Climate Change, Acidification, & the Oceans, Marine Conservation & Sustainable Management, Ocean Ecosystems

What the GBRMPA chair DID NOT say about my coral bleaching article

In April 2016 I submitted an article to The Marine Professional – a publication of the Institute of Marine Engineering, Science & Technology (IMarEST) focusing on the mass bleaching event that had hit the Great Barrier Reef at the time.  In their September 2016 issue, The Marine Professional featured a comment from a reader, in which he stated that he shared the article with Dr. Russell Reichelt – chair of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority.  The reader alleged that  Dr Reichlet told him that the article “contains some accurate things mixed with half truths and alarmism”.

A number of  coral reef, marine biology, and climate scientists have been in touch to express their concern about Dr Reichelt’s alleged comments on my article.  After liaising with Dr Reichelt’s office*, I am pleased to be able to set the record straight on what he did – or rather did not say.

*I did contact Dr Reichelt directly, but he replied via his office not directly.

After corresponding with Dr Reichelt’s office to determine where the “half truths and alarmism” were in the article, I have been informed that, whilst Dr Reichelt recalls the article being brought to his attention, he never made any such comments about the article.  In fact, he hadn’t even seen the article to comment on in the first place.  He has since read the piece and agrees that it is factual.

I have not attempted to contact the reader to find outwhere his comment came from.

Below is a copy of the article I submitted to The Marine Professional.   For those who want to see the article after it has been through their editorial process, please see the June 2016 edition of The Marine Professional.

Continue reading “What the GBRMPA chair DID NOT say about my coral bleaching article”

Climate Change, Acidification, & the Oceans, Fisheries, Aquaculture, & Sustainable Seafood

Climate Change Impacts on Kenya’s Fishery-dependent communities

 We now have a number of scientific studies that tell us how climate change is altering coral reef ecosystems, but how will these changes impact on communities that depend on them for their livelihood?  According to Joshua Cinner of James Cook University in Australia and colleagues from around the world, that answer depends more on the  community capacity for adaptation than its location.

Fishery-dependent communities in Kenya are not in a great situation.  Their reefs were heavily affected by a massive bleaching event in 1998 that has been linked to an extreme El Niño event and have not necessarily recovered as well as we might hope, and Kenyan reefs are likely to face increasing amounts of climate-related stress into the future.  Across three years, Cinner and co surveyed 15 ecological sites associated with 10 coastal communities along the Kenyan coast.  Using a range of ecological indicators of vulnerability of these reefs, they linked up the ‘health’ of the ecosystems with the vulnerability of the human communities that depend on them. Continue reading “Climate Change Impacts on Kenya’s Fishery-dependent communities”

Climate Change, Acidification, & the Oceans, Marine Life

A tale of two penguins

The Antarctic Peninsular is regarded as one of the fastest warming regions in the Southern Hemisphere.  It might seem small to you, but the increase in air temperature of around 2.8 degrees Celsius is resulting in some big changes.  According to the British Antarctic Survey some 25,000 square kilometres of ice has been lost from ten floating ice shelves, 87% of glacier termini have retreated, seasonal snow cover has decreased.  What exactly these sorts of changes mean for the inhabitants and seasonal visitors to the Peninsular is a question researchers are desperately trying to get a handle on.  The way each species reacts to this changing environment is likely to be very different, even among closely related species. Continue reading “A tale of two penguins”

Climate Change, Acidification, & the Oceans

A practical solution to species range changes detection?

With rapidly warming ocean regions comes changes in marine species distributions.  Understanding and monitoring these changes is important for managing biosecurity threats as well as management of existing and changing living marine resources.  Detecting range changes in the marine environment is difficult and expensive.  For many species, assessment simply has not taken place.  To combat this data gap and assist managers in directing limited research resources, Dr Lucy Robinson, research fellow at the Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies (IMAS) and colleagues suggest a new method – rapid screening assessment that uses a variety of sources.

Development of the method, which was recently published in Global Environmental Change , focused on waters off the east coast of Tasmania, and area where over the past 50 years warming has been nearly four times greater than the global average.  Using field data from a number of sources, primarily from the citizen science program Redmap Australia, 47 species were assessed for range expansion.  Categorising species based on confidence in their range expansion, 8 species – 6 fish species, a lobster and an octopus species –  were categorised with a ‘‘high’’ confidence of potentially extending their ranges.  These species, the researchers argue, are the ones that should be prioritised for impact assessment, with those falling in the “medium” and “low” confidence categories coming after.

