Proposed Florida bill could require prescription for sunscreens in effort to save coral reefs

October 18, 2019 by  
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In a bid to protect the Sunshine State’s reefs from coral bleaching , a new legislative bill has been proposed that requires a physician’s prescription for sunscreens containing oxybenzone and octinoxate, on grounds that these chemicals are harmful to marine coastal environments. The two ingredients are found in roughly 80 percent of all commercially available sunscreens. Discouraging their widespread use can help protect Florida’s fragile coral ecosystems. Following in the footsteps of Hawaii and Key West , all over-the-counter sunscreens will need to be free of both oxybenzone and octinoxate to be deemed safe enough for use, because both chemicals contribute to coral reef bleaching and the compromised health of reef aquatic life. If approved, the bill will take effect in 2020. Related: Pacific heat wave threatens coral reefs in Hawaii and other regions Coral reefs are a valuable asset to the Sunshine State. They are beneficial for environmental and economic reasons, such as protecting coastal communities from wave action and storm surges, providing ecosystem biodiversity, serving as a food resource and offering commercial tourism opportunities. What’s more, Florida is “the only state in the continental United States to have extensive coral reef formations near its coasts. These reefs extend over 300 miles,” according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) . Coral reef activities promote tourism and businesses that “generate $3.4 billion and support 36,000 jobs in the region each year.” Reputed to be the third-longest coral barrier reef in the world, Florida’s celebrated reefs, sadly, have not been faring well in recent years due to a combination of factors: warming ocean temperatures, acidification, rising sea levels, erosion, pollution, coastal development, offshore oil and gas drilling, dredging, boat groundings, propeller and anchor damage, unsustainable fishing activities, invasive species and infection and disease. Because the coral reefs are left at a delicate tipping point, a patchwork of restoration efforts, largely from marine conservation groups, have attempted to revitalize them. It is hoped this bill can help save the fragile ecosystem. Oxybenzone and octinoxate are harmful to corals. As documented by a NOAA study published in the journal Environmental Contamination and Toxicology , they damage coral DNA, beget aberrant growth and defective development in young coral, exacerbate coral bleaching vulnerabilities and ultimately prevent the coral from reproducing properly. Because both oxybenzone and octinoxate accumulate in coral tissue, the coral become highly susceptible to infection and disease, likewise culminating in reef degradation. Critics complain the new legislation will increase skin cancer risks; however, the bill’s proponents argue for a shift toward “reef-friendly” alternative sunscreens. The National Park Service , for instance, recommends “titanium oxide or zinc oxide, which are natural mineral ingredients.” Neither titanium oxide nor zinc oxide have been found to be harmful to coral reefs, making both appealing as eco-friendly substitutes. Via CNN Image via Shutterstock

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Proposed Florida bill could require prescription for sunscreens in effort to save coral reefs

