Seagrass purges 900M plastic bits from the Mediterranean yearly

January 18, 2021 by  
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Recent research has found that underwater seagrass collects up to 900 million plastic items in the Mediterranean Sea each year. Seagrass is vital in collecting and purging plastic waste into what are known as Neptune Balls. These balls of plastic pollution form naturally as the seagrass collects and traps plastics before releasing them in clumps, some of which wash back to shore. The study, which was published in Scientific Reports  was lead by Anna Sanchez-Vidal, a marine biologist at the University of Barcelona. In a statement, Sanchez-Vidal confirmed the findings, saying that they have proved the extent to which seagrass can trap plastic waste . Related: SeagrassSpotter app empowers ocean lovers to become citizen scientists “We show that plastic debris in the seafloor can be trapped in seagrass remains, eventually leaving the marine environment through beaching,” Sanchez-Vidal told AFP. The findings of this study now add yet another benefit of seagrass. Seagrass has long been known to balance its ecosystem. The seagrass absorbs carbon dioxide and releases oxygen into the water, improving the water quality in the process. Further, it plays the role of a natural nursery for hundreds of species of fish, and seagrass is the foundation of the coastal food web. The research team has only studied the building up of plastic within seagrass in the Mediterranean Sea. In 2018 and 2019, the scientists managed to count the number of plastic bits found in Neptune balls that had been washed to the shore in Mallorca, Spain. They found plastic debris in half of the loose grass leaf samples collected, with a kilogram of the grass found to contain approximately 600 pieces of plastic. As for the denser balls of seagrass, only 17% of the samples collected were found to contain plastic. However, the balls had plastic at a higher density, with nearly 1,500 plastic bits per kilogram of Neptune ball. Using the findings, the researchers were able to estimate the amount of plastic collected by seagrass in the Mediterranean. The good news is that the grass can help collect plastic waste. But researchers aren’t sure where all of the waste goes. The only waste that has been traced includes the Neptune balls and loose grasses that remain stuck on the beach. “We don’t know where they travel,” Sanchez-Vidal said. “We only know that some of them are beached during storms.” + Scientific Reports Via The Guardian Image via Paul Asman and Jill Lenoble

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Seagrass purges 900M plastic bits from the Mediterranean yearly

San Francisco Bay could make the perfect sea otter habitat

December 29, 2020 by  
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San Francisco Bay could become the new home to extinction-threatened sea otters, according to a  recent report  published in PeerJ. Although the bay is located in the middle of a major urban area, it may still offer a suitable environment for the otters. While most parts of the bay may not suit wild animals, some sections manage to meet the requirements for a conducive sea otter habitat.  Sea otters have struggled to grow in numbers due to increased shark attacks along California’s central coast, which has been their home for decades. In the early 1900s, people hunted otters to the brink of extinction due to their luxury fur. However, protection measures enacted in 1911 helped the otter population grow to about 3,000 by 2020. Unfortunately, their population seems to have stagnated over the past decade due to increased shark attacks. To help the otter population continue growing, wildlife managers have looked at alternative residences in pockets of coastal waters. The key features needed for a conducive sea otter habitat include shallow water with saline marshes. According to Jane Rudebusch, the lead author of the study and a spatial ecologist at San Francisco State University’s Estuary & Ocean Science Center, the findings surprised the scientific community. At the start of the study, researchers did not expect the busy shoreline to accommodate such delicate animals. In the study, the researchers used existing data to create a map of the bay area, providing a clear picture of areas the animals could inhabit safely. “A large part of the north bay is a sweet spot,” Rudebusch says. As Scientific American further explains, “Much of this area is only about three feet deep and has ample salt marsh in protected areas, including China Camp State Park and the San Pablo Bay National Wildlife Refuge.” While the study identifies areas perfect for sea otters, some question food abundance for the animals. One 2019 study published in  PeerJ suggested  that the entire bay area contains enough food for about 6,600 sea otters. However, the study did not map the parts of the bay where the food can be obtained. Rudebusch says that the study findings are just the beginning. More research must be done before wildlife managers think of moving the otters to the area.  + Scientific American Image via Pixabay