The paper is behind a paywall, but if you have access (or want to buy a copy) you can find it here

Image:  The rainbow cale (Heteroscarus acroptilus) is one of the species assessed in this study.  The assessment had “high” confidence in a potential range extension for this beautiful fish.  This particular beauty is a male in breeding colouration. Credit Richard Ling/Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Climate Change, Acidification, & the Oceans

Rivers and streams on the Greenland ice sheet a major contributing factor to global sea level rise

Meltwater runoff from the Greenland ice sheet, which covers 80% of the country, is a major contributing factor to global sea level rise.  The processes by which melting water reaches the ocean is still a subject of research, with most studies focusing on large chunks of ice that break off the ice sheet forming icebergs, or on large lakes which can abruptly drain.  Recently, a study lead by Dr Laurence Smith, Professor and Chair of Geography, and Professor of Earth, Planetary, and Space Sciences at University of California revealed that the network of 523 rivers and streams flowing on top of the Greenland ice sheet may be draining as much – if not more meltwater through sinkholes, than the other two processes combined.

The research team utilised remote sensing, remotely controlled boats equipped with specially designed instruments, and helicopter flyovers to map the network of rivers and streams, and collect data on water flow.  Alongside the importance of rivers and networks, the study also indicated that discharge from the Isortoq River, one of the largest rivers on the ice sheet, is lower than expected given the amount of water flowing down it.  Where and how this ‘missing’ water is being captured under the surface is not yet understood, but is contrary to models used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which assumes all meltwater goes into the ocean.  The study will help researchers refine climate models, ultimately developing better global sea level rise projections.

The paper which was published in PNAS is open access.

Image:  Supraglacial river networks represent an important high-capacity mechanism for conveying large volumes of meltwater across the Greenland Icesheet surface.  Taken direct from the paper.

Climate Change, Acidification, & the Oceans, Marine Conservation & Sustainable Management, Marine Life

News from the life aquatic

There are three great open access papers out this week that I want to share. Three! But which to share? Well why not all three. Here’s a quick round-up of some of the latest research in ocean science. Best served with a nice slice of your favourite treat.

Can you tell what (species) it is yet?
Every time we explore life in the deep sea we find more and more creatures that bioluminensce. Around 80% of all eukaryotic life in waters below 200 meters are thought to have this ability. In this study by Matthew Davis of The University of Kansas (USA) and fellow researchers, it emerges that diversity of species (species richness) in deep sea fish groups may be influenced by photophores – light emitting cells on the body of fish. The researchers work found that some lineages of the lanternfishes (Myctophidae) – which are made up of over 250 species – have photophores with species-specific patterns. This means species can clearly be identified from one another. This diversification seems to have happened after the evolution of the lanternfishes photophores some 73 – 104 million years ago. As diversification of photophores occurred, so too did speciation.  http://dx.doi/10.1007/s00227-014-2406-x


Where the young turtles swim
We watch baby turtles hatch and make their way into the open ocean. We watch them when they show up in coastal waters years later as ‘teenagers;. But where do they go when they are growing up? That is what Kate Mansfield of the University of Central Florida and fellow researchers set about to discover for loggerhead turtles (Caretta caretta) . 17 young turtles – all between 3.5 and 9 months old and reaching a maximum length of just 18 cm were tagged with small solar-powered satellite transmitters. And what an adventure these guys had. Staying mostly at the surface, these critters were found enjoying a wide area of the ocean past the continental shelf, – with one turtle travelling up to 2,672 miles! What was particularly surprising for the researchers was that they didn’t just hang out in gyre-associated currents – sometimes they went off exploring


I’m sure there used to be people living there
With changing climate comes changing sea levels. And for many areas that means a sea level rise. In this study by Ben Marzeion from the University of Innsbruck (Austria) and Anders Levermann from Potsdam University (Germany), looked at all 720 UNESCO World Heritage Sites to see what increasing sea levels would mean for them. The researchers decided to take a not-too unrealistic prediction of 3 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels in the next 2000 years. Under this scenario, their models indicated that 136 sites (19%) would be impacted by sea level rise. Doesn’t sound too bad, on the grand scheme of things but those sites do include key heritage areas like the Sydney Opera House, the Tower of London, and Independence Hall. Check out some visualisations from The Weather Channel, created using ‘Drown your Town’. But the researchers didn’t stop there. They also looked at how much of the current human population would be impacted by sea level rise. The same scenario indicated that 7% of the world’s population is living on land that will be undersea within 2000 years. Around 60% of those affected live in just 5 countries – China, India, Bangladesh, Vietnam, and Indonesia. Sobering thoughts for the future.  http://dx.doi:10.1088/1748-9326/9/3/034001


Image: ‘Drown your Town’ used on Cape Town, South Africa (50m rise – possibly a little extreme!). Credit: Drown your Town