Use texture, height and variety to create pizzazz in your small garden this fall

October 18, 2019 by  
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As the crisp, misty mornings of fall greet the day, autumn colors emerge across the landscape. Meanwhile, your garden and flower pots begin to look barren and colorless as annuals die off and perennials go dormant for the upcoming winter. In most areas, though, there is still plenty of life left in the fall, even in the smallest spaces around your home. With a bit of planning, you can bring a new season of life to your porch, patio or balcony, even during the short days of fall. To get started, follow these tips for color, variety, texture and height variation. Color Fall is synonymous with falling leaves and bare trees, leaving a trail of red, orange and yellow along the roads. You can match the colors associated with the season using pumpkin decor, rusty red or gold mums, plants that produce berries, ornamental grasses and plants that retain their colorful leaves until late into the season. Grab a journal and list some plants common to your area that offer complementary colors. Then, add in some accents, like prolific white mums, silver-leaved herbs such as sage and evergreens like boxwood for a stable green color. On that note, remember that evergreens are a delightful option for every season and make a nice backdrop to seasonal plants that you can swap out every few months. This gives you a lot of options year-round, even with limited space. Related: 11 unique edible plants for your garden Variety Along with the plan for color comes a blueprint for variety. Your preference might be to have window boxes full of a single varietal. If so, great! If not, choose plants that contrast each other throughout the space. Include plants with different types of leaves, heights and lifespans. Put some in the window box, but surround it with potted plants, shrubs, trees and even an ever-changing vase of fresh wildflowers. Just be sure to choose options that can be pruned to stay small or are naturally compact. Even your planters can add to the variety in texture and color. Use galvanized buckets or watering cans mixed with colorful ceramic pots and a miniature wheelbarrow. Insert a glass vase with bamboo , surround plants with an old tire or carve out a pumpkin for a naturally-compostable planter. Use bronze, terracotta or copper to add to the fall color palette, and make them really stand out by surrounding them with white rocks. Texture Plants in nature vary from each other as much as the human face or fingerprint. Embrace that diversity to feed the need for visual appeal. After all, your garden space, no matter how small, should bring you pleasure. Mix it up — bring in some spiky leaves and balance those with the dainty Sweet Alyssum. Throw in some curvy-edged flowering kale, and place it next to your Aster that still might be in bloom, attracting bees and butterflies well into the season. Height Nothing adds variety and depth like a display of flowers, plants and shrubs of varying heights. This can be accomplished using supports or props. For example, use a window box. Then, place a table beneath it with potted plants ranging from tiny succulents to larger herbs . On the ground, add another layer of potted or planted options. Mix in small trees and shrubs if your space allows. You can also choose plants that are all planted in the same bed with diverse heights. Just plant the tallest selections in the back, so they don’t obscure the view of the lower-to-the-ground superstars behind them. Depending on how much space you have, you might include a dwarf conifer, Dogwood or slow-growing Japanese Maple. For very small spaces , use pots to contain purple fountain grass, croton and other plants. Also, use those long-lasting summer climbers to your advantage. Create height with the hops over the pergola, grapes covering the arbor or ivy up the pillars in the front of the house. Placement Another planning consideration includes the placement of your plants. For a back patio or areas where you still spend a lot of time outdoors in the fall, create clusters of texture or color along the edges. Plant a tree just off the edge of the deck and surround it with seasonal potted plants that sit on the deck, creating a vignette of eye-catching cohesion. If you spend most of your time next to the window near the front porch, invest in color within the frame of the window. For an upstairs office, load up the window box. If you’re going for curb appeal, make sure to include border plants to pull the look together. A simple display of a few potted chrysanthemums with some decorative gourds can spice up the entrance to your home. Hanging baskets are another option that complement your decor in any season and work in any space, large or small. Small gardens might present some challenges, but with the right plant selections, you can create spaces that bring visual interest and life to your balcony or patio throughout the seasons. Images via Shutterstock

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Use texture, height and variety to create pizzazz in your small garden this fall

New study reveals the Great Barrier Reef is struggling to produce new coral

April 5, 2019 by  
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The Great Barrier Reef is struggling to create new coral. Scientists at James Cook University just published a study that shows a shocking decrease in the number of baby coral last year, leading to uncertainty about the future of the reef system. The study revealed that new coral declined by a shocking 89 percent because of large bleaching events in 2016 and 2017 — which were caused by climate change . The last bleaching happened in 2017, and scientists counted how many coral survived the crisis and how many new coral sprung up in 2018. Related: Loophole allows 1M tons of sludge to be dumped on Great Barrier Reef Not only were the numbers extremely low compared to historical counts, but the types of new coral being produced are different as well. According to The Guardian , scientists are worried about the health of the reef, especially if it experiences another bleaching event in the next decade. The reef has survived the previous two bleaching incidents, but a third could do irreparable damage to the world’s largest reef system. “We’ve told the story of coral dying, we’ve told the story of some being winners and losers. Now we’ve got the next phase where species have a chance to recover ,” Terry Hughes, the lead scientist in the study, shared. The Great Barrier Reef would probably recover just fine if it weren’t for the threat of future bleaching. In areas that were hit the hardest in 2016 and 2017, the growth of new coral was slowed to only 2 percent. Those rates have since rebounded to 4 percent, but to fully recover, there would need to be no bleaching events for the next decade. Given that  global warming is not really slowing down, this is highly unlikely. Despite the negative outlook, scientists believe the Great Barrier Reef can still recover. Their biggest concern is that the recovery process will take a lot longer than previously thought. If the reef recovers, there is also worry that it will be unable to sustain those numbers against additional bleaching events. Hopefully, the Great Barrier Reef will not witness any bleaching in the near future, so it can withstand the effects of climate change and fully flourish. Via The Guardian Image via Matt Kieffer

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New study reveals the Great Barrier Reef is struggling to produce new coral

