Pilot whale dies in Thailand with more than 17 pounds of plastic in its stomach

June 5, 2018 by  
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A small male pilot whale, found unable to breath or move in a canal in Thailand  last week, has died from large amounts of plastic clogging its digestive system. After being found near the Malaysia border, the pilot whale was treated by veterinarians while kept afloat by buoys and protected from harmful solar radiation by umbrellas. Despite days of effort, the whale ultimately passed away, but not before vomiting up five plastic bags. Upon post-mortem investigation, it was discovered that the whale had ingested more than 17 pounds of plastic, including 80 shopping bags, which had inhibited its ability to eat. Scientists believe that the pilot whale mistakenly identified plastic as food, eating it until full. “At some point their stomach fills up with trash and they can’t eat real food,” Regina Asmutis-Silvia, executive director for Whale and Dolphin Conservation’s North American operations, told National Geographic . “You’re not getting any nutrients in and you’ve basically completely clogged your digestive system.” This particular whale’s death is symbolic of a much larger problem plaguing marine life. “We have no idea how many animals aren’t showing up on a beach ,” Asmutis-Silvia said. “This is one pilot whale, this doesn’t consider other species. It’s symbolic at best, but it’s symbolic of an incredibly significant problem.” Related: Orca learns to mimic human speech for the first time About 18 billion pounds of plastic are dumped into oceans each year, while more than 300 marine animal species are known to have been killed by plastic pollution in Thailand’s waters. The Thai government has proposed enacting a tax on plastic bags to reduce the amount of plastic polluting the world’s waters. In addition to policy changes, individuals and communities are encouraged to fight plastic pollution by recycling and reducing their own plastic use. Saving the whales, which are known as the gardeners of the sea for their role in fertilizing oceanic ecosystems, is in humanity’s self interest. “It should be a huge red flag for us as a species,” warned Asmutis-Silvia, “that we need to stop killing ourselves.” Via National Geographic Images via Barney Moss and Ron Knight

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Pilot whale dies in Thailand with more than 17 pounds of plastic in its stomach

Transforming the Aral Sea’s dead zone into a forest could save lives

June 5, 2018 by  
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Once, the Aral Sea provided fish for the Karakalpak people of Uzbekistan . Today, it has dwindled to a mere 10 percent of its old size . Toxic chemicals in the sea bed, now exposed, have endangered human health . But saxaul trees could prevent wind from carrying contaminated sand into the air. Forestation specialist Orazbay Allanazarov told the BBC, “One fully grown saxaul tree can fix up to 10 tonnes of soil around its roots.” The plan is to cover the whole dried sea bed — millions of hectares — with trees. The Aral Sea began withering away in the 1960s as the Soviets diverted water for cotton fields from two main rivers flowing into the sea. As the volume of water in the sea slumped, the concentration of salt increased and poisoned fish. Almas Tolvashev, a former fisherman, told the BBC, “There were 250 ships here. I used to catch 600 to 700 kilos of fish every day. Now there is no sea.” Related: “It has totally changed how people feel:” new forest transforms former UK coal community And it wasn’t just the loss of fish that caused issues. Pesticides and herbicides from cotton plantations ended up in the sea. When it went dry, sandstorms picked up the toxic chemicals exposed on the sea bed and humans inhaled them — with dire consequences. The BBC pointed to one study that discovered the incidents of liver cancer doubled from 1981 to 1991. Locals experienced reduced fertility, stunted growth, elevated rates of cancer and heart and lung problems. Authorities didn’t acknowledge the Aral Sea’s disappearance until after the Soviet Union’s fall. Saxaul trees, a shrub-like tree native to central Asia’s deserts, are able to survive in salty, dry soil, and they could offer an answer. Workers have covered around half a million hectares of the desert with the trees — but there are more than three million hectares to go. The BBC said it could take 150 years to cultivate a forest at the current pace, but there’s hope the trees could improve quality of life for the Karakalpak people. “We are slow,” Allanazarov said. “We need to speed up the process. But for this we need more money, more foreign investment.” Via the BBC Images via Depositphotos (1, 2)

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Transforming the Aral Sea’s dead zone into a forest could save lives

