Pacific heat wave threatens coral reefs in Hawaii and other regions

September 25, 2019 by  
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Researchers predict a major marine heat wave in the Pacific Ocean could prove disastrous to the fragile coral reefs along Hawaii’s Papa Bay and similar coastlines. Warmer water conditions often trigger coral bleaching, a condition that leaves coral reefs susceptible to mortality. Coral reefs play a very significant environmental and ecological role. As a habitat, for instance, they support many species in the marine environment. Coral reefs likewise serve as a protective barrier, buffering shorelines against deleterious wave action, especially during typhoon season, to minimize coastal damage and to prevent erosion. Healthy reefs contribute to local economies, particularly through tourism as well as commercial and recreational fishing. Related: ‘The Blob’ returns — marine heatwave settles over Pacific Unfortunately, when water is too warm, coral become stressed. They consequently expel the algae , or zooxanthellae, that live in their tissues. In doing so, coral turn white, a condition known as bleaching. Prolonged loss of the algae eventually leads to the coral’s demise. When coral reefs are compromised, the loss cascades, often causing far-reaching ecosystem repercussions. Back in 2015, a prominent marine heat wave eliminated half of the Papa Bay coastline’s coral reefs that surround Hawaii’s Big Island. This year, marine scientists associated with NOAA similarly predict that another round of very warm water will occur in the region once again. “In 2015, we hit temperatures that we’ve never recorded ever in Hawaii ,” NOAA oceanographer Jamison Gove said. “What is really important — or alarming, probably more appropriately — about this event is that we’ve been tracking above where we were this time in 2015.” Earlier this September, NOAA researchers warned of the Blob’s return. The Blob — the moniker coined by Washington state climatologist Nick Bond during the 2015 heat wave — describes the vast expanse of unusually warm water that occurred in the Pacific Ocean from 2014 to 2016. It adversely impacted coral reefs, causing global bleaching and diminished coastal fisheries’ yields throughout the Pacific. To date, this year’s Blob is reportedly the second-largest marine heat wave ever recorded in the past 40 years, just behind the 2014 – 2016 Blob. As a result, forecasts anticipate an even warmer October, which could critically undermine the coral that are still recovering from the first Blob. “Temperatures have been warm for quite a long time,” Gove continued.  “It’s not just how hot it is — it’s how long those ocean temperatures stay warm.” While scientists are not yet able to pinpoint the exact causes for ocean temperatures warming, it is believed human-influenced climate change is a salient factor. Restoration efforts are in the works. Research suggests coral can be conditioned to withstand future onslaught of warmer water. Both scientists and coral hobbyists are on a mission to breed “super corals” resilient enough to avoid bleaching. It is hoped the introduction of these “super corals” into the environment will fortify reefs to better evolve amidst global warming conditions. Via Associated Press Images via Terri Stewart and NOAA

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Pacific heat wave threatens coral reefs in Hawaii and other regions

Honda makes largest renewable energy purchase of any automaker

September 25, 2019 by  
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Multinational auto manufacturer Honda Motor Company, headquartered in Tokyo, recently made the largest renewable clean energy purchase by any car maker. The electricity will be utilized to offset emissions from its United States factories, thus enabling Honda to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 60 percent in its North American manufacturing plants. With widespread public debate and mounting regulatory pressures, automakers have no choice but to shift their business models to address the carbon dioxide reduction challenge. It is no wonder then that a growing number of automobile companies are turning to renewables, like wind and solar, to achieve sustainable returns. Related: Beautiful, solar-powered EV charging stations promise to charge a vehicle in 15 minutes According to Honda, it currently obtains about 21 percent of its North American operations’ power from low- or zero-emission power sources.  But it hopes to improve upon that, thanks to clinching the car industry’s largest renewable energy purchase. Honda’s new clean energy deal involves the purchase of wind power from an Oklahoma wind farm as well as sourcing energy from a Texas solar farm. Projections show that, with this clean energy purchase, Honda can annually offset 800,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions. That’s equal to “100,000 U.S. households’ worth of CO2-emissions from household energy usage,” as described in Honda’s press release. Honda revealed, “Two Virtual Power Purchase Agreements (VPPAs) will secure 320 megawatts (MW) of wind and solar power totaling over 1 million megawatt-hours (MWh) of renewable electricity annually.” How do VPPAs operate? Honda explained that VPPAs are “a way for Honda to purchase renewable energy in locations where it is unable to purchase renewables from the local electric utility.” The automaker buys “electricity from a renewable energy supplier, but the clean energy does not go directly to Honda’s facilities; instead, it is sold into the electricity grid where the clean power is generated.” In effect, Honda’s ‘virtual purchase’ of that “renewable energy adds more clean energy into the nation’s grid,” which decreases fossil fuel dependency and any accompanying carbon dioxide emissions. Honda’s VPPA purchase essentially “de-carbonizes” the electricity grid. Analysts say VPPAs are becoming an ever-popular means for large corporations seeking to meet carbon dioxide emission reduction goals.  Tech giants, like Google and Microsoft, for instance, have historically purchased VPPAs as well. Business industry pundits forecast an uptick of VPPA procurements in the next couple of years as renewable energy policy intensifies. Aligned with its revitalized green mission, Honda’s long-term plans go far beyond clean energy purchases, as it continues its commitment to sustainability. The company similarly announced plans to electrify two-thirds of its manufactured vehicular fleet so that they are charged via renewable energy by 2030. + Honda Motor Company Image via Honda Motor Company

