Posts Tagged ‘oceans’

BlueGreen: Our Connection to the Ocean

Monday, October 4th, 2010

In an effort to help spread the word for independent filmmakers with an environmental slant, here’s a post about BlueGreen - a film that explores the human connection to the ocean.

Featuring some of the world’s most talented surfers, including Keith Malloy and 7-time Women’s World Champion, Layne Beachely, combined with footage shot around the world, BlueGreen examines the connection between humans and the ocean and explores this connection through thoughtful insight from scientist, activists, athletes and enthusiast. From the physiological to the spiritual, filmmaker and surfer, Ben Keller explores the power of the ocean and how it affects our lives and why we are all attracted to it in one way or another.

“Blue green is a surf film, yes. But it is more than that. It is an exploration of our ties to the ocean – beyond the obvious” explains Cinema Libre Studio, the distributor for BlueGreen.

“Of course, if you are going to expound upon the human connection to the ocean, you can’t really avoid an environmental message. You bump right up against it. So the film explores that as well, from how the surf industry affects it to what we as people need to consider.”

According to the BlueGreen press release, “There is an environmental message that Keller pays special attention to - in light of the rise in the man-made pollution (i.e. Deepwater Horizon oil spill) - and he believes there is a fundamental lack of understanding and knowledge of just how important a role the ocean plays in our daily lives and hopes a better understanding will lead to its protection”.

BlueGreen: Our Connection to the Ocean is now available on DVD.

To find out more about this film, check out the BlueGreen: Our Connection to the Ocean website.

Great Whites Surprise Scientists With 4000 Km Journey to Tropics

Monday, November 17th, 2008

Satellite tracking has revealed that Great White Sharks travel large distances to unlikely places. Photo: Terry Goss.

Satellite tracking has revealed that Great White Sharks travel large distances to unlikely places. Photo: Terry Goss.

Two great white sharks have traveled 4,000 kilometers from the cold waters of southern New Zealand to the tropical waters of North East Australia.

The sharks began their journey in Stewart Island - 30 kilometers south of New Zealand’s South Island, and made their way to the Great Barrier Reef off the coast of the Australian state of Queensland.

The journey, of which one shark dived 1,000 meters, has surprised scientists who were studying the sharks. 

“We used to think great white sharks were shallow-water coastal species that lived in cold areas, where there were lots of seals to eat,” said Malcolm Francis, of the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research in Wellington.

“Now we have changed our impression of what they do.”

Possible World Record

Dr Francis added that the 1,000 meter dive could even be a world record for a great white shark.

Although various reports on the Internet claim that great whites have been known to dive to as much as 1,280 meters, great whites, which are known for swimming close to the surface, rarely dive to more than 800 meters below the surface. 

It’s likely that the shark was chasing a giant squid or phosphorescent fish at the time. Dr Francis says that at those depths, it would have been pitch black, and the shark would have been guided by the glow of the fish.

Great Whites “Know Where They’re Going”

National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) and the Conservation Department have been attaching satellite tracking devices to great white sharks to measure position, depth and water temperature. After several months, the devices eventually detach themselves from the shark and float to the surface, where data is transmitted to a satellite.

Dr Francis was also surprised to learn that the sharks traveled in a straight line, and covered up to 120 kilometers per day. 

“They seem to know where they are going,” he said.

Scientists Make ‘Astonishing’ Discoveries, Including 5,300 New Species

Sunday, November 9th, 2008

Census researchers from New Zealand hold giant Macroptychaster sea stars that can grow up to 60cm across. Photo: National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research, New Zealand, 2007.

Census researchers from New Zealand hold giant Macroptychaster sea stars that can grow up to 60cm across. Photo: National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research, New Zealand, 2007.

Scientists are well on their way to releasing the world’s first Census of Marine Life (CoML), with astonishing discoveries continuing to being made and more than 5,300 new species found since 2003.

In fact, new species are being discovered faster than they can be described and named.

Discoveries aren’t just limited to new species though. Many of the surprising discoveries are related to distribution and abundance of known marine species throughout the world. 

Highlights of the discoveries will be officially released at the World Conference on Marine Biodiversity being held in Spain this week. The conference, organized by the Census’s European affiliate program on Marine Biodiversity and Ecosystem Functioning, will take place in Valencia between 11th and 15th of November.

In the meantime, the CoML fourth highlights report outlines some of the major discoveries.

Highlights

There are many highlights outlined in the report. Some of the major ones include:

A male sea spider carries its eggs on specially adapted appendages under its body; it is one of many possible new species from the Antarctic. Census researchers are trying to understand the evolutionary history of these curious animals. Photo: Cédric d’Udekem, Royal Belgium Institute for Natural Sciences 2007.

A male sea spider carries its eggs on specially adapted appendages under its body; it is one of many possible new species from the Antarctic. Census researchers are trying to understand the evolutionary history of these curious animals. Photo: Cédric d’Udekem, Royal Belgium Institute for Natural Sciences 2007.