Florida coral reefs plagued with mysterious disease

May 16, 2018 by  
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With coral reefs under threat worldwide, researchers in Florida are racing to understand and treat a mysterious disease that threatens to decimate the third-largest coral reef on Earth. Over the past four years, the as-yet unidentified, potentially bacterial disease has already had a significant impact on Florida’s coral species, half of which are fatally vulnerable to the disease. “When they’re affected by this, the tissue sloughs off the skeleton,” Erinn Muller, science director at Mote Marine Lab’s Center for Coral Reef Research and Restoration in the Florida Keys, explained to NPR . “And we see that once a coral is infected, it usually kills the entire coral, sometimes within weeks. And it doesn’t seem to stop.” After being hired by the State of Florida to study the health of coral reefs near Miami , scientist William Precht first observed the disease moving from coral to coral, with particularly devastating effects on star and brain coral. “This is essentially equivalent to a local extinction , an ecological extirpation of these species locally,” Precht told NPR . “And when you go out and swim on the reefs of Miami-Dade County today, it would be a very rare chance encounter that you’d see some of these three or four species.” Related: Scientists made a liquid ‘umbrella’ to protect coral reefs from sun damage Researchers at Mote Marine Lab are hard at work to determine how to protect coral from the mysterious disease . “Anything from… looking at chlorine-laced epoxy as an antiseptic, and even looking at how antibiotics interact with the disease,” Muller said. “Because if it is bacterial, then antibiotics would be a way to stop it.” Mote Marine Lab is also serving as a nursery for baby coral, which are released into the wild when they are ready. At this moment, the reefs under siege will need all the help they can get. “We’re really at a critical juncture right now, where we have corals left on the reef,” said Muller. “Before we lose more corals, now is the time to start making a change.” Via NPR Images via  NOAA National Ocean Service   (1)

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Florida coral reefs plagued with mysterious disease

2018 hurricane season may be worse than last year

May 16, 2018 by  
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Hurricanes Harvey , Irma  and Maria devastated communities in the southern U.S. and Puerto Rico in 2017, and together resulted in around $265 billion in damage. Will the U.S. and Caribbean face more brutal storms this year? Forecasts of 2018’s looming hurricane season predict it could be more active than average — and you can start preparing for it now. North Carolina State University  researchers report that 14 to 18 named tropical storms and hurricanes could form in the Atlantic basin in 2018. In comparison, the average for named storms from 1950 to 2017 was 11. The researchers said of 14 to 18 storms, seven to 11 could become hurricanes, in contrast to the average of six. Three to five storms could turn into major hurricanes. Researchers at Colorado State University anticipate similar numbers.  They forecasted 14 named storms, seven hurricanes and three major hurricanes in the Atlantic basin. Related: How to Prepare Your Home and Family for a Hurricane or Superstorm According to The Guardian and a study led by  Pacific Northwest National Laboratory that was  published earlier this month , Atlantic storms are intensifying quicker than they did 30 years ago. Colorado State researchers said there is a “slightly above-average probability for major hurricanes making landfall” in the Caribbean and the coastline of the continental U.S. The U.S. might not see the same levels of destruction this year, but people should still be prepared. “As is the case with all hurricane seasons, coastal residents are reminded that it only takes one hurricane making landfall to make it an active season for them,” Colorado State researchers said. “They should prepare the same for every season, regardless of how much activity is predicted.” Hurricane season runs from June 1 through November 30. You can start preparing right now — Inhabitat created a guide for getting your home and family ready for hurricanes and  superstorms . + North Carolina State University + Colorado State University Via The Guardian Images via Depositphotos (1, 2)

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2018 hurricane season may be worse than last year