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Game on: New study shows which sports teams have the greenest fans

December 22, 2020 by  
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Game on: New study shows which sports teams have the greenest fans Kristen Fulmer Tue, 12/22/2020 – 01:00 Ever wondered which sports team has the most sustainable fans? From the perspective of a rights holder, this is becoming a critical question. The answers will drive business decisions for venue operations, fan engagement and brand partnership activation. For the green sports movement, the answers may be the key to solidifying the importance of integrating sustainability into sports.  A new report by Recipric, powered by Zoomph’s technology, helps us understand the answer. Recipric , an agency that represents sustainability and positive change within sports, leveraged Zoomph’s Audience Analysis Tool to help answer this question. Together, they co-published Sustainability in Sports , a report that ranks teams from various professional leagues — including baseball, football, basketball and soccer — according to which teams have the most “sustainability-minded” fans. The report also reveals which teams are most likely to have fans that are vegetarian, have an affinity for the outdoors, a particular stance on climate justice, and those most likely to follow Al Gore and Greta Thunberg.  It solidifies that sustainability can be enhanced through the power of sport because of the overlap between sports lovers and people that seek positive change. To reach these rankings, Zoomph’s platform started with about 342 million anonymized profiles. It developed the sustainability-minded audience by capturing a list of terms that someone interested in sustainability may use in their Twitter bio, or by tagging accounts that a climate activist may follow. From there, a segmented audience of more than 500,000 profiles was cross-referenced against Zoomph’s sports analytics platform to understand who this sustainability-minded audience may follow, including sports leagues, teams and brands.  To guide fan engagement strategies and to activate brand partnerships, sports teams often will poll their fan base to gain an understanding of their spending habits, their hobbies or even their passions outside of sports. While this may tell a story about the preferences targeted by a survey, Zoomph unpacks tendencies on social media without explicitly asking questions. This provides raw insights into a particular group of sports fans, but can tap into interests, brand endorsement and even behavioral data in a way that a survey question may not.  While it’s fun to see if assumptions line up with the results of the study, this data can be hugely impactful to the larger sports industry. Teams can look at this data to understand the specific interests of their followers, which can guide on-the-ground community engagement strategies that drive ticket sales or can tell them how to better leverage their brand partners. Brands can use this data to understand which team or even which league may provide the most engaged audience. Even agents could gauge the interests of their represented athletes’ followers to understand the value of a sponsorship deal.  An example from the report highlights U.S. pro sports teams most likely to have vegetarian or vegan followers. The shortlist shows the top five:  Los Angeles Lakers (NBA) New England Patriots (NFL) Toronto Blue Jays (MLB) Golden State Warriors (NBA) Boston Red Sox (MLB) While a casual fan may enjoy making assumptions about the stereotypical tendencies of each of these team’s fans, reasoning the list against demographic trends, or positing about various geographies, this list actually can mean big business for the rights holders and potential brands.  Not surprisingly, the Lakers and Beyond Meat launched an official partnership in 2019, and JaVale McGee, a Laker at the time, was named an official brand ambassador. However, the Lakers can continue to leverage these findings to identify additional vendors for the Staples Center, create a “Plant-Based Day” with incentives to support a local plant-based restaurant, or provide discounted tickets to plant-based fans. With the power of the analytics, a team can drive holistic positive change that engages their fans while taking climate action and improving health and well-being.  This study highlights the importance of sustainability-driven values for rights holders to engage with their fan base and to potentially tap into a larger audience. This drives revenue and is so critical to sustainability professionals charged with creating a data-driven strategy. It solidifies that sustainability can be enhanced through the power of sport because of the overlap between sports lovers and people that seek positive change. Pull Quote It solidifies that sustainability can be enhanced through the power of sport because of the overlap between sports lovers and people that seek positive change. Topics Marketing & Communication Sports Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off The Los Angeles Lakers and plant-based products company Beyond Meat launched an official partnership in 2019.