  • “White Shark Café” - Scientists have discovered previously unknown behavior of white sharks travelling long distances to the Pacific each winter. During this time, the sharks will make frequent, repetitive dives to depths of 300 meters. While researchers are unsure of the reason, they suspect that it may have something to do with feeding or reproduction.
  • Giant amphipod - During an expedition to the Antarctic, scientists discovered one of Antarctica’s biggest-ever amphipod crustaceans, measuring almost 10 centimeters long. The CAML scientists also found around 1,000 other species, including eighteen potentially new species. The discovery was made possible due to the collapse of the Larsen A and B ice shelves, which allowed the scientists to explore a 10,000 kilometer section of the Antarctic Weddell Sea.
  • High percentage of new species - An Australian expedition - COMARGE “Voyages of Discovery” - resulted in a very high discovery rate of new species. Of the 524 Decapoda (crabs, shrimps, prawns, lobsters, etc) species found, 33 percent are thought to be new species. Furthermore, 25 percent are records in the region, and eight percent are records for Australia. 
  • Giant oysters - The COMARGE explorers discovered dense communities of gigantic oysters. The oysters, thought to be a new species, are 20 cm long and reside at a depth of 700 meters.
  • World’s deepest known active hot vent - ChEss scientists in the Mid-Atlantic Ridge explored the world’s deepest known active hot vent, field named Ashadze. The hot vent is over 4,100 meters deep, dominated by anemones, polychaete worms and shrimp.

Juvenile representatives of the Antarctic and deep-sea genera of octopuses. Clockwise from top left , (1) Pareledone charcoti, a shallow-water species from the Antarctica Peninsula, (2) Thaumeledone gunteri, a deep-water species endemic to South Georgia, (3) Adelieledone polymoprha, a species endemic to the western Antarctic, (4) Megaleledone setebos, a shallow-water circum-Antarctic species endemic to the Southern Ocean. Photo credit: I. Everson (T. gunteri), M. Rauschert (M. setebos), L. Allcock (P. charcoti. A, polymorpha).

Juvenile representatives of the Antarctic and deep-sea genera of octopuses. Clockwise from top left , (1) Pareledone charcoti, a shallow-water species from the Antarctica Peninsula, (2) Thaumeledone gunteri, a deep-water species endemic to South Georgia, (3) Adelieledone polymoprha, a species endemic to the western Antarctic, (4) Megaleledone setebos, a shallow-water circum-Antarctic species endemic to the Southern Ocean. Photo credit: I. Everson (T. gunteri), M. Rauschert (M. setebos), L. Allcock (P. charcoti. A, polymorpha).

Good Progress

A brightly colored comb jelly swims in the high Arctic waters of the Canada Basin. Photo: Kevin Raskoff, Monterey Peninsula College.

A brightly colored comb jelly swims in the high Arctic waters of the Canada Basin. Photo: Kevin Raskoff, Monterey Peninsula College.

Scientists involved in the project appear to be happy with the progress so far.

“Not only do we have a better picture of the distribution of the animals that stay in place, we are approaching a global picture of the movements of animals, whether swirling in eddies the size of Ireland, or commuting 8,000 kilometers across ocean basins,” said Ron O’Dor Canadian squid expert and Census co-senior scientist.

“And understanding how behavior and the environment combine to determine the movement of many animals is within reach.” he continued.

French deep-sea explorer and vice-chair of the Census, Myriam Sibuet (France) said “The impressive number of landmark findings over the past two years reveals the richness of what remains to be discovered.  The vastness of the ocean and our new research tools keep marine biology forever young.”

About Census of Marine Life

The Census of Marine Life (CoML) is a 10-year scientific initiative to assess and explain life in the oceans. Including a global network of more than 2,000 researchers from 82 nations, the purpose of the initiative is to assess and explain the diversity, distribution, and abundance of marine life. The first consensus will be released in 2010.

The project was brought about by the fact that we still have relatively little knowledge about what lives in our oceans. To date, there isn’t a single list or database that contains all known marine species - let alone their distribution, and abundance. 

Scientists estimate that there could be more than a million marine species if all small animals and protists are included. To date, only about 230,000 species have been described and reside in jars in collections in museums of natural history and other repositories.

The 4th CoML highlights report will be officially released at the World Conference on Marine Biodiversity, Valencia, Spain, Nov. 11-15.

‘Rare Corals Could Become Common Corals’ says Reef Expert

Friday, October 31st, 2008

Coral on the Great Barrier Reef

Coral on the Great Barrier Reef

A lot of recent studies have been warning about the threat that climate change is posing on the world’s coral reef systems. The common conclusion appears to be that, if nothing is done about global warming, our reefs face imminent extinction. 

But according to a new study, there may yet be hope for our coral reefs.

Scientists at the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies in Australia (CoECRS), James Cook University, the Museum of Tropical Queensland and the Australian Institute of Marine Science have released a research paper indicating that at least one rare coral species may actually be able to adapt to climate change.

