Feeling Hot, Hot, Hot… Not: Coral Reefs

Coral reefs suffered record losses as a consequence of high ocean temperatures in the tropical Atlantic and Caribbean in 2005 according to the most comprehensive documentation of basin-scale bleaching to date. Collaborators from 22 countries report that more than 80 percent of surveyed corals bleached and over 40 percent of the total surveyed died, making this the most severe bleaching event ever recorded in the basin.

Satellite-based tools from NOAA’s Coral Reef Watch Program guided site selection for field observations conducted across the greater Caribbean region from June to October 2005. Field surveys of bleaching and mortality in this study surpass prior efforts in both detail and extent. This study also substantially raised the standards for documenting the effects of bleaching and for testing satellite and forecast products. Coral bleaching occurs when stress causes corals to expel their symbiotic algae, or zooxanthellae. If prolonged or particularly severe, it may result in coral death. Heat stress during the 2005 event exceeded any observed in the Caribbean in the prior 20 years, and regionally-averaged temperatures were the warmest in at least 150 years. This will undoubtedly have long-term consequences for reef ecosystems, and events like this are likely to become more common as the climate warms. Through this survey, several species and localities reported bleaching for the first time, including the first known bleaching of any kind in Saba, the first documented mass bleaching at the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary, and the first reported mass bleaching in Virgin Islands National Park of Acropora palmata, a species listed as threatened under the U.S. Endangered Species Act in 2006. The Caribbean is suffering severe bleaching again this year, and in some locations, this bleaching event is worse than the event in 2005. Not only are temperatures causing further damage to reefs hit hard during the 2005 event, but new locations have also been impacted. The decline and loss of coral reefs has significant social, cultural, economic and ecological impacts on people and communities throughout the world. As the “rainforests of the sea,” coral reefs provide economic services — jobs, food and tourism — estimated to be worth as much as $375 billion each year.

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Biodiversity: Care About It or It Will Be Angry

We often think of declines in biodiversity – an animal here, a plant there, either extirpated from one local or extinct altogether – as a tragedy for the environment. The loss of biodiversity — from beneficial bacteria to charismatic mammals — threatens human health. That’s the conclusion of a study published this week in the journal Nature by scientists who study biodiversity and infectious diseases. There is acritical connection between conservation and disease. Species losses in ecosystems such as forests and fields result in increases in disease causing organisms called pathogens. The animals, plants, and microbes most likely to disappear as biodiversity is lost are often those that buffer infectious disease transmission. Those that remain tend to be species that magnify the transmission of infectious diseases like West Nile virus, Lyme disease, and hantavirus.

In the case of Lyme disease, says co-author Richard Ostfeld of the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies in Millbrook, N.Y., “strongly buffering species like the opossum are lost when forests are fragmented, but white-footed mice thrive. The mice increase numbers of both the blacklegged tick vector and the pathogen that causes Lyme disease.” Scientists don’t yet know, Ostfeld says, why the most resilient species — “the last ones standing when biodiversity is lost” — are the ones that also amplify pathogens. Preserving natural habitats, the authors argue, is the best way to prevent this effect.

Global biodiversity has declined at an unprecedented pace since the 1950s. Current extinction rates are estimated at 100 to 1,000 times higher than in past epochs, and are projected to increase at least a thousand times more in the next 50 years. Expanding human populations can increase contact with novel pathogens through activities such as land-clearing for agriculture and hunting for wildlife.

Identifying the variables involved in infectious disease emergence is difficult but critical, says co-author Andrew Dobson of Princeton University.
Biodiversity is an important factor, but so are land use changes and human population growth and behavior, he says. “When biological diversity declines and contact with humans increases, you have a perfect recipe for infectious disease outbreaks.” The authors call for careful monitoring of areas in which large numbers of domesticated animals are raised or fish are farmed. “That would reduce the likelihood of an infectious disease jumping from wildlife to livestock, then to humans,” says Keesing. For humans and other species to remain healthy, it will take more than a village — we need an entire planet, the scientists say, one with its diversity thriving.

Sources
Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies (2010, December 1). Loss of species large and small threatens human health, study finds. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 13, 2010, from http://www.sciencedaily.com­ /releases/2010/12/101201134156.htm

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Solar Activity and How Earth Feels About It

On August 1, 2010, an entire hemisphere of the sun erupted. Filaments of magnetism snapped and exploded, shock waves raced across the stellar surface, billion-ton clouds of hot gas billowed into space. Astronomers knew they had witnessed something big. It was so big that it may have shattered old ideas about solar activity.