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Game on: New study shows which sports teams have the greenest fans

Princeton study shows possibility for a carbon-neutral US

December 21, 2020 by  
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It’s hard to imagine everybody making the necessary sacrifices for the U.S. to be carbon-neutral in 30 years, even if it does mean the difference between an inhabitable or uninhabitable planet. But an optimistic new study from Princeton claims that yes, it is possible. The 345-page Princeton University report , published last Tuesday, explains several ways that the U.S. could attain the goal of carbon-neutrality by 2050. The report’s six pillars are efficiency and electrification; clean electricity; zero-carbon fuels; carbon capture and storage; non-CO2 emissions; and enhanced land sinks. The keys to success are quick government action and money upfront. Related: New Zealand targets carbon neutrality by 2025 amidst climate emergency The clean electricity pillar relies on a dramatic increase in wind and solar power. This would provide many new jobs, and it would require a massive scaling up of production of turbines and photovoltaic systems. According to the study, we’d need up to 120 times as much capacity to produce the photovoltaics for solar power and 45 times our current capacity for wind turbines. Obviously, this is would require a huge commitment from the top. Individuals trading their Keurig for sun tea isn’t going to cut it. The efficiency and electrification approach focuses on improving our end-use energy productivity. This means more efficient lighting and heating in businesses and homes, such as expanded use of heat pumps. However, some researchers have posited that this approach could have a rebound effect, as people save money on energy costs only to spend it on some other goods or services that use energy and release emissions. This approach also requires widespread use of electric vehicles . The Princeton report also examines ideas like biogas or biomass collection and regenerating forests and other land sinks. What will all this take? Princeton estimates we can get to net-zero by 2050 with a $2.5 trillion investment, plus seriously committed and motivated leadership. But we need to start now. + Princeton University Via Grist Image via Angie Warren

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1% of global population causes 50% of all carbon pollution emitted by the aviation industry

November 20, 2020 by  
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Recent research published in  Global Environmental Change  has revealed that only 1% of people cause half of all aviation pollution globally. According to the study, regular “super emitters” are polluting the environment at the expense of millions of people who do not fly.  The study, conducted through analysis of aviation data, revealed that large populations across all countries did not fly at all in the years observed. For instance, about 53% of Americans did not fly in 2018, yet the U.S. ranked as the leading aviation emission contributor globally. In Germany, 65% of people did not fly, in Taiwan 66%, and in the U.K. about 48% of the population did not fly abroad in the same period.  These findings suggest that the bulk of pollution caused by the aviation industry comes from the actions of very few people. Further supporting this point, the study revealed that only 11% of the global population flew in 2018, while only 4% flew abroad. Comparing these numbers to the level of emission aviation causes indicates that the rich few in society fuel this pollution the most. Meanwhile, marginalized communities will likely face the harshest consequences of this pollution . In 2018, airlines produced a billion tons of CO2. Even worse, the same airlines benefited from a $100 billion subsidy by not paying for the climate change caused. The U.S. tops the list of leading aviation emitter countries, contributing more CO2 to the environment than the next 10 countries on the list. This means that the U.S. alone contributes more aviation-based CO2 than the U.K., Germany, Japan and Australia combined.  Research also indicates that global aviation’s contribution to the climate crisis continues to increase. Before the coronavirus pandemic, emissions caused by flights had grown by 32% between 2013 and 2018. If there are no measures put in place to curb the pollution, these rates will likely continue skyrocketing post-pandemic.  Stefan Gössling of Linnaeus University in Sweden, the study’s lead author, says that the only way of dealing with the issue is by redesigning the aviation industry. “If you want to resolve climate change and we need to redesign [aviation], then we should start at the top, where a few ‘super emitters’ contribute massively to global warming ,” said Gössling. “The rich have had far too much freedom to design the planet according to their wishes. We should see the crisis as an opportunity to slim the air transport system.” + The Guardian Image via Pixabay

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1% of global population causes 50% of all carbon pollution emitted by the aviation industry