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Honda makes largest renewable energy purchase of any automaker

Earth911 Podcast, Dec. 20, 2018: The Oceanic Society Celebrates Living Coral

December 21, 2018 by  
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The Oceanic Society is celebrating Pantone‘s Color of the Year … The post Earth911 Podcast, Dec. 20, 2018: The Oceanic Society Celebrates Living Coral appeared first on Earth911.com.

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Earth911 Podcast, Dec. 20, 2018: The Oceanic Society Celebrates Living Coral

Maya Bay closes following extensive environmental damage from tourists

October 11, 2018 by  
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The Thai beach that Leonardo DiCaprio made famous in his 2000 movie The Beach is closing indefinitely thanks to the damage caused by millions of tourists . Maya Bay, one of the most popular destinations in the world, is a small beach with silky sands and crystal blue water surrounded by cliffs on Ko Phi Phi Leh island. But over the years, it has sustained such massive environmental damage from pollution that authorities have closed it for at least a year. The movie may not have been a hit for DiCaprio, but the film’s location became so popular for tourists that up to 5,000 people and 200 boats visited each day. Thai authorities had originally announced they would close Maya Bay for four months. They have extended the plan to at least a year because of the extent of the destruction. Litter, boats and sunscreen have caused so much pollution, it has destroyed over 80 percent of the coral around the bay. Related: University of Queensland wants to drop “bommies” on the Great Barrier Reef “We have evaluated each month and found out that the ecological system was seriously destroyed from tourism of up to 5,000 people daily,” said Songtam Suksawang, the director of Thailand’s national parks department. “It’s very difficult to remedy and rehabilitate because its beach was completely destroyed as well as the plants which cover it.” He added that there had been evidence of damage to Maya Bay for years, but the government was reluctant to close it down because of the amount of annual revenue it generates — 400 million baht (about $12.3 million). Thailand’s department of national parks, wildlife and plant conservation has said it will not lift the tourism restriction until the ecosystem “fully recovers to a normal situation.” According to The Guardian, this is a relief for local environmental activists who had argued that closing for just four months wasn’t enough. It will take years for the reef to be fully restored, because coral only grows about half a centimeter each year. Worapoj Lomlin, Maya Bay park chief, said the parks agency has already planted more than 1,000 corals to help rehabilitate the reefs, and the team will continue to expand the project. Via The Guardian Image via Joan and Mohd Fazlin Mohd Effendy Ooi

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Belize Barrier Reef recovers and is removed from UNESCO ‘In Danger’ list

