After three deadly years, a massive bleaching event that struck coral reefs across the globe now appears to be ending, scientists announced on Monday, June 19. Coral bleaching happens when corals are subjected to extreme changes in the environment. During coral bleaching, colorful coral reefs eject symbiotic algae from their tissue, which causes it to turn white or pale. This weakens the coral and makes it susceptible to disease.
Plastic. There should be hundreds of thousands of tonnes of the stuff floating around in our oceans. But we are finding less than expected – perhaps because living organisms are evolving the ability to break it down. Plastic production is rising exponentially, so ever more of it should be ending up in the oceans, says Ricard Sole, who studies complex systems at the Universitat Pompeu Fabra in Barcelona. But surveys of areas where floating plastic accumulates, such as the North Atlantic gyre, are not finding nearly as much plastic as expected.
A tiny island has all the makings of a secluded paradise -- except for the 38 million pieces of trash. Henderson Island, a UNESCO world heritage site in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, has a higher density of trash than any other spot on the planet, researchers concluded in a study published Tuesday.
The depletion of oxygen in Earth’s oceans leads to a massive disturbance in the global carbon cycle and has deleterious effects on marine life. Called anoxia, the last time this happened in a significant way was 183 million years ago, leading to mass extinction of marine life at the time.
Researchers at the University of Miami (UM) Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science have developed a new technology to measure the currents near the ocean's surface that carry pollutants such as plastics and spilled oil. This new technique, which includes a specialized video camera to remotely sense currents in the upper few centimeters of the water column, can help scientists more accurately predict the fate of spilled oil or other marine pollutants that are transported at the surface layer by providing these measurements that were previously unattainable.
An annual survey led by researchers at William & Mary's Virginia Institute of Marine Science shows the abundance of underwater grasses in Chesapeake Bay increased 8% between 2015 and 2016, continuing an upward trend initiated in 2012. The increase makes 2016 the second consecutive year since VIMS began its aerial survey in 1984 that the baywide acreage of submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV) has reached a new high. A total of 97,433 acres of SAV were mapped in Chesapeake Bay during 2016.
A highly toxic form of mercury could jump by 300 to 600 percent in zooplankton—tiny animals at the base of the marine food chain—if land runoff increases by 15 to 30 percent, according to a new study. And such an increase is possible due to climate change, according to the pioneering study by Rutgers University and other scientists published today in Science Advances.
One of the most talked-about consequences of climate change is ocean acidification, which particularly threatens creatures that build shells. But there's another big problem in the ocean's chemistry that's beginning to get out of control: oxygen. Even though they live underwater, fish breathe oxygen just like we do. Their gills pull dissolved oxygen out of the water. But the warmer the ocean's water gets, the less dissolved oxygen it can hold. It's basically the underwater equivalent of a human panting in the thin air on a mountaintop.
Some beluga whales are adapting to climate change by changing their migratory habits, while other are not, a new study finds. Beluga whales spend the summer in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas, and winters in the warmer Bering Sea to the south. Some beluga whales are delaying their autumn southern migration by up to four weeks, according to a paper published in the journal Global Change Biology.
Pollution in the Arctic is so bad that chemicals are accumulating in polar bear mother's milk and getting passed onto bear cubs. A new analysis of pollutants in the Arctic has found that polar bears are at a particularly high risk, compared to other animals like seals. The study was published in the journal Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry in December and focused on a class of pollutants known as persistent organic pollutants (POPs). POPs are toxic, hang around for a long time, and tend to build up in the bodies of humans and animals.
The recent U.S. presidential election loomed large last week at the world’s largest annual gathering of Earth and space scientists, the American Geophysical Union’s (AGU) Fall Meeting in San Francisco, Calif. When Eos asked some of the more than 20,000 scientists at the meeting what they thought the election’s outcome means for the Earth and space sciences, we heard a wide range of responses, from dismissal of the election’s importance to deep concern.
New restrictions on U.S. seafood imports, which will require seafood to be harvested in accordance with the U.S. Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA), will likely offer significant marine conservation benefits on a global scale. In this Policy Forum, Rob Williams et al. highlight the impacts and challenges involved in this endeavor. The U.S. is the largest importer of seafood in the world, accepting marine catches from more than 120 countries. Best case scenario, countries will comply and marine species will benefit from improved protection. Worst case, countries could suffer economically from not being able to export to the US, and/or choose not to comply.