Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Study: Human Activities Boosting Ocean Temperatures in Areas Where Hurricanes Form

BY Underwater Times

Boulder, Colorado (Sep 11, 2006 19:10 EST) Rising ocean temperatures in key hurricane breeding grounds of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans are due primarily to human-caused increases in greenhouse gas concentrations, according to a study published online in the September 11 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

Using 22 different computer models of the climate system, Benjamin Santer and six other atmospheric scientists from the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, together with Tom Wigley, Gerald Meehl, and Warren Washington from the Boulder-based National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) and scientists from eight other research centers, have shown that the warming sea surface temperatures (SSTs) of the tropical Atlantic and Pacific oceans over the last century is linked to human activities.

NCAR's primary sponsor is the National Science Foundation.

"We've used virtually all the world's climate models to study the causes of SST changes in hurricane formation regions," Santer says.

Research published during the past year has uncovered evidence of a link between rising ocean temperatures and increases in hurricane intensity. This has raised concerns about the causes of the rising temperatures, particularly in parts of the Atlantic and Pacific where hurricanes and other tropical cyclones form.

Previous efforts to understand the causes of changes in SSTs have focused on temperature changes averaged over very large ocean areas, such as the entire Atlantic or Pacific basins. The new research specifically targets SST changes in much smaller hurricane formation regions.

For the period 1906-2005, the researchers found an 84 percent probability that human-induced factors--primarily an increase in greenhouse gas emissions--account for most of the observed rise in SSTs in the Atlantic and Pacific hurricane formation regions.

"The important conclusion is that the observed SST increases in these hurricane breeding grounds cannot be explained by natural processes alone," says Wigley. "The best explanation for these changes has to include a large human influence."

Hurricanes are complex phenomena that are influenced by a variety of physical factors, such as SSTs, wind shear, water vapor, and atmospheric stability. The increasing SSTs in the Atlantic and Pacific hurricane formation regions are not the sole determinant of hurricane intensity, but they are likely to be one of the most significant influences.

"It is important to note that we expect global temperatures and SSTs to increase even more rapidly over the next century," Wigley says.

According to Santer, "In a post-Katrina world, we need to do the best job we possibly can to understand the complex influences on hurricane intensity, and how our actions are changing those influences."

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Lionfish threaten Long Island waters

GARDEN CITY, NY, United States (UPI) -- Scientists are investigating how a flamboyant tropical fish native to the Pacific Ocean is surviving in the chilly waters off New York`s Long Island.

Divers have captured hundreds of lionfish this summer in what a biologist terms 'a population explosion,' The New York Times reports.

Known for its brightly colored stripes and multitude of venomous spines, the lionfish is a voracious eater and could pose a threat to indigenous fish, the newspaper said.

Todd R. Gardner, a biologist at Atlantis Marine World aquarium in Riverhead, N.Y., discovered lionfish were spawning in the Atlantic five years ago when he found one clinging to a dock piling by Fire Island. The Times said Gardner has been studying them since then along with biologist Paula Whitfield of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Besides threatening Long Island`s shellfish and fin fish, humans can receive a painful sting from the spines of a lionfish.

Copyright 2006 by United Press International

image from http://homepage.mac.com/wildlifeweb/fish/lionfish/lionfish01.html

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Do fish hold cancer clue for humans?

HIGH cancer levels found in British estuary fish could indicate a link between pollutants and disease in humans, it was revealed yesterday.

Liver tumours in the fish hint at a connection with chemicals such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and heavy metals, according to experts.

Tumours were found in up to a quarter of the fish taken from sites in the open sea and some industrial estuaries. The highest levels were in dab from the central and western North Sea.

Dr Grant Stentiford, from the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Agriculture Science (CEFAS) in Weymouth, Dorset, said: "There are higher levels of [fish] cancer and other diseases in estuaries with the highest contamination levels."

CEFAS researchers are involved in a study of cancer in fish in UK waters, focusing on dab and flounder. The flat fish habitually lie in mud on the sea floor, where pollutants are most likely to accumulate.

Scientists found fish from the Irish Sea, around Liverpool and Cardigan Bay, also had elevated cancer rates; however, the prevalence of cancer was decreasing at other sites.

"The big question is, is the cancer we're seeing in fish the same as what we see in humans?" Dr Stentiford said at the British Association Festival of Science in Norwich.

