiotic relationship between two animals that interact closely for survival.”

The juvenile fish of about 80 different species, including important commercial varieties such as pollock, jacks and trevallies, form symbiotic relationships with jellyfish.

The jellyfish blooms are an ideal protective habitat for the baby fish, which would otherwise be unprotected in the open oceans where they are at high risk of being eaten by bigger fish and other marine life. Only one species of fish has known immunity to the jellyfish venom. Somehow the baby fish avoid the poisonous tentacles of the jellyfish while swimming among them, while other species stay well away.

The relationship is not straightforward however – sometimes the jellyfish will eat the baby fish. Despite this, the survival odds of the baby fish seem to be increased when sheltering with the jellyfish.

The researchers studied the actions of juvenile fish in an aquarium under high CO2 conditions. Compared to the control group, they spent much less time with the jellyfish host (about three times less), while only 63% (compared to 86%) initiated any relationship at all.

The research is in collaboration with Associate Professor Kylie Pitt at Griffith University. “Shelter is not widely available in open water so juvenile fish rely on the jellyfish for protection against predators,” says Associate Professor Pitt. “As shelter providers, the jellyfish could play a role in enhancing the populations of these fish species. Changing ocean conditions are likely to have significant negative impacts on this relationship and therefore, fish populations.”

Climate change threatens Antarctica’s penguins


Each colored circle represents a colonies’ current population trend. The black dashed line separates West Antarctic Peninsula (WAP) from continental Adélie penguin colonies. Bare rock () locations around the coastline and light to dark blue represents shallow to deep bathymetry modified from Cimino et al.

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The Antarctic’s population of penguins, those flightless birds so beloved of children and animators everywhere, are imploding, threatening to number the creatures among the victims of climate change.

From the University of Delaware:

It’s a big question: how is climate change in Antarctica affecting Adélie penguins?

Climate has influenced the distribution patterns of Adélie penguins across Antarctica for millions of years. The geologic record tells us that as glaciers expanded and covered Adélie breeding habitats with ice, penguin colonies were abandoned. When the glaciers melted during warming periods, this warming positively affected the Adélie penguins, allowing them to return to their rocky breeding grounds.

But now, University of Delaware scientists and colleagues report that this beneficial warming may have reached its tipping point.

In a paper published today in Scientific Reports [open source], the researchers project that approximately 30 percent of current Adélie colonies may be in decline by 2060 and approximately 60 percent may be in decline by 2099.

“It is only in recent decades that we know Adélie penguins population declines are associated with warming, which suggests that many regions of Antarctica have warmed too much and that further warming is no longer positive for the species,” said the paper’s lead author Megan Cimino, who earned her doctoral degree at UD in May.

Co-authors on the work include Matthew Oliver, principal investigator on the project and Patricia and Charles Robertson Professor of Marine Science and Policy in UD’s College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment; Heather J. Lynch, assistant professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolution at Stony Brook University; and Vincent S. Saba, a research fishery biologist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Marine Fisheries Service.

Declining populations

The Adélie penguin is a species that breeds around the entire Antarctic continent. The species is experiencing population declines along the West Antarctic Peninsula (WAP), which is one of the most rapidly warming places on Earth, while Adélie populations in other areas around the continent where the climate is stable or even cooling remain steady or increasing.

There’s more, after the jump. . .

Continue reading

California burning, images captured from space


While Donald Trump insists that California’s near-epochal drought is but a myth, it ain’t necessarily so.

Indeed, the state is tinder dry.

From NASA’s Earth Observatory:

BLOG Cal fire

More form NASA:

A wildfire burning northeast of Bakersfield, California, is the state’s largest so far in 2016, according to news reports. It has also been called the season’s a most destructive fire. As of June 27, the Erskine fire had scorched 18,368 hectares (45,388 acres), destroyed at least 250 structures, and was responsible for at least two deaths.

