Northern Gulf of Mexico/Mississippi Delta showing hypoxic coastal water (light blue). This color change is due to excessive nutrients being washed into the sea. Source: Jacques Descloitres, MODIS Land Rapid Response Team, NASA/GSFC, January 2003.
In general, I secretly believe that ecologists must be among the most depressed people on earth. Not because they are pre-disposed to be so, but because their work is often akin to that of a hospice nurse or a coroner. They are immersed with studying almost-dead and dying ecosystems, communities flying apart at the seams, or the devastation of ecosystems demolished by disease, over-hunting, climate change, pollution or habitat fragmentation. And so it was with not a little surprise this morning that I noted on the National Science Foundation’s daily list of press releases that marine “dead zones” now number 400 across the planet, and — according to the release — they are doubling every decade.
You can read the NSF’s materials here. They’ve accrued a package of pieces including a four minute long audio slide show, two articles with video and a podcast of the lead researcher discussing the problem.
I grew up in Northcentral Florida. Within a few hours drive of my home, the mouth of the Fenholloway River pours into the Gulf of Mexico. Not many people have heard of the Fenholloway. It’s barely recognizable as a river anymore. It’s a stinking channel of effluent that the Buckeye Papermill in Taylor County has turned into its personal sewer system. (more…)
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I reported and wrote this post for Science in the Triangle, where it appeared first.
When Craig McClain was a young boy he dreamt of piloting the NASA space shuttle into unknown corners of the Milky Way. As an adult, he explores a different unknown — one that lies in an opposite direction from the space shuttle’s launch trajectory: the deep sea.
McClain is a marine biologist with the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center (NESCent) in Durham, N.C. where he is associate director of science. He spends his days mulling over ecological and evolutionary conundrums of the deep, like why the nearly food-barren deep sea floor is riddled with pockets of biodiversity rivaling that of coral reefs and terrestrial rain forests. (more…)
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The larger of these two pencil urchins was exposed to currrent CO2 levels; the smaller was exposed to the highest CO2 levels in the study. (Tom Kleindinst, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)
I reported and wrote this post for Science in the Triangle, where it appeared first:
Unlocking causes of past mass extinction events is a nifty – if not controversial – trick. But forecasting the future while also explaining the geologic past is even niftier. And that is just what a new study attempts to do by documenting experimental effects of ocean acidification upon shelled marine invertebrates.
The study, published Dec. 1 in Geology and led by a University of North Carolina scientist, reports a spectrum of positive to negative responses across seven major groups of calcifying marine organisms. It also offers supporting evidence for understanding patterns of past mass extinction — and survival — seen 251 million years ago at the Permian-Triassic boundary. (more…)
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