June 28, 2018 by  
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Thanks to a comprehensive conservation effort, the exceptionally diverse Belize Barrier Reef has recovered so much that it has been removed from the UNESCO List of World Heritage in Danger sites. “At a time when we are seeing numerous threats to World Heritage sites, Belize’s government has taken real action to protect one of the world’s most special places,” World Wildlife Fund International director general Marco Lambertini told EcoWatch . “We have seen an incredible turnaround from when the reef was being threatened by seismic testing for oil just 18 months ago.” The decision to remove the Belize Barrier Reef from the ‘In Danger’ sites list arrives five months after Belize passed legislation banning all oil exploratory activity in its waters. The second largest reef system in the world, the Belize Barrier Reef provides habitat for 1,400 species, including vulnerable species of shark , sea turtle and manatee. The reef also provides food and economic opportunity for almost half of Belize’s population while serving as a natural barrier against extreme weather. First classified as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1996, it was later added to the In Danger list in 2009 in response to increased oil exploration activity and damaging coastal construction. Related: Belize votes to indefinitely end all oil exploration in its waters As a result of a coordinated worldwide campaign, Belize, one of only three countries to ban all offshore oil exploration, put its barrier reef under protection. That effort is already bearing fruit. “Belizeans stood up to protect their reef, with hundreds of thousands more globally joining the campaign to save our shared heritage,” Lambertini said. “In taking swift collaborative action, Belize has shown that it is possible to reverse nature loss and create a sustainable future.” Belize is aiming to take its conservation to the next level by considering bans on single-use plastic products that threaten marine life . Via EcoWatch Images via Heath Alseike and Ruth

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Belize Barrier Reef recovers and is removed from UNESCO ‘In Danger’ list

World’s first beluga whale sanctuary will welcome new arrivals

June 28, 2018 by  
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In 2019, two beluga whales, named Little Grey and Little White, will be transported from the Changfeng Ocean World aquarium in Shanghai to the world’s first whale sanctuary in a protected bay in Iceland . Established by the SEA LIFE Trust in collaboration with the Whale and Dolphin Conservation , the 32,000-square-meter Beluga Whale Sanctuary site was chosen for its sub-arctic climate and seclusion. “It’s really important for Little White and Little Grey, providing them with a more natural home in which to live out the rest of their lives,” head of the SEA LIFE Trust Andy Bool told Reuters . The whales are already being prepped for their journey and the colder waters of their new home through exercises designed to increase their strength and their ability to hold their breath underwater. With its stores of blubber and echolocation refined for finding holes in the sea ice through which to breathe, the beluga whale is well adapted to Arctic waters. The beluga is also a very social animal, typically living in groups of up to 10, though gatherings of hundreds or thousands of whales can occur in summer. While the species as a whole is not considered threatened, populations in certain regions, such as the Cook Inlet in Alaska , are endangered. Related: A beluga whale living with dolphins learned to “speak their language” In addition to their exercise regimen, Little Grey and Little White, both 12-year-old females, will be fed increased calories and gradually eased into using a stretcher, with which they will be restrained for part of their journey to their new home. Those who have made this sanctuary possible hope that it will set an example for other wildlife entertainment parks to release their animals into the wild. Whale and Dolphin Conservation captivity campaign manager Cathy Williamson told Reuters , “We believe this will inspire other facilities to move their belugas and other whales and dolphins to sanctuaries in other parts of the world.” + SEA LIFE Trust + Whale and Dolphin Conservation Via Reuters Images via Salva Barbera and Sheila Sund

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Save the Coral Reefs with the Right Sunscreen

March 30, 2018 by  
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Getting outside comes with a host of health benefits, but … The post Save the Coral Reefs with the Right Sunscreen appeared first on Earth911.com.

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Newly-discovered hermit crab species uses living coral as shells

October 19, 2017 by  
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For the first time ever, a hermit crab has been documented to have found its “forever” home. Off the coast of Japan , a new species of the crab has partnered with a living coral. The coral grows as the crab ages, which means it has no need to continue searching for a bigger shell to live in. Unlike its counterparts, this new species has a perfectly symmetrical body to fit the coral that grows with it. The discovery of the Diogenes heteropsammicola  is described in the journal PLOS ONE . This is the first species of hermit crab to live within “walking coral,” a free-living variety of coral that grows as tiny lumps on the sea floor. This relationship has been witnessed before, but usually between the peanut worm (or more formally, a sipunculan) and the living coral. Because the coral protects the worm and the worm carries the coral around the sea floor, it is considered to be a mutually beneficial partnership . Both species are in sync with each other, as their relationship has evolved for thousands of years. Related: How We Harvest Horseshoe Crab Blood to Save Human Lives As IFLScience points out, that makes this latest discovery even more amazing — and unusual. It is relatively unheard of for one species to diversify to include other organisms , such as the coral has done with the hermit crab. This is because the initial partnership often requires an extraordinary amount of specialization. Nonetheless, the coral has accepted the crab, likely because the crustacean carries the coral around the sea floor and prevents it from being covered in sediment. In turn, the coral protects the small creature. This is definitely an improvement upon hermit crabs adopting discarded bottles and pollution as their new homes. + PLOS ONE Via IFLScience Images via  Momoko Igawa,  Igawa et al. 2017

