Ecosystems

The cost of marine debris
August 12, 2014 03:53 PM - NOAA

Marine debris has many impacts on the ocean, wildlife, and coastal communities. A NOAA Marine Debris Program economic study released today shows that it can also have considerable economic costs to residents who use their local beaches. The study found that Orange County, California residents lose millions of dollars each year avoiding littered, local beaches in favor of choosing cleaner beaches that are farther away and may cost more to reach. Reducing marine debris even by 25 percent at beaches in and near Orange County could save residents roughly $32 million during three months in the summer.

Bottling Water from Drought Stricken Areas
August 12, 2014 07:55 AM - Leon Kaye, Triple Pundit

The bottled water industry has grown exponentially the past few decades despite the fact tap water in the United States is generally safe. Never mind the fact bottled water producers have had more than their fair share of safety issues: bottled water has become accepted by consumers. While companies such as Nestlé insist they are taking responsibility for water stewardship and recycling, they also bottle their water at dubious sources, including those in drought stricken regions.

The importance of maintaining seagrass
August 12, 2014 07:05 AM - Harriet Jarlett, Planet Earth Online

Seagrass meadows provide the ideal place for young fish to thrive, say NERC-funded scientists researching the importance of these habitats for commercial fishing. Globally seagrasses are being lost at the same rate as Amazonian rainforests, and little is being done to conserve these habitats as their importance isn't fully understood. But scientists at Swansea University have just published two studies in the journals Marine Pollution Bulletin and Marine Biodiversity showing these areas are vital to the wellbeing of juvenile fish, and consequently the fishing industry.

Icequakes triggered by earthquakes
August 11, 2014 07:34 AM - Carolyn Gramling, Science

In 2010, a powerful magnitude-8.8 earthquake struck off the coast of central Chile, rocking much of the country and producing tremor as far away as Argentina and Peru. But a new study suggests its effects were felt even farther away—in Antarctica. In the wake of the Maule temblor, the scientists found, several seismic stations on the frozen continent registered "ice quakes," probably due to fracturing of the ice as the planet's crust shook. Earthquakes are already known to affect Antarctica’s ice shelves, thanks to the tsunamis they can spawn. Tsunami waves can propagate for great distances across the ocean; if the waves reach Antarctica’s ice shelves - the floating platforms of ice surrounding the continent—they can push and pull on the ice, promoting fractures and ultimately helping large chunks of ice break off, or calve.

Bees Don't Always Listen to the Hive
August 8, 2014 02:59 PM - Anna Brones, Care2

Honey bees are known for their fascinating social structure. A honey bee colony is in fact a well-organized machine, running on good communication, defense and division of labor. As social insects, honey bees have also been shown the communicate to their fellow foragers, a dance to tell their counterparts where food is located. But listening to other bees isn’t always the name of the game. Sometimes the honeybee just wants to do its own thing.

Paint dust pollutes the oceans
August 8, 2014 09:51 AM - Erik Stokstad, Science

Even when the sea looks clean, its surface can be flecked with tiny fragments of paint and fiberglass. That's the finding from a study that looked for plastic pollution in the uppermost millimeter of ocean. The microscopic fragments come from the decks and hulls of boats, and they could pose a threat to tiny creatures called zooplankton, which are an important part of the marine food web. The discovery is "continuing to open our eyes to how many small synthetic particles are in the environment," says Kara Law, an oceanographer who studies plastic pollution at the Sea Education Association in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, and wasn’t involved in the study.

Can water-polluting drugs have a positive effect on fish?
August 8, 2014 08:13 AM - Editor, ENN

Many studies have shown that personal care products, like toothpaste, shampoo, and other drugs that we use and get into our wastewater have negatively affected fish populations, disrupting their endocrine systems. But can there be any positive effects? A new study shows that one antianxiety drug that made its way into a lake in Sweden has in fact, positively affected the Eurasian perch population, making them bolder, less social, and more active than unexposed fish, ultimately reducing their mortality rates.

Elephants Under The Sea
August 7, 2014 09:33 AM - Shreya Dasgupta, MONGABAY.COM

Bumphead parrotfish are noisy feeders. They break off large branches of corals using their powerful beaks, grind them up in their bodies to extract nutrients, and expel the undigested material in large cloudy plumes of feces. Their voracious feeding is, however, not just a loud, messy affair. During the course of their feeding, bumphead parrotfish (Bolbometopon muricatum) also change the coral reef ecosystem in numerous ways, a new study published in Conservation Biology has found.

Marine noise impacts eels too!
August 7, 2014 08:45 AM - Roger Greenway, ENN

Marine noise has been studied for it's impact on whales, dolphins and other marine animals. Might it also impact smaller creatures too? Eels, for example. Despite their reputation as slippery customers, a new study has shown that eels are losing the fight to survive when faced with marine noise pollution such as that of passing ships. Scientists from the Universities of Exeter and Bristol found that fish exposed to playback of ship noise lose crucial responses to predator threats. The study, published today in the journal Global Change Biology, found European eels were 50 per cent less likely to respond to an ambush from a predator, while those that did had 25 per cent slower reaction times. Those that were pursued by a predator were caught more than twice as quickly when exposed to the noise.

Mercury in the oceans increasing
August 6, 2014 05:29 PM - Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

Although the days of odd behavior among hat makers are a thing of the past, the dangers mercury poses to humans and the environment persist today. Mercury is a naturally occurring element as well as a by-product of such distinctly human enterprises as burning coal and making cement. Estimates of "bioavailable" mercury—forms of the element that can be taken up by animals and humans—play an important role in everything from drafting an international treaty designed to protect humans and the environment from mercury emissions, to establishing public policies behind warnings about seafood consumption.

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