Renowned landscape architects unveil designs to save the Tidal Basin

November 20, 2020 by  
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The National Mall Tidal Basin — also known as “America’s front yard” — is home to some of the nation’s most iconic landmarks such as the Jefferson Memorial, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial and the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial. But the beloved Washington, D.C. public space is under threat from daily flooding and is in urgent need of critical repairs and improvements. In a bid to save the celebrated landscape, five prestigious landscape architecture firms — DLANDstudio, GGN, Hood Design Studio, James Corner Field Operations and Reed Hilderbrand — have been tapped to reimagine the future of the Tidal Basin and National Mall. Keep reading for a preview of all the designs. In 2019, the National Trust for Historic Preservation banded together with the Trust for the National Mall, the National Parks Service, Skidmore Owings & Merrill (SOM) and American Express to launch the Tidal Basin Ideas Lab , an initiative seeking proposals to save the 107-acre Tidal Basin site in Washington, D.C. After months of preparation, the Tidal Basin Ideas Lab recently unveiled visionary proposals from five award-winning landscape architecture firms including New York City-based DLANDstudio, Seattle-based GGN, Oakland-based Hood Design Studio, New York City-based James Corner Field Operations and Cambridge-based Reed Hilderbrand. Each proposal not only responds to the pressing issues plaguing the area’s infrastructure but also examines ways to heighten the visitor experience through improved environmental and cultural considerations. Due to the pandemic, the proposals are presented in an online-only, museum-quality exhibition co-curated by New York City curator of design Donald Albrecht and Thomas Mellins, an architectural historian and independent curator. The public is invited to learn about the Tidal Basin’s history, which was completed in 1887 as a major hydrological feat as well as the ongoing challenges and comprehensive proposals. The public will also be able to give feedback and offer ideas on saving the Tidal Basin. “As part of ‘America’s front yard’, the Tidal Basin is home to some of the most iconic landmarks and traditions in the nation’s capital,” said Katherine Malone-France, Chief Preservation Officer of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. “Yet current conditions do not do justice to a landscape of such significance. With this new digital exhibition, we are excited to share and engage the public with creative thinking from five of the best landscape architecture firms in the world. These ideas explore ways to sustain this cultural landscape and its richly layered meanings for generations to come. This isn’t preservation as usual: this is preservation as innovation.” Related: BIG unveils sweeping overhaul to Smithsonian Campus Master Plan True to its name, the Tidal Basin Ideas Lab will be focused on cultivating bold ideas and promoting dialogue between designers, stakeholders and the public rather than choosing a single winner as is typical in design competitions. The exhibition will supplement the National Park Service’s mandated environmental review of the Tidal Basin as well as master planning and detailed design, which have not yet been completed but are integral to securing funding for construction and implementation. All five creative concepts, revealed late last month, celebrate and raise awareness of the Tidal Basin’s long history and have reimagined the cultural landscape to better meet modern safety and accessibility needs while addressing critical infrastructure repairs and improvements. DLANDstudio’s proposal makes bold steps of introducing extensions to the landscape in both the Tidal Basin and the Potomac River to reorient circulation. A long land bridge would connect the Jefferson Memorial and the White House, while a new jetty to the west would branch off of the Lincoln Memorial to house the relocated memorial to Martin Luther King, Jr. Flooding would be mitigated with sponge park wetlands , a reflective weir and a green security wall. GGN’s vision is an adaptive plan phased across three stages to conclude in 2090. The design uses ecological solutions to protect the landscape from forecasted sea level changes and also the potential adaptation and relocation of existing monuments. James Corner Field Operations has proposed three ideas for combating rising sea levels : Protect & Preserve, a scheme to keep the existing landscape intact with improved maintenance and engineering; Island Archipelago, in which flooding would be accepted as an inevitable reality and monuments would be elevated and treated as islands within the Tidal Basin; and Curate Entropy, another design where the site is allowed to flood and a careful balance is maintained between the Tidal Basin’s existing layout and the new landscape. Hood Design Studio focuses on reshaping the Tidal Basin with underrepresented narratives, from the stories of how wetlands were valued by Indigenous and enslaved peoples to promoting dialogue on rebuilding urban ecologies. Reed Hilderbrand’s design draws on the 1902 McMillan Plan, a comprehensive planning document that strongly influenced the urban planning and design of Washington, D.C., particularly with its proposal for a “Washington Commons,” a diverse and connected regional park system. The plan also encourages new interactions with the landscape with an uplands Cherry Walk, a Memorial Walk, a Marsh Walk and a new landform called Independence Rise that would accommodate rising water levels and connect back to the city with a pedestrian bridge. + Tidal Basin Ideas Lab Images via Tidal Basin Ideas Lab