For the past three months, Karel Schrijver has been working with fellow Lockheed-Martin solar physicist Alan Title to understand what happened during the “Great Eruption.” They had plenty of data: The event was recorded in unprecedented detail by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory and twin STEREO spacecraft. With several colleagues present to offer commentary, they outlined their findings at a press conference today at the American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco.

Explosions on the sun are not localized or isolated events, they announced. Instead, solar activity is interconnected by magnetism over breathtaking distances. Solar flares, tsunamis, coronal mass ejections–they can go off all at once, hundreds of thousands of miles apart, in a dizzyingly-complex concert of mayhem. It has gotten to the point that is is a lot harder to predict eruptions based solely on the sun’s magnetic field, other factors now need to be calculated into the equation. This fact increases the work load for space weather forecasters, but it also increases the potential accuracy of their forecasts. The whole-sun approach could lead to breakthroughs in predicting solar activity, and would provide improved forecasts to customers such as electric power grid operators and commercial airlines, who could take action to protect their systems and ensure the safety of passengers and crew.
chrijver and Title broke down the Great Eruption into more than a dozen significant shock waves, flares, filament eruptions, and CMEs spanning 180 degrees of solar longitude and 28 hours of time.

At first it seemed to be a cacophony of disorder until they plotted the events on a map of the sun’s magnetic field. Further analysis may yet reveal the underlying trigger; for now, the team is still wrapping their minds around the global character of solar activity. One commentator recalled the old adage of three blind men describing an elephant–one by feeling the trunk, one by holding the tail, and another by sniffing a toenail. Studying the sun one sunspot at a time may be just as limiting.

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Breaking News : whole world will soon be dessert. well.. sorta.. not really.. actually there’s no chance

Some researchers at the Nattional Center for Atmospheric Research have just put out findings that say much of the globe will experience a tremendous draught in the next 30 years.(and who said bottled water was a bad idea???) They say that Global warming (ughhh) is the main factor as well as greenhouse gas emissions. These will combine to create an enormous El Nino type situation. In the article he gives no scientific facts, except that he used 22 computers. My guess is that in a few weeks there will be 10 studies showing that we are no in threat of an enormous draught. He goes on to add that the drought risk will decrease as this century goes on meaning his research is pretty much pointless, but just another way to scare the world. I am getting pretty tired of the whole scare tactic method, instead of informing us of possible situations and ways of helping our selves they just throw a load of nonsense on us and expect us to believe it. he says that we have extreme melting rates, some of the highest in history, however they do not equal the drying rates in other arts of the world which he does not say are the highest in history. The equation doesn’t quite make sense, but dont let me stop you from stocking up on bottled water.

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Panama Canalled all over Panama

Pardon tehe cheesy topic. Its getting late and I’m down to the wire. Research shows that A massive earthquake could be brewing around panama city. This is bad news for the people of Panama and those who are affected by the panama canal ( aka everyone). The Limon and Pedro Miguel faults in Central Panama have ruptured meaning that there is high potential for a large earthquake in the near future.The Republic of Panama sits atop two colliding tectonic plates: The Central Plate and South America Plate and is internally deforming at a significant rate. If an earthquake occurs, there would be economic disaster in SOuth America and all around the world. The Panama canal is the busiest shipping route and an earthquake would stop all shipping and if any damage is done, the canal could be out of commission for a very long time. Hopefully it was built to withstand strong seismic activity… Glad I dont live in Panama!

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Iraq up some water bottles

If Iraq didnt have enough on its plate. They are no facing desperate measures dealing with water management. The majority of their water comes from the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. Unfortunately between pollution and war, water supply has been limited and dirty. Their water management situation has been describes as ” fallen into despair.” These poor people are dealing with wars and hard times and now cannot get a drink of water. The United Stataes has been implementing new advanced water management systems to help keep track of where the clean water is going and how much of it is going where. This is a very important thing to a war torn country and it is good to see the Unites States recognizing this and trying to help. With the new technology and new ideas, we feel that Iraq will be able to manage their water supply independently in the next few years.

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Its a bird, its a plane, no its a giant dragonfly!

It crazy as it sounds. Its True! scientists have been raising dragonflies in habitats representing environments millions of years ago. Oxygen levels millions of years ago were well above the levels today. Organisms back then were much larger than those today and the high oxygen levels have a large part to do with that. These dragon flies have a wingspan up to 28 inches. Thats a big insect! Besides dragonflies, they have grown cockroaches and other types of insects and proven that the higher amount of oxygen present, the bigger then insect grows. This seems a bit scary because if this is true with all organisms, we have the ability to harvest basketball players. It seems a lot like a real like frankenstine story. We all saw how poorly that turned out in the book.( which you all probably read in grade school) I think that we should stop trying these things unless they are completely essential to helping the human race, possibly with physical mutations or injuries.

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