Ecosystems

Study finds toxic pollutants in fish across the world's oceans
January 28, 2016 07:19 AM - University of California, San Diego

A new global analysis of seafood found that fish populations throughout the world's oceans are contaminated with industrial and agricultural pollutants, collectively known as persistent organic pollutants (POPs). The study from researchers at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego also uncovered some good news?concentrations of these pollutants have been consistently dropping over the last 30 years.

Flint's Water Crisis 'infuriating' given knowledge about lead poisoning
January 27, 2016 07:13 AM - Harvard School of Public Health

Flint, Michigan temporarily switched its water supply from Lake Huron to the Flint River in April 2014 to cut costs. Should officials have known that lead contamination would result?

Why aren't the endangered western gray whales recovering from over hunting?
January 27, 2016 06:38 AM - Oregon State Universtity

The eastern gray whales that commonly appear along the West Coast of the United States seemingly have recovered from over-hunting with new protective guidelines established in the 1970s. Their counterparts across the ocean – western gray whales – have not fared as well.

Some scientists believe that a lack of prey may be a limiting factor in the recovery of western gray whales, which number fewer than 200 in their feeding area near Russia’s Sakhalin Island. For years, researchers were unable to assess the growth of whale prey in the region because of the remote location, inaccessible conditions of winter ice cover, and the rugged weather that prevented winter sampling.

However, researchers from Russia and the United States studied an inch-long crustacean, Ampelisca eschrichtii, an amphipod that is a favorite food of the western gray whale, in samples that were collected from the Sakhalin Shelf between late spring and early fall over six years between 2002 and 2013. The research team found enough information in the limited samples to assess the missing winter-life history of these amphipods and to document their great abundance and production.

What's in YOUR fish tank?
January 26, 2016 07:19 AM - Susan Bird, Care2

If you’re an aquarium enthusiast, you no doubt have many beautiful and colorful tropical fish populating your aquarium. Perhaps you’ve studied the different species carefully to be sure they can peacefully co-exist. You know what they like to eat and what water conditions help them thrive.

Here’s a question though — did you investigate to see whether the type of fish you wanted to buy is in danger in its natural habitat? Did you ask whether it was captive-bred? 

Buzzards Bay being impacted by climate change
January 22, 2016 02:44 PM - Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

An analysis of long-term, water quality monitoring data reveals that climate change is already having an impact on ecosystems in the coastal waters of Buzzards Bay, Mass. The impacts relate to how nitrogen pollution affects coastal ecosystems.

Utilizing 22 years of data collected by a network of citizen scientists, researchers from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) and their colleagues at the Buzzards Bay National Estuary Program, the Buzzards Bay Coalition, and the Marine Biological Laboratory found that average summertime temperatures in embayments throughout Buzzards Bay warmed by almost 2 degrees Celsius—roughly 4 degrees Fahrenheit.

"That is a rapid temperature increase for marine life," said Jennie Rheuban, a research associate at WHOI and lead author of the paper published January 15, 2016, in the journal Biogeosciences. "For some species, a single degree Fahrenheit change can mean the difference between a comfortable environment and one where they can no longer thrive."

How aerosols drive the rain
January 22, 2016 07:14 AM - Mark Dwortzan, MIT News

While the effects of power plant emissions, vehicle exhaust and other manmade aerosols on air quality and public health are well-known, their impact on the climate is not completely understood. Scientists have shown that aerosols can lower surface temperatures either directly, by reflecting sunlight skyward, or indirectly, by increasing the reflectivity of clouds, but until now have not figured out the role these airborne particles play in shaping the distribution of rain and snowfall around the world.

High levels of PCBs threaten whales and dolphins
January 21, 2016 07:13 AM - Alicia Graef, Care2

Scientists are raising serious concerns about the future of whales and dolphins in European waters who are continuing to suffer from the effects of toxic chemicals that were banned decades ago, but continue to linger in the environment.

According to a new study led by the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), which was just published in the journal Scientific Reports, whales and dolphins in Europe  have been found to have some of the highest levels of polychlorinated byphenyls (PCBs) in the world.

To clean up ocean plastics focus on coasts, not the Great Pacific garbage patch
January 19, 2016 07:14 AM - Imperial College London via EurekAlert!

The most efficient way to clean up ocean plastics and avoid harming ecosystems is to place plastic collectors near coasts, according to a new study.

Plastic floating in the oceans is a widespread and increasing problem. Plastics including bags, bottle caps and plastic fibres from synthetic clothes wash out into the oceans from urban rivers, sewers and waste deposits.

How soil frost affects greenhouse gas emissions from Arctic soils
January 17, 2016 10:18 AM - UmeƄ university via ScienceDaily

Soil frost is a nearly universal process in the Arctic. In a recent dissertation by doctoral student Marina Becher at Umeå University, it is shown that the frequency and extent of soil frost is important for the release of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide from arctic soil.

Soil in the Arctic has for thousands of years gathered large quantities of decomposed organic matter due to the decomposition being slow at the low temperatures in the region. As temperatures in the Arctic are increasing, there is a growing concern that the organic matter stored in the ground will be decomposed and released as carbon dioxide. Such a process would contribute to the ongoing increase in this greenhouse gas in the atmosphere.

Warming climate may impact animals' ability to eat some toxic plants
January 16, 2016 09:20 AM - University of Utah via ScienceDaily

University of Utah lab experiments found that when temperatures get warmer, woodrats suffer a reduced ability to live on their normal diet of toxic creosote - suggesting that global warming may hurt plant-eating animals.

"This study adds to our understanding of how climate change may affect mammals, in that their ability to consume dietary toxins is impaired by warmer temperatures," says biologist Denise Dearing, senior author of the research published online Jan. 13 in the British journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

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