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Renowned landscape architects unveil designs to save the Tidal Basin

Flea treatments are poisoning Englands rivers

November 19, 2020 by  
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Insecticides used to kill fleas are proving to be way too effective. The chemicals are poisoning English  rivers and killing bugs they were never meant to encounter, according to a new University of Sussex  study . The environmental damage extends to the birds and fish who depend on the poisoned bugs for food. “Fipronil is one of the most commonly used flea products and recent studies have shown it degrades to compounds that are more toxic to most  insects  than fipronil itself,” said Rosemary Perkins, who led the study. “Our results are extremely concerning.” Related: Ace Hardware boosts efforts to phase out neonicotinoid pesticides The researchers identified fipronil in 99% of the samples they took from 20 rivers. In addition, they found a nerve agent called imidacloprid, which was temporarily banned in the EU in 2013 and then permanently so in 2018. This toxic pesticide ingredient is commonly used in farming in many parts of the world as well as being used for flea treatments. Dave Goulson, one of the University of Sussex researchers, was shocked by the findings. “I couldn’t quite believe the  pesticides  were so prevalent. Our rivers are routinely and chronically contaminated with both of these chemicals.” He warned that using imidacloprid to treat one medium-sized dog for fleas contains enough pesticides to kill 60 million bees. How are these pesticides moving from Fido to the Thames? Researchers found the highest pesticide concentration just downstream from water treatment plants, indicating that the urban areas were the culprits, not the farmers. They believe that when people bathe their pets, it flushes pesticides into sewers and then rivers. Dogs that swim in rivers could also be responsible. If you’ve ever taken your pet to a veterinarian, it’s likely that the vet advised flea treatments. According to the  American Kennel Club , the dangers of fleas go beyond itchy skin, with the top three possible consequences being flea allergy dermatitis, anemia and tapeworms. About 80% of the U.K.’s 11 million cats and 10 million dogs receive treatment, whether or not they have fleas. Some environmentalists are saying that the environmental damage of insecticides should be prioritized over the blanket use of flea remedies. NRDC has some good recommendations for minimizing the environmental impact of flea treatment, including choosing oral treatments over flea collars, dosing for the correct weight of your pet, grooming your pets and cleaning your yard and  garden  in ways that will preempt pests to begin with. Read the organization’s full advice  here . Via  The Guardian and  Garden Organic Image via Joshua Choate

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Flea treatments are poisoning Englands rivers

How global food production impacts the Paris Agreement

November 9, 2020 by  
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While transportation gets a lot of attention when we discuss carbon emissions, the food sector is also a major culprit. Even if emissions from other industries completely stopped, the level of greenhouse gas produced from food and farming would still be too high to meet Paris Agreement goals, says a new study published in Science . About one-third of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions come from food and farming. Between 2012 and 2017, food systems were responsible for about 16 billion tons of CO2 each year. By the end of the century, emissions from food production are on course to rise to 1,356 gigatons cumulatively. At this rate, we won’t be able to meet the Paris Agreement objective of keeping the global warming increase within 2° Celsius — or, preferably, 1.5° — of preindustrial levels by 2100. Related: UN report shows global warming could pass 1.5°C limit before 2030 The diets of people in richer countries are going to have to change if we want to bring down this level of emissions. “These countries are primarily those that are middle or high income where dietary intake and consumption of meat , dairy and eggs is on average well above [health] recommendations,” said Michael Clark, the study’s lead author and a researcher at the Oxford Martin school. He cited the U.S., Europe, Australia, China, Brazil and Argentina as areas with inflated meat consumption. This doesn’t mean the whole world has to become vegan . But more Meatless Mondays are definitely in order. And maybe some Tuesdays and Wednesdays for good measure. Food production contributes to carbon emissions in many ways, including clearing land for grazing, using artificial fertilizers and emitting methane via livestock. Food waste is another area that needs improvement, because when people waste food , they’re also wasting all the carbon involved in growing or raising it. More efficient farming practices, such as targeted fertilizer, would also help. “There needs to be more focus and more effort to reduce emissions from the food system,” Clark said. “Greenhouse gas emissions from food systems have increased due to a combination of dietary changes — more food in general, with a larger proportion of food coming from animal source foods — population size, and how food is produced.” Via The Guardian Image via Jed Owen