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No, the Great Barrier Reef isnt dead – but it is damaged

October 17, 2016 by  
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Last week, social media users from around the world were shocked and horrified to find the Great Barrier Reef had been “declared dead” in a viral symbolic obituary from Outside Magazine. There was only one problem: the premise of the article isn’t actually true, and scientists have been scrambling to correct the record in the following days. What is true is that the reef is struggling due to climate change, and needs urgent help if it’s going to survive. Earlier this year, a shocking 93% of the reef began experiencing a phenomenon known as “bleaching,” which occurs when warm ocean temperatures stress the reef, causing the tiny colored algae living within the coral organisms to become ejected. Without the algae, the coral eventually dies. In fact, this is what’s recently happened to about 22% of the coral on the reef. While this is the worst mass bleaching event on record, the majority of the reef is still alive and struggling. Related: This startling video shows coral bleaching in action The viral obituary has marine scientists scrambling to correct the record. In a statement to the Huffington Post , Russell Brainard, chief of the Coral Reef Ecosystem Program at NOAA’s Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center, expressed his frustration. While the article may have been a well-intentioned attempt to highlight the urgency of the situation, he worries that people will take it at face value and assume that there’s no work to be done to save what’s left of the reef. In fact, there is reason for hope: one study last year found that even after massive bleaching events, it is possible for reefs to fully recover. However, it’s a slow process that requires stable conditions to occur — something the reef may not have if bleaching events continue to occur at a faster and faster rate. Related: More than one-third of the coral is dead in parts of Great Barrier Reef If we don’t act soon to protect our oceans, we may see the world’s coral reefs perish for real. The driving cause of coral mass bleaching events is climate change , and if global temperatures continue to rise, we will reach a point at which coral simply can’t survive. That’s why it’s so important to vote for candidates with a strong environmental record, write to our representatives, and do what we can to reduce our individual carbon footprint . Via Slashdot Images via Wikipedia and Oregon State University

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No, the Great Barrier Reef isnt dead – but it is damaged

This startling video shows coral bleaching in action

August 18, 2016 by  
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Rising ocean temperatures have prompted devastating coral bleaching in Australia’s Great Barrier Reef – and in some sections, at least 35 percent of bleached coral has died. Now scientists at the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) have scrutinized just how coral reacts to hotter temperatures in controlled conditions, and caught the process on film. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7bjamypAq9Y Scientists Brett Lewis and Luke Nothdurft put Heliofungia actiniformis coral in a 10 liter “aquarium system” to see how the coral would respond as they heated the water. Over 12 hours, they increased water temperatures from 26 degrees Celsius to 32 degrees Celsius, or about 78.8 degrees Fahrenheit up to 89.6 degrees Fahrenheit. They kept the coral in the system for around eight days. Related: Great Barrier Reef coral bleaching is now more widespread than ever The coral spewed Symbiodinium algae that live in them and provide the brilliant colors we’re used to seeing in coral reefs. The algae also generate sugars consumed by the coral. Expelling algae under the duress of hot temperatures can help the coral to survive – Lewis said “rapid expulsion” could increase the coral’s chance of survival. It’s possible for coral to regain the algae and their vivid colors if conditions improve, but if ocean temperatures don’t return to normal levels and the algae doesn’t recolonize, the coral can die. Scientists have been aware of this expulsion process, but the QUT team’s video is the first to show the eviction in action. Lewis said in a press release, “What’s really interesting is just how quickly and violently the coral forcefully evicted its resident symbionts. The H. actiniformis began ejecting the symbionts within the first two hours of us raising the water temperature of the system.” Northdurft said coral bleaching is a “concern for scientists globally.” The journal Coral Reefs published their research online earlier this month. + Queensland University of Technology

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This startling video shows coral bleaching in action

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