The study found that some Acropora (staghorn corals) coral - a particularly rare species of coral - are in fact hybrids. This means that they have cross-bred with other Acropora species to result in a hybrid species. By hybridising with other species, these corals draw on genetic variation in other species, increasing their own potential to adapt to changing conditions.

The Importance of Acropora

Zoe Richards, lead author of the research paper, says “Acropora are the main reef-builders throughout the Indian and Pacific Oceans, and so of critical importance to the ability of reefs to cope with changing conditions. However, till now, very few clear cut examples of hybridisiation were known, and some people did not even accept that corals can cross-breed.”

She added that corals may prove tougher to exterminate than many people feared.

“Hybridising with another species actually makes a lot of genetic sense if you are rare and the next colony of your species may be hundreds of kilometres away.  It suggests these creatures are far more resilient that we thought, based on what we know from the behavior of land animals.” she said.

A number of factors are threatening coral reefs around the world. In particular, rising CO2 levels is leading to increased ocean acidifcation. Also, poor water quality is having a major impact on coral reefs.

Global Warming Blamed for Declining Seabird Population

Monday, October 13th, 2008

According to this article by The Australian newspaper, research has found that global warming is directly responsible for declining seabird populations.

The research, compiled by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, was carried out in the Great Barrier Reef in Queensland, Australia. The research was then used for a report called Seabirds and Shorebirds in the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area in a Changing Climate, which was commissioned by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority and the Queensland Environment Protection Agency.

The reseach found that warmer water near the surface of the ocean, forces fish and plankton away from the surface of the water. This causes the seabirds and their young to go hungry, as it is more difficult to find prey. This in turn, means the seabirds are less likely to breed.

According to the report, the warmer water is being caused by more frequent and intense El Nino events.

In some areas, seabird populations have declined by up to 96 percent.

Also, the report found that, around Heron Island in 2003, a 1 degree increase in temperature reduced shearwaters’ feeding frequency from once every two nights, to once every five.

Another report, produced in December last year, identifies 31 bird species in Australia that are at “high risk of extinction”. 

The report, entitled The State of Australia’s Birds 2007 - Birds in a Changing Climate, says that a 2 to 5 percent rise in temperatures will lead to the extinction of many species. The urgency of the situation is highlighted when you consider that experts are forecasting that temperatures will rise to those levels within the next 60 years or so.  

The birds at most risk are those around the savannas and rainforests of northern Australia, where the climate is much warmer.

Impact of Plastic on our Oceans

Tuesday, April 8th, 2008

These days, we hear a lot about the tragic consequences of plastic bags on the environment. In particular, plastic bags are causing significant damage to our oceans and marine life. But what about other plastic items?

In today’s world, we are surrounded by plastic. We live in a plastic world. What’s more, we throw out most of our plastic products at an alarming rate. Some plastic items, such as packaging, won’t even last a day before it’s tossed into the bin - or even worse, discarded onto the street or ocean. Other items - you know, those items that are supposed to last a long time - might be lucky to reach their 2nd birthday! Occasionally, we might purchase a plastic item that we keep for say, 5 - 10 years.

The ironic thing about this is that, one of plastic’s outstanding benefits has always been it’s incredible resilience and durability - plastic will last for hundreds of years. Yet, we throw it out, sometimes within a day of product purchase.

The fact that plastic doesn’t break down for hundreds of years causes a major issue for the environment. In particular, plastic is killing thousands of animals around the world every day.

Here are some (grim) facts/statistics on the impact that plastic is having on our oceans.

  • Plastic causes the deaths of more than a million seabirds every year
  • Plastic causes the deaths of more than 100,000 marine mammals each year
  • About 90% of the rubbish floating in the ocean is plastic
  • According to estimates by the UN Environment Programme in 2006, every square mile of ocean contains 46,000 pieces of floating plastic
  • Hundreds of millions of nurdles (plastic pellets) find their way into the oceans each year. These nurdles act as a chemical sponge - they attract man-made chemicals, such as hydrocarbons and pesticide DDT. This makes them even more toxic. The nurdles then find themselves into marine creatures, then onto our dinner plate. We are indirectly eating our toxic waste.
  • Plastic photodegrades. This means that it breaks down into much smaller parts. These smaller parts are continuously being eaten by marine creatures, who mistaken them for food. Many marine creatures actually feed their young on plastic items - again mistaking it for food. One turtle found dead in Hawaii had over a thousand pieces of plastic in its stomach and intestines.
  • Floating plastic can sometimes transport marine life to a new location - one of which is outside their normal habitat. This can result in the migrant becoming a pest in the new habitat.
  • Not all plastic floats. Much of it - up to 70% - ends up on the ocean floor. This ends up killing the marine life which is found there. Dutch scientists estimate that there’s up to 600,000 tonnes of plastic on the sea bed of the North Sea alone.
  • The Pacific Ocean has a garbage dump twice the size of continental United States. The dump is so large that scientists believe it would be impossible to clean it up. Most of this gigantic dump consists of plastic.