Loophole allows 1M tons of sludge to be dumped on Great Barrier Reef

February 26, 2019 by  
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The world’s largest coral reef is facing a major sludge crisis. Australia’s Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority just approved the dumping of one million tons of sludge on the delicate reef system thanks to a loophole in the country’s law. Marine officials say that port industries have the right to dump waste that is dredged from the ocean floor wherever they want, including over the Great Barrier Reef . Environmentalists are concerned that the sludge will “smother” the reef and are looking to dump the waste elsewhere. Related: University of Queensland wants to drop “bommies” on the Great Barrier Reef “The last thing the reef needs is more sludge dumped on it, after being slammed by the floods recently,” Larissa Waters, co-head of the Greens Party, explained. “One million tons of dumping dredged sludge into world heritage waters treats our reef like a rubbish tip.” According to  BBC , Waters warned that if the sludge is dumped directly over the reef, it could have devastating effects on the ecosystem, which is already coping with global warming and recent flooding in the area. The majority of the sludge is being removed from ocean floors in Hay Point Port — a region that leads the world in coal exports. Although environmentalists are concerned about dumping one million tons of sludge on the Great Barrier Reef, officials with the North Queensland Bulk Ports Corporation do not believe it is an issue. The company just released a statement online about how the sludge dump will have a low impact on the coral reef and will only affect it in the short-term. The closer the sludge is dumped on the coral reef, the worse it will affect it in the long-term. Experts believe that if the sludge is placed farther out, then it will have less of an impact on the coral reef. That said, the waste still contains trace metals, which can harm the delicate ecosystem. The sludge controversy comes a year after Australia promised to dedicate $500 million AUD to preserve the Great Barrier Reef. Over the past few years, the coral reef has been reduced by 30 percent, mostly due to an invasive species of starfish called the crown-of-thorns and significant coral bleaching. Via BBC Image via Kyle Taylor

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Loophole allows 1M tons of sludge to be dumped on Great Barrier Reef

University of Queensland wants to drop "bommies" on the Great Barrier Reef

July 25, 2018 by  
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Experts at the University of Queensland are experimenting with a new way of saving Australia’s Great Barrier Reef – one of the most endangered natural environments on the planet – and their strategy might surprise you. Researchers in the university’s Civil Engineering and Biological Sciences department have been salvaging portions of dead coral and recycling them into new structures. They hope that the project will not only protect still-active parts of the reef, but restore it with new life as well. University scientists are collaborating with engineering, science and technology consulting firm BMT to create netted structures that contain unstable rubble made up of dead coral, with the goal of transforming them into bombora. Bombora, or “bommies” as Australians have dubbed them, are large pillars of coral that serve as a habitat for myriad fish species and – when strategically positioned – may help repair the reef in a natural, non-invasive manner. Related: Australia is investing over $377 million to save the Great Barrier Reef The team has received funding from the Australian and Queensland governments that will allow it to commence pilot testing on the project. If the reef is not aided by external forces, it may not be able to survive the coral bleaching events of 2016 and 2017. While other projects have been suggested, including using giant fans in an attempt to cool down reef waters or developing films to shield the coral from increased sunlight exposure, the bommies would represent a more sustainable and natural endeavor. Professor Tom Baldock, who is working on the project, explains, “on a healthy reef, the wave energy is reduced by the coral structure, enabling broken coral to naturally bind to form a stable layer, initially through the growth of crustose coralline algae, or CCA. CCA helps bind coral rubble together to create the framework for reefs and releases chemicals which attract free-swimming coral larvae.” The research team is working hard in their race against the clock to establish this organic foundation and protect one of the Earth’s most beautiful yet endangered habitats. +University of Queensland Via NewAtlas

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University of Queensland wants to drop "bommies" on the Great Barrier Reef