The top image shows the region at 3:34 a.m. Pacific Time on June 26, 2016. It was acquired with the day-night band (DNB) of the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) on the Suomi NPP satellite. The DNB can detect relatively dim signals such as city lights and reflected moonlight. In this case it also shows the glow of wildfire.

The second image shows the fire later that same day. This natural-color image was acquired with the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) instrument on NASA’s Aqua satellite. Red outlines indicate hot spots where MODIS detected warm surface temperatures associated with fires. Winds carried smoke from the fire northward.

The fire first ignited on June 23 due to a yet-unknown cause. On the date these images were acquired, the fire had burned 17,588 hectares (43,460 acres). As of June 27, the fire was 40 percent contained and continued to pose a threat to structures.

According to the National Interagency Fire Center, above normal fire potential is expected to expand into the Sierras and central coast region of California as summer progresses. According to the outlook: “The highest potential may be over the Sierra Foothills where a severe, multiyear drought has exacted a toll on the vegetation of the area.”

And there will be more to come, thanks to a massive die-off of California’s pine, fir, and cedar forests.

From United Press International:

California’s climate has always been hospitable to fire – it comes with the territory. But add five years of drought, a bark beetle blight killing trees by the millions and rising temperatures, and it’s a recipe for disaster.

“We are seeing the compounded effects of climate change that includes five consecutive years of drought and rising mean temperatures across the West – last year was the hottest year on record,” said Janet Upton, deputy director of communications at the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. “All that is trending to a more flammable California.”

Last week, the U.S. Forest Service reported that 26 million trees had died in six counties in the southern Sierra Nevada since October. Adding in an estimated 40 million dead trees counted since October 2010, it brings the statewide tree mortality to at least 66 million in less than six years.

High rates of tree mortality are being driven by bark beetles in combination with the state’s drought. Like fire, bark beetles are a natural part of the state’s ecology and a way for nature to weed out the weak and keep forests healthy. But when the trees suffer from drought, they no longer have their natural defense mechanism to fight off bark beetles. “Trees draw up moisture and push the beetle out,” said Upton. “With the drought, they couldn’t draw the moisture needed to do that.” And that has led to a bark beetle explosion – to epidemic levels.

Hardest hit so far has been the southern Sierra. “We identified six high-hazard counties and now we’ve added four more,” said Upton. The bark beetle blight is marching to the north.

European Commission blocks Roundup ban


There may be a Brexit, but there’s to be no Monsantxit, at least for now.

Why are we not surprised?

From Science:

The widely used weed killer faced a 30 June deadline for reapproval of its safety—without which it could not be sold—but the decision has been stuck in political gridlock. So the European Commission stepped in to extend the safety approval until December 2017. The decision was mentioned by Commissioner for Health and Food Safety Vytenis Andriukaitis during a press conference today and may be officially announced tomorrow, according to a commission source.

The safety of glyphosate has been hotly debated ever since the International Agency for Research on Cancer declared it a “probable human carcinogen” in March 2015. Regulatory agencies had previously declared glyphosate safe when properly used, and the European Food Safety Authority was on track to renew its approval. (The differing opinions caused some confusion, which is clarified here.) Opponents of the herbicide campaigned for the commission not to renew the market license. Glyphosate manufacturers and the farm lobby objected fiercely, and member states could not reach a majority decision about how to proceed.

In his comment, Andriukaitis said that the commission granted the 18-month extension in order to have the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) complete its review of glyphosate. ECHA is responsible for classification and labeling of hazardous chemicals, and during commission deliberations in May, some member states wanted to know ECHA’s opinion on the carcinogenicity of glyphosate before voting on its reapproval.

Headline of the day: Well tan me’ hide, Clyde


From Honolulu Magazine:

Your Sunscreen Might Be Killing Coral Reefs in Hawai‘i

A chemical in sunscreen causes “zombie reefs.”

Map of the day: Pacific coral reef bleaching threat


From NOAA’s Coral Reef Watch, area of the Pacific and Indian oceans with a immediate risk of thermal-induced bleaching:

BLOG Coral