Ocean heatwaves have risen by more than 50% since 1925

April 11, 2018 by  
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Oceanic heatwaves have increased by 54 percent since 1925, posing a major threat to aquatic ecosystems . In a study published in the journal Nature Communications , researchers outlined the cause and effects of underwater heatwaves and their future impact on the world’s oceans. According to researchers, “These trends can largely be explained by increases in mean ocean temperatures, suggesting that we can expect further increases in marine heatwave days under continued global warming.” As higher levels of greenhouse gases concentrate in the atmosphere, greater amounts of solar radiation are trapped on Earth — 95 percent of which is absorbed by the ocean . Much like the relationship between extreme weather and rising temperatures on land, as the mean average oceanic temperature rises, so too does the likelihood of extreme oceanic heating events. Because water is able to hold more heat than land, these extreme temperature events last longer than those caused by higher air temperatures. A recent example occurred in 2015, when ocean temperatures from Mexico to Alaska increased up to 10 degrees above average. Fifty documented whale deaths were recorded in this period, and many other marine animals suffered from the unusually hot water. Related: Researchers discover a completely new ocean zone swimming with new species To conduct the study, the research team gathered and analyzed data on sea surface temperatures from the past century, with recent decades producing the most accurate data. Given that the most useful data is from such a short time period, the team could not explicitly draw a causal link between anthropogenic climate change and oceanic heatwaves. They explained that the fluctuations may be due to natural temperature swings. Nonetheless, the researchers concluded that the notable increase in average oceanic temperature is absolutely affected by climate change . The scientists are most concerned that — in combination with other pressures such as acidification, overfishing , and pollution — fragile ecosystems could reach a tipping point by oceanic heatwaves and ultimately collapse. Via ZME Science Images via Depositphotos and Oliver et al.

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Deep freeze in the UK causes massive die-off of sea creatures

March 6, 2018 by  
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Scientists and conservationists in the United Kingdom have observed a mass die-off of invertebrate sea creatures as a result of recent frigid weather . “There was a 3C drop in sea temperature last week which will have caused animals to hunker down and reduce their activity levels,” Bex Lynam of the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust said in a statement . “This makes them vulnerable to rough seas – they became dislodged by large waves and washed ashore when the rough weather kicked in.” Tens of thousands of mostly dead animals covered the beaches of the Holderness coast in Yorkshire, as well as locations in Kent and Norfolk. The bizarre, tragic phenomenon is all the more unsettling in context; while Europe froze, the Arctic thawed in the dead of polar winter . Although most creatures washed ashore were dead, some lobsters survived the frost . Those lucky few are being gathered up and cared for before they will be releasing back into the wild. “This area is very important for shellfish and we work alongside fishermen to promote sustainable fisheries and protect reproductive stocks,” said Lynam. “It’s worth saving them so that they can be put back into the sea and continue to breed.” While some fish did perish, most of the dead were invertebrate species. “Larger animals such as dolphins are more mobile and can save themselves by swimming away when this sort of thing happens,” explained Lynam. Related: World’s first floating wind farm performing better than anticipated While a specific deep freeze cannot be blamed on climate change , climate scientists predict that these extreme weather events will become more frequent as the change accelerates. Beyond confronting climate change, there are steps that humans can take to protect marine life. “We can’t prevent natural disasters like this,” Norfolk Wildlife Trust’s senior living seas officer Dr. Lisa Bassey said in a statement . “But we can mitigate against declining marine life and the problems that humans cause by creating enough protected areas at sea and by ensuring that these sites are large enough and close enough to offer fish , crustaceans, dolphins and other marine life the protection they require to withstand natural events such as this.” Via The Guardian Images via Bex Lynham/Yorkshire Wildlife Trust

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Deep freeze in the UK causes massive die-off of sea creatures

Redesigned Flow Hive 2 snags whopping $13.6 million on Indiegogo

March 6, 2018 by  
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Record-smashing crowdfunding project Flow Hive offered honey on tap: a beehive that makes it easier for beekeepers to harvest honey. Over 50,000 Flow Hives have gone out to 130 countries around the world, and now the Australian father-son team behind the design are back. The pair redesigned their groundbreaking hive, drawing on customer feedback and adding brand new features, and took to Indiegogo again with the Flow Hive 2 for a campaign that was just 18,983 percent funded. Flow Hive 2’s design is simple: inside a body comprised of laser-cut sustainable Western red cedar rest Flow Frames, which Stuart Anderson and Cedar Anderson, father and son, describe as “the most revolutionary beekeeping invention since the Langstroth hive was designed in 1852.” The frames are partially built honeycomb: add bees to do their thing — covering the honeycomb in wax, completing the cells, filling them with honey, and capping with wax — and then, when it’s time to harvest the honey, beekeepers insert and turn a handle to allow channels to form inside. The honey flows down into a waiting jar with minimal disturbance to the bees, who “are left to be, still standing on their wax capping.” A few hours later the bees realize the honeycomb is empty and they get right back to work, busy as bees. Related: How a simple honey harvester demonstrates the sweet success of viral crowdfunding campaign The Flow Hive 2 features an adjustable hive stand making it easier to set up on uneven ground. A multi-functional tray helps beekeepers trap pests. Deeper handles, a ventilation control system, a harvesting shelf, and observation windows on both sides are among the other upgrades to the hive. Beekeepers can obtain around five-and-a-half to six-and-a-half-pounds of honey per frame. The Flow Hive 2 costs $932; earlybird backers snagged it for $699. The Indiegogo campaign is over, raising an incredible $13,662,173. But it seems Flow Hive’s journey is really just beginning. You can find out more on the campaign page or their website . + Flow Hive + Flow Hive 2 Indiegogo Image via Flow Hive

