Monthly Archives: January 2018

Musk oxen vulnerable to climate change.

After a decade studying musk oxen scientists have announced that these animals are very vulnerable to climate changes that are occurring in the Arctic. With the climate warming up female musk oxen may have trouble finding enough food to provide for their young. And if the young do not eat enough they will suffer from stunted growth, pushing back the time when they can become sexually active.

This study is the first to suggest a strong relationship between more winter rainfall and the declining health of Arctic mammals. Other big mammals such as caribou and Dall sheep could also be vulnerable.

It is also possible that as winter rains increase the range of the musk oxen could be smaller. They may survive only in colder climates such as northern Greenland which is drier and colder than other parts of the Arctic. When one knows that the Arctic is warming up twice as fast as the average global rate there is cause for concern for big mammals.

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Of squids and climate change.

Squids are not generally thought to have anything to do with affecting the climate one way or another. And yet, scientists have just discovered that they might do just that, influencing the rate at which the climate might change.

Usually when squids die after mating they float to the surface of oceans to be eaten by birds. However, it seems that not all species of squids are subject to that fate. Some sink to the bottom of oceans to be devoured by the denizens of the deep. If it was found that more species of squids fall to the bottom then they might well become storage places for carbon, and this would have implications for the study of climate change.

Let us not forget that oceans are by far the world’s largest storage place of carbon. It seems that in parts of the Gulf of California squids may add up to 12 milligrams of carbon per square meter per day on the ocean floor. This is significant as it represents half of what gets stored by the fall of tiny plankton bodies at shallower depths.

We also know that squid populations are on the increase, perhaps due to the warming of the oceans or because they have fewer predators. Understanding the role they have in storing carbon could be vital in fine-tuning our scenarios in what the future holds and how the climate will change. All this makes me wonder, what else do we not know on what can affect the climate.

 

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Climate change altering lakes and streams.

Scientists who are studying climate change now say that the effects on the world’s inland waters may be profound. The increase in concentration of carbon dioxide may affect the chemical composition of these waters.

In the same way that scientists have been monitoring the increases in carbon dioxide gases in the atmosphere they have also monitored those in seawater. Marine life can and will be harmed by those increases. If the ph of water is lowered and made more acidic then coral would have more trouble building their calcium skeletons. With the acidification of waters the shells of marine organisms like oysters could be affected. Chemical changes in water are often used by marine animals to seek food or avoid danger Many fish cannot detect their predators anymore. They may even become more bold.

All these changes could affect lakes and streams as well, except there are very little studies that have been done on them so far. One study so far involved the water flea, a shrimp-like creature that has different defenses against predators. They have a protective crests and also some sprout spikes. The tiny water fleas filter algae and microbes from water and they are devoured by small fish which in turn are eaten by bigger fish. An entire ecosystem could be affected if the water fleas are affected and this was why they were studied. Scientists have discovered that higher levels of carbon dioxide causes water fleas to make smaller crests and shorter spikes. It seems that carbon dioxide interferes with the nervous system of water fleas, blunting their ability to look out for predators.

Minnows swimming in waters affected by a rise in carbon dioxide also do not respond as quickly to alarm signals released by other minnows. Another study has shown that one species of mussels relaxes its muscles in water that has high carbon dioxide while another species seem to clamped its shell shut so that it could not filter food anymore.

Still, no one knows for sure the effects or if all ecosystems will be affected. One study that looked at lakes in Wisconsin found no change between 1986 and 2011. Different ecosystems may react differently face with an increase in carbon dioxide. More studies are therefore needed.

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The suffocation of the oceans.

Dead zones in the ocean with zero oxygen have increased in size four times since the 1950’s according to scientists. The number of low level oxygen sites near coasts have multiplied ten times. All this is not reassuring.

Low levels of oxygen in our oceans could have unintended effects on organisms. They would reduce growth, impair reproduction and increase disease. Warmer waters means less oxygen in water prodding organisms to increase their metabolism to use more oxygen and thereby deplete it more quickly.

Sea creatures cannot survive in these zones and this could mean mass extinctions in the long run, with severe consequences for the humans who depend on fish. Many poor countries depend on fish as their basic staple of food. More than 500 million people depend on fisheries and these in turn provide jobs for 350 million people.

Once again climate change is the culprit for these increases in low level oxygen areas. Not reassuring is that according to scientists all the extinctions in the past were due to warm climates and oxygen-deficient oceans.

Even on a local level humans can be acutely responsible for these dead zones. One researcher was able to expose a link between the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico and large scale meat production. People have to be made aware of that.

The good thing about all this is that at a local level people can do something to alleviate the problem. Chesapeake Bay in the U.S has recovered from this as well as the Thames river in the U.K. There still is a need to act by countries as this is a world-wide problem with grave consequences for all of humanity.

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Oil and the environment.

Not much of a surprise with the new Trump administration; the U.S will roll back safety rules that were created after the Deepwater Horizon spill. And this despite that it was the worst oil spill in American history. All this according to documents is to reduce the “burden” of regulations in doing business…

Not surprising was that the oil lobby opposed these safety rules arguing that they would cost 50.000 jobs and reduce investment. Nevermind that one million coastal and offshore seabirds died in the spill and that 4.9 million barrels of oil went into the sea.

Naturally environmental groups claim that reversing these safety measures will lead to another disaster. Some have called this reversal wilful ignorance. I call it sheeer stupidity.

I want to wish to all my subscribers a Happy New Year!

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