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Heated plastic baby bottles release millions of microplastics in formula

October 21, 2020 by  
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A new study published in the journal Nature Food has revealed that babies around the world are consuming over 1.5 million microplastics each day. According to the study, microplastics are released in large quantities in baby plastic bottles, especially when the bottles are heated. But heating formula in the bottle is standard practice in preparing formula, and a majority of bottles on the market are plastic. While the study has proven beyond doubt that plastic bottles are releasing microplastics, the researchers said that there is no need for alarm yet. According to Philipp Schwabl, a researcher at the Medical University of Vienna who has also researched microplastics, parents should not be worried until more information is available. According to a report released by the World Health Organization last year, there is not sufficient evidence to show that microplastics are harmful to humans . Related: New study finds microplastics in fruits and vegetables “At the moment, there is no need to be afraid,” Schwabl said. “But it is an open question and definitely an unmet [research] need.” The study authors found that about 82% of all baby bottles sold globally are made out of polypropylene. Researchers reviewed 10 types of plastic baby bottles. When they were used to prepare infant formula, it was revealed that all 10 bottles released microplastics and nanoplastics. The infant formula was prepared according to the World Health Organization guidelines, which state that powdered formula should be mixed with water heated to about 158°F. The researchers concluded that the release of microplastics is heat-sensitive. “What’s happening is that there’s an interaction between the [plastic] polymer and the water. It’s almost like flaking of the surface of the actual plastic itself,” said John Boland, a professor of chemistry and materials science researcher at Trinity College Dublin in Ireland and one of the authors of the study. At the temperature of 158°F, most bottles released between 1 million and 16 million microplastics per liter. Further, the bottles also released millions of nanoplastics. The researchers said that more research needs to be done and more data collected to determine the exact effect of these plastic particles on babies and adults. + Nature Food Via NPR Image via Tung256

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Heated plastic baby bottles release millions of microplastics in formula

The Great Barrier Reef has lost 50% of its corals to climate change

October 15, 2020 by  
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A recent study has revealed that corals of the Great Barrier Reef have more than halved since 1995. The study, which was done by researchers from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, warns that the Great Barrier Reef is in danger. The scientists behind the study have attributed the loss to greenhouse gas emissions. Researchers now say that if actions are not taken to reverse greenhouse gas emissions, the Great Barrier Reef may soon be unrecognizable. The research was based on an analysis of the number of corals of all sizes between 1995 and 2017. Terry Hughes, one of the authors of the study and a professor at James Cook University, said that massive coral bleaching events were recorded in 2016 and 2017. These events are associated with record-breaking water temperatures experienced during these years. Related: Help NASA save endangered coral with a new gaming app The research, published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B , accounts for all major coral bleaching events between 1995 and 2017. However, since 2017, there have been other major bleaching events, including one that took place this year. The bleaching that happened this year affected the southern part of the reef severely, causing further coral reef loss. “I began surveying the reefs in 1995, and what subsequently unfolded certainly wasn’t planned for. There have been five major bleaching events since then, including three in just the past five years,” Hughes said. Although the reef is losing corals of all sizes, Hughes says that he is more concerned with the depletion of the large ones. Without large corals, it is not possible for the reef to repair itself. According to the researchers, specific strains of corals seem to be more affected than others. The staghorn corals and the table corals are the most impacted by the recent events. “Those two types of corals are the most three-dimensional — they form habitats,” Hughes explained. “The reef is flatter and less three-dimensional now.” The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority downgraded the outlook of the reef to “very poor” in its 5-year health report released last year. The health report identified climate change as the biggest challenge to the existence of the reef. For the Great Barrier Reef to survive the coming years, actions have to be taken to reverse the effects of climate change now. + Proceedings of the Royal Society B Via The Guardian Photography by Andreas Dietzel

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