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Redesigned Flow Hive 2 snags whopping $13.6 million on Indiegogo

Climate change is draining the oceans of oxygen

February 16, 2017 by  
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A new study in the journal Nature has found that the amount of dissolved oxygen in the ocean is declining worldwide – and it’s a direct result of climate change. The paper was authored by researchers from GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research in Kiel, Germany, and found that the oceans of the world have lost more than two percent of their oxygen content between 1960 and 2010. However, the losses were not spread evenly across the globe – the Arctic Ocean, in particular, has suffered the sharpest decline. Why? Global warming . The major reason is that warm liquid holds onto dissolved gas less easily, but there are other factors at play as well. Ocean stratification is becoming a major issue – normally, oxygen enters the water at the surface and mixes down, but because warm water is less dense and doesn’t sink as rapidly, the oxygen-rich water closest to the surface simply floats instead. None of this is news to climate scientists. In fact, climate models have predicted this effect might happen for years. However, this is the first study to look at millions of ocean measurements and combine them into a single analysis, proving the effect is actually happening. Related: Ocean dead zone near African coast shows lowest oxygen levels ever recorded The oceans already naturally contain “oxygen minimum zones” which can’t support much marine life, usually occupying the middle depths of the ocean. Scientists fear this shift in oxygen levels may expand those areas, and potentially create “ dead zones ” in shallow areas, effectively reducing the habitat available for marine organisms. Worse yet, the situation may end up creating a feedback loop that could actually worsen climate change. These oceanic “dead zones” tend to be areas where microorganisms that produce greenhouse gasses like nitrous oxide thrive. The study is just one more piece of evidence showing that we need to take strong action to curb climate change immediately. Via The Washington Post Images via Wikipedia and Wikimedia Commons

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Adidas Teams with Nonprofit to Turn Plastic Pollution into Shoes

January 27, 2017 by  
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The world’s oceans are in big trouble. Each year, 8 million tons of plastic end up in the ocean, and it’s not just harming precious marine life — it’s hurting us as well. Plastic debris in the water absorbs dangerous pollutants, and as it breaks…

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Adidas Teams with Nonprofit to Turn Plastic Pollution into Shoes

Obama shuts down all pending permits for seismic testing in the Atlantic Ocean

January 9, 2017 by  
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Outgoing President Barack Obama made another last-minute effort to secure his environmental legacy last week, when he formally denied all pending permits to conduct seismic airgun blasting in the Altantic Ocean . The practice is used to search for oil and gas deposits below the ocean’s surface, but conservationists say it poses unique threats to the ocean’s wildlife, and that it can disrupt entire marine ecosystems. This new move not only protects vulnerable ecosystems from the direct effect of the tests – it also sends a message to oil and gas companies that new development in the Atlantic is not welcomed by the federal government or coastal communities. Seismic airgun testing is conducted by blasting intense bursts of compressed air into the ocean continuously for weeks or even months on end. The noise from these blasts is loud enough to be heard up to 2,500 miles away from the source and is intensely disruptive to many forms of marine life which depend on their ability to detect sound in order to communicate and survive – including fish, sea turtles, and whales. Some of these species , like the right whale , are critically endangered. This is more than simply an environmental issue: it’s also an economic problem. As Oceana has pointed out in their campaigns, research shows that seismic blasting ends up reducing catch rates of commercially valuable fish. So this decision by the Obama administration protects communities that depend on income from fishing to survive. Related: Obama creates two new western national monuments in last minute effort The decision to ban airgun blasting is one of several groundbreaking environmental decisions Barack Obama has made in the closing days of his term: he’s also shut the door on new Arctic and Atlantic drilling over the next five years, and created two new national monuments in the Western US. Via Oceana Images via Gabriel Barathieu , Green Fire Productions , and Lauren Packard

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Obama shuts down all pending permits for seismic testing in the Atlantic Ocean

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