In the laboratory, the liver tumours appeared outwardly to be no different from those found in mammals, including humans. It was still not known whether they were the same at the cellular level.

The scientists are looking for any links between fish and human cancer that might involve pollutants and are collaborating with experts from the Cancer Research UK Institute for Cancer Studies at Birmingham University. "Our ultimate aim is to see if there's a common causality between what is causing fish and human cancers," said Dr Stentiford.

Dr Brett Lyons, who is also on the research team, said: "The study of cancer in wild fish provides scientists with an important tool for monitoring the health of the marine environment."

The Food Standards Agency said it believed there was no risk to consumers from the fish but that it would investigate.

Duncan McLaren, the chief executive of Friends of the Earth Scotland, said campaigning had led to a fall in sea pollution, and he went on: "However, many of today's pollutants can have detrimental impacts, even at very low levels. So, it is certainly possible that what the scientists are seeing here is the result of pollution.

"These findings do underline the need to stop treating the seas around our coast as a dumping ground for human waste and pollution."

Meanwhile, the supermarket giant Asda yesterday joined calls for Britain to withdraw from the European Union's Common Fisheries Policy in order to protect the livelihoods of Scottish fishermen and preserve stocks in the North Sea. A similar call was made last week by the Scottish Seafood Processors' Federation.

Gordon Maddan, the company's regulatory affairs manager, said: "We want all the fish we sell to be sustainable. It's very clear, however, that the Common Fisheries Policy has failed to deliver this, so we are now supporting calls for a radical change in approach."
'We soon may be 100 times better at killing tumours'

CHEMOTHERAPY that has no side effects and is 100 times more effective at killing cancer than current drugs could be available in five years, scientists revealed yesterday.

Gold nanoparticles, which are so small that they are able to get inside cells, are used to deliver a drug called a photosensitiser to tumours, and these can then be activated with a beam of red light.

The drug, performing its role as a biological "Trojan Horse", then produces a toxic form of oxygen which leads to the death of the cell.

Because fast-growing cancer cells are "greedy", they devour the nanoparticles and, unlike healthy cells, do not spit them out again. This means that only cancerous cells are affected, so there are no side effects.

Research has so far been carried out only on cells in the laboratory, but trials involving animals are about to start in Italy.

If the new technique is eventually used on humans, it would also allow the use of drugs that are 100 times more effective at killing cancers, but which cannot be easily injected into patients because they are not soluble in water.

Professor David Russell, of East Anglia University, who is pioneering the technique, said funding would be key to the drug's development.


Scientists find new global warming threat from melting permafrost

WASHINGTON — New research is raising concerns that global warming may be triggering a self-perpetuating climate time bomb trapped in once-frozen permafrost.

As the Earth warms, greenhouse gases once stuck in the long-frozen soil are bubbling into the atmosphere in much larger amounts than previously anticipated, according to a study in Thursday's journal Nature.

Read the rest of the USA Today article here.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Barents Sea Phytoplankton Bloom

In the Barents Sea north of Russia, marine plant life seems to be refusing to acknowledge that summer is passing and fall is approaching. On August 29, 2006, the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Aqua satellite captured this image of a dramatic bloom of phytoplankton (single-celled plants) swirling in the waters west of Novaya Zemlya (New Land).

Chlorophyll and light-harvesting pigments that different kinds of phytoplankton contain produce colorful patterns in the water. The extreme brightness and opacity of the bloom in the left side of the image (also shown in the close-up view, below) suggests that the bloom contains phytoplankton known as coccolithophores. In addition to pigments, these phytoplankton have another characteristic that makes them very obvious in satellite images: chalky- white, scaly coverings. These scales, made out of calcium carbonate, are very reflective; they often give the water a bright, turquoise glow.

In addition to their role with other phytoplankton as the base of the marine food web, coccolithophores also have an important place in Earth’s climate system. The scales contain carbon, and any scales that aren’t digested by other organisms sink to the ocean floor and become part of the sediment—a long-term sink of carbon. The chemistry is complicated, though; the reactions that create the scale produce a carbon dioxide molecule as well. The carbon dioxide may be used by the plants during photosynthesis, or it may escape to the atmosphere, contributing to the greenhouse effect. Scientists are working to understand whether the sinking of coccolithophores’ carbon-containing scales outpaces the release of carbon dioxide. They also want to know whether changes in ocean circulation or temperature as a result of global warming might change the abundance of coccolithophores or their role in the ocean’s carbon chemistry. Global-scale satellite observations of the frequency of blooms and the area they cover are a crucial part of the research into coccolithophores and other phytoplankton.