Colombia to produce free chocolate deforestation-free, that is…

July 25, 2018 by  
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You’ll soon be able to enjoy your chocolate guilt-free. Colombia has become the first Latin American country and the third country in the world to commit to deforestation-free cocoa production. The government signed a pledge with the Cocoa and Forests Initiative, a movement intent on achieving this goal throughout all cocoa-producing nations. The country hopes to achieve this monumental goal in just under two years. The Casa Luker company, a cornerstone brand in Colombian chocolate manufacturing, has joined the pledge along with the National Cocoa Federation, and the initiative is spearheaded by the World Cocoa Foundation. These organizations are committed to helping Colombia achieve deforestation-free chocolate production by the year 2020. Colombia will join other member-nations Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana , making it the third country to engage in the anti-deforestation effort. Related: Australia’s rampant deforestation is killing koalas In 2017, Colombia faced “one of the most drastic losses of tree cover in the world,” according to Mongabay . In total, tropical countries lost forest grounds approximately the size of Bangladesh, and Colombia experienced a 46 percent rise in deforestation from the previous calendar year, losing about 1,640 square miles (or 4,250 square kilometers) of greenery. Not wanting this degradation to continue, the Colombian government has agreed to a Framework for Action subsisting of “11 core commitments, which include preventing deforestation and forest degradation; promoting the conservation of protected areas; respecting the rights of cocoa farmers and minimizing adverse social and economic impacts monitoring and reporting on the progress on commitments; ensuring transparency and accountability; and providing support to sustainable markets for cocoa products.” Related: First newly-developed chocolate in 80 years is made from Ruby cocoa beans Enthusiastic about the progress, Eduard Baquero López, president of the National Cocoa Federation, said, “There are many inspiring examples of cocoa production leading to forest protection and restoration; we wish to gain greater global market access for Colombia’s cocoa, which has such a distinctive quality and which is rare in contributing both to forest protection and to the peace. We hope the global consumer will come to enjoy their chocolate even more when they learn it protects the forests and delivers the peace!” + World Cocoa Foundation Via Mongabay

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Scientists create ‘umbrella’ spray to protect coral reefs from sun damage

March 27, 2018 by  
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Researchers have crafted a new liquid substance that can be sprayed onto the surface of the water above vulnerable coral reefs , shielding them from intense UV and visible light beaming down from the Sun . In doing so, the spray may help to defend reefs from extreme bleaching events. 50,000 times thinner than a human hair, the biodegradable spray is made from a natural lipid and calcium carbonate, a key component of coral reefs. “It is white so it reflects and scatters all the light which hits the ocean surface,” study researcher Andrew Negri told the Sydney Morning Herald . Laboratory tests revealed that the spray was capable of reducing the amount of light reaching underwater coral by 20 percent. “In the laboratory, it actually stays on the surface for several weeks, but in the ocean it could be broken up by wave action and moved around by the currents,” explained Negri. The spray will quickly biodegrade after it is broken up. Trials in a real-world environment will begin soon to refine the spray and make it more resilient to sometimes turbulent waters . Related: Spraying spiders with graphene helps them spin webs 6 times stronger than normal Conservationists are enthused about the idea of using the spray to protect acute vulnerabilities in coral reefs. “The idea being that you could in the future, knowing there is going to be hot days ahead… spray this film on top of key reefs… and this will act as a bit of a shield… almost like an umbrella, to protect these reefs underneath and the animals underneath,” Great Barrier Reef Foundation managing director Anna Marsden told the Sydney Morning Herald . “It’s important to note that this is not intended to be a solution that can be applied over the whole 348,000 square kilometres of Great Barrier Reef ,” Marsden noted. “That would never be practical, but it could be deployed on a smaller, local level to protect high value or high-risk areas of reef.” Via The Sydney Morning Herald Images via Depositphotos (2 , 3 )

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Scientists create ‘umbrella’ spray to protect coral reefs from sun damage

Rising ocean temperatures are cooking the Great Barrier Reef to death

April 10, 2017 by  
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Australia’s Great Barrier Reef offers dramatic evidence of the reality of climate change . Scientists have found an astonishing two-thirds of the reef undergoing mass coral bleaching as warmer ocean temperatures are basically boiling them to death. James Kerry, a scientist with the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies , told CNN when ocean temperatures are hot for long periods of time, corals don’t simply bleach but “cook and they die very quickly.” 2016 saw a bleaching event that was the worst coral die-off we’ve ever recorded, and now a 2017 event makes matters worse. ARC Centre director Terry Hughes said the impact of back-to-back bleaching sprawls across 900 miles; only the southern third of the Great Barrier Reef is unharmed. It’s the second time in only 12 months scientists have recorded mass bleaching in the reef after aerial surveys. Related: Great Barrier Reef bleaching is the “worst coral die-off” in recorded history And 2017’s bleaching can’t be explained away by El Niño . Hughes said the bleaching “is caused by record-breaking temperatures driven by global warming .” The Great Barrier Reef has experienced severe bleaching in 1998, 2002, and now 2016 and 2017, according to scientists. Kerry said bleached corals don’t always die, but take at least a decade to make a full recovery, so with back-to-back bleaching they expect coral loss. Tropical Cyclone Debbie didn’t help either. The storm may have left damage in its wake when it hit part of the Great Barrier Reef at the end of March. Hughes said in a statement, “Clearly the reef is struggling with multiple impacts. Without a doubt the most pressing of these is global warming. As temperatures continue to rise the corals will experience more and more of these events: one degree Celsius of warming so far has already caused four events in the past 19 years. Ultimately we need to cut carbon emissions , and the window to do so is rapidly closing.” Via the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies and CNN Images via Bette Willis and Ed Roberts/ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies

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Great Barrier Reef bleaching is the "worst coral die-off" in recorded history

November 30, 2016 by  
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The health of the Great Barrier Reef is widely thought to be an indicator for the state of the Earth’s marine ecosystems, and the announcement made Tuesday that the reef is currently experiencing the worst coral die-off in recorded history doesn’t bode well for the rest of our waters. The depressing conclusion was reached after evaluating data collected during more than 900 dives along the 1,400-mile reef. When coral is exposed to too much warm water, it dies, thus transforming from a vibrant display of colorful creatures to a white or greyish skeleton. Its light color is known as “coral bleaching,” and researchers are recording ever larger spans of the reef where this phenomenon is taking place. On Tuesday, Prof. Terry Hughes, director of the ARC Center of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at James Cook University in Queensland, said on Tuesday that around two-thirds of the shallow-water coral on the reef’s 430-mile northern stretch is now dead, but the survival rates in the middle and southern parts of the reef are much better. Related: No, the Great Barrier Reef isn’t dead – but it is damaged “The good news is that in the south, only about 1 percent of the reef’s coral has died, and the mortality rate in the middle is about 6 percent,” Hughes said. “But in the north, mortality rates are very high, and in some places where coral has survived but it has weakened, the per capita predation rate has gone through the roof.” Hughes noted that this is the third major bleaching event to hit the Great Barrier Reef, and that while some sections of the reef are still thriving, their fate remains uncertain. Increasing warming trends in ocean water currents pose higher and higher future threat to the remaining living coral, not to mention the other creatures living in and around the reef. In response to the issue, the Australian government is putting about $33.6 million into efforts to protect the reef, by improving water quality and reducing sediment runoff. Australian leaders may petition the United Nations to declare the Great Barrier Reef an “in danger” site, a move the international coalition has stopped short of in recent years. Via NYT Images via ARC Center of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies

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Great Barrier Reef bleaching is the "worst coral die-off" in recorded history

Croatian freshwater aquarium by 3LHD is built right into the hillside

November 30, 2016 by  
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Designers at 3LHD transformed an abandoned campsite into a unique hillside aquarium in Karlovac, Croatia . Freshwater fish and plant life are featured at the aquarium to give the public a deeper understanding of the area’s ecosystems . The educational center and its nearby shops are located both alongside and underneath the natural hillside, covered in green grass as a sign of unity with the surrounding habitat. The Karlovac aquarium sits alongside the river Korana, where a diverse array of wildlife flourishes. 3LHD derived inspiration for the center’s design from the revered “Karlovac star”, upon which many buildings and city structures are based. Visitors can stroll through the open center of the attraction to reach the gift shop, reading room, and cafe bar, which is accessible by strategically placed, multidirectional walkways. Related: South America’s largest aquarium boasts a 650-foot underwater tunnel Once guests walk inside, they are greeted by a symbolic river exhibit that displays the full biodiversity of the area. Surface waters give way to deeper aquariums on the lower level, where species no longer flourishing in the area can be found. On the other side of the tunnel, marshlands are displayed with lilies and rushes, which eventually give way to a climactic collection of waterfalls. The entire center is an experience unlike any other aquarium – an educational story told from beginning to end. The Karlovac aquarium is co-financed by the European Regional Development Fund . Scientific research facilities and fish acclimatization spaces can be found on site, proving the center’s dedication to preserving the natural state of the surrounding ecosystems. +3LHD Via World Architecture News Images via 3LHD

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Croatian freshwater aquarium by 3LHD is built right into the hillside

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