NASA imagery created by Jesse Allen, Earth Observatory, using data provided courtesy of the MODIS Rapid Response team.

Male Bass Across Region Found to Be Bearing Eggs

Pollution Concerns Arise In Drinking-Water Source

By David A. Fahrenthold
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, September 6, 2006; Page A01

Abnormally developed fish, possessing both male and female characteristics, have been discovered in the Potomac River in the District and in tributaries across the region, federal scientists say -- raising alarms that the river is tainted by pollution that drives hormone systems haywire.

The fish, smallmouth and largemouth bass, are naturally males but for some reason are developing immature eggs inside their sex organs. Their discovery at such widely spread sites, including one just upstream from the Woodrow Wilson Bridge, seems to show that the Potomac's problem with "intersex" fish extends far beyond the West Virginia stream where they were first found in 2003.

The cause of the abnormalities is unknown, but scientists suspect a class of waterborne contaminants that can confuse animals' growth and reproductive systems. These pollutants are poorly understood, however, leaving many observers with questions about what the problems in fish mean for the Potomac and the millions of people who take their tap water from it.

"I don't know, and I don't think anybody knows, the answer to that question right now: Is the effect in the fish transferable to humans?" said Thomas Jacobus, general manager of the Washington Aqueduct, which processes Potomac water to provide drinking water for residents of the District, Arlington County and Falls Church.

Jacobus, like others at area utilities, said there was no evidence that tap water taken from the Potomac was unsafe to drink. They said humans should be far less susceptible to the river's pollution than fish, because people are not exposed constantly to the water, our hormone systems work differently, and our larger bodies should require higher doses of any pollutant to cause problems. As research on the fish continues, other scientists across the region are trying to determine whether Potomac water or mud can affect human cells. This research, including tests at West Virginia University that examine whether cells react as if estrogen or estrogen mimics are present, has not reached any solid conclusions.

The first intersex fish in this area were found three years ago in the South Branch of the Potomac, a tributary more than 200 miles upstream from Washington. In 2004, more abnormal bass were discovered in a section of the upper Potomac near Sharpsburg, Md.

Read the rest here.

Fish Havens Pit Fishermen Vs. Activists

Fishermen, conservationists clash over fish refuges off South Carolina coast

CHARLESTON, S.C., Sep. 6, 2006
(AP) A plan to create fish refuges off the South Carolina coast sparked a clash between fishermen and conservationists.

More than 30 fishermen and environmentalists attended a public hearing Tuesday to discuss the plan by the National Marine Fisheries Service.

The South Atlantic Fishery Management Council proposal would ban fishing for snapper and grouper, in effect bottom-fishing, along the three reefs offshore. The reefs are as large as 50 square miles, as deep as 600 feet and 50 miles out to sea.

Snapper and grouper are popular seafood and among the most heavily fished species in the Southeast.

The three sites off the South Carolina coast are among eight proposed in the Southeast. The council is expected to vote on establishing the refuges in December and the regulation could become law by 2008.

"The South Atlantic council ploy is to basically put the fisherman out of business. And it's working," said commercial fisherman Harold Olsen.

Protected areas don't work and "I haven't seen any studies that they work. We just don't know with these deep water species, and y'all have admitted that," added recreational fisherman Marcus Harold of Mount Pleasant.

But Nancy Vinson of the South Carolina Coastal Conservation League favored creating the refuges.

"There's lots of ocean out there and these are three relatively small sites that may help preserve these fish being overfished," she said.

While conservationists say fish populations are in trouble, some fishermen say there needs to be more research.

"Over the years, we've tried every single other traditional fishing management tool and none of those has protected the snapper-grouper species," said Kerry O'Malley, a council biologist.

Great Barrier Reef fish rebound in marine protected areas

MARINE PROTECTION AREAS REALLY WORK!!!This article was from the WWF website...

04 Sep 2006
Great Barrier Reef, Australia – Recovery rates of fish in the Great Barrier Reef have increased significantly as a result of marine protected areas.

According to a study by the Australian Institute of Marine Science and James Cook University, populations of important fish species — such as coral trout — are up to 50 per cent more abundant in marine sanctuaries than in reefs still open to fishing. Research done on fringing reefs around the Whitsunday Islands showed coral trout and stripy sea perch up 60 per cent.

“The results of the study demonstrate what scientists and conservationists having been saying for years, that creating marine sanctuaries means fish can mature and populations can recover,” said Richard Leck, a marine and coastal policy officer with WWF-Australia.

“What is truly exciting about this research is that not only are the protected areas flourishing but there is very likely to be a spillover effect to surrounding areas which will benefit the whole ecosystem. This research clearly shows that a network of marine sanctuaries with a strong zoning plan is vital to ensuring the sustainable future of the reef.”

Stretching for over 2,000km along Australia’s northeast coast, the Great Barrier Reef is the world’s largest coral reef system. Under a 2004 zoning plan, strict protection of the reef system rose from 4.6 per cent to 33 per cent within the existing Marine Park and World Heritage Area. The network of highly protected areas is aimed at reducing pressure on the Great Barrier Reef and enhancing its capacity to overcome large-scale threats such as coral bleaching, which is linked to climate change and global warming.

WWF is a strong advocate of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). In the last few years alone, the global conservation organization has helped achieve protection for more than 200,000km2 of marine areas around the world, including the Great Barrier Reef, which cover coral reefs, seagrass meadows, mangroves, fish breeding grounds, and deep-sea habitats.

“The results of the research add to increasing data from Australia and around the world showing that highly protected areas boost fish stocks and conserve marine biodiversity,” added Leck.

“We expect these benefits will be foremost in the minds of government planners in Australia as they embark on the next phase of establishing a national network of marine protected areas.”


• According to WWF around 4,600 Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) were designated in 2005, protecting around 2.2 million km2, or 0.6%, of the world’s oceans. WWF's Global Marine Programme is working towards a network of effectively managed, ecologically representative MPAs covering at least 10% of the world’s oceans by 2020.

For further information:
Charlie Stevens, Press Officer
Tel: +61 2 8202 1274

Richard Leck, National Marine and Coastal Policy Officer
Tel: +61 7 3839 2849

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Carp's body helps its survival sans oxygen

HELSINKI, Finland, Aug. 25 (UPI) -- A Finnish study has found the crucian carp's physiology allows it to avoid predators and survive without oxygen during certain months.

The study says cooling water temperature in the fall prompts the carp, a cousin of the goldfish, to store vast amounts of glycogen in its brain and vastly reduce the amount of energy its brain needs to function from February to April, when there is no oxygen in its ponds because of ice cover.

Glycogen, an energy supply that the carp brain uses, was found to be 15 times higher in February, compared to brain glycogen content in July, when oxygen in the pond is at its peak, says the study. Simultaneously, the carp brain's sodium-potassium pump activity, a measure of energy demand, decreased 10-fold to its low point between February and April, says the study's lead author, Vesa Paajanen at Finland's University of Joensuu.

The findings, appearing in the American Journal of Physiology-Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology, help explain how the carp is able to survive for months in a nearly anoxic state.

Report: Enraged Dolphin Terrorizing French Coast; 'He's Like a Mad Dog'

Brest, France (Aug 31, 2006 18:21 EST) An enraged dolphin is terrorising the French Atlantic coast, attacking boats and knocking fishermen into the sea.
Endless Pools

"He's like a mad dog," said Hneri Le Lay, of the association of fishermen and yachtsmen of the port of Brezellec. The dolphin, named Jean Floch, has destroyed rowboats, overturned open boats, flooded engines and twisted mooring lines. Two fishermen were knocked into the sea when the dolphin overturned their boat. Its behaviour was attributed to sexual maturity.

Le Lay wants to put it to sleep. "I like dolphins, but this one should be removed or locked up." But researchers will soon be trying a repellent that will also be used on boats fishing for tuna.

I knew it!!! I never trusted dolphins, never... ask my former coworkers in Florida. I'm actually a little scared of them, bc they are powerful, smart and can be very aggressive, but everyone would laugh at me.... well NOT ANYMORE!!! I always knew they were plotting to take over the world, thats why I believe that strandings are not the result of SONAR but they are actually trying to come onto land... the revolution is starting!!!