“What defines an invasive species? Are humans an invasive species?”, one of my students asked me during lunch. Earlier that day he had asked a similar question in front of the whole group, but I had responded that we didn’t have enough time to get into a long debate about the contentious definition of an invasive species. I said that if he wanted, we could debate whether or not humans were an invasive species over lunch.
268,940 tons of plastic float through the world’s oceans, spreading, accumulating, and being swallowed or absorbed. A group of researchers led by Markus Eriksen of the Five Gyres Institute in LA made this estimate in 2014. 5.25 trillion plastic particles are sitting in the ocean, they wrote in their paper, which was the first ever estimate for the total amount of plastic in the ocean.
Carbon sequestration, ocean acidification, and global climate change: these are just a few complex processes associated with the carbon cycle and ultimately, the future of our environment. More familiar and accessible to the general public, however, is the fact that the amount of atmospheric carbon, a primary driver of climate change, is steadily on the rise in today’s world. Questions and concerns on the future of our planet develop when we begin to contemplate what consequences will arise as a result of this increased carbon. How will nature react?
One of the things we all have in common as citizens of Earth is our dependence on the it and on fully functioning ecosystems. Earth Day is about making sure that we can continue to depend on these processes, both for their intrinsic and their economic value. In the age of climate change, pollution, and habitat destruction, an age scientists have literally termed the anthropocene, which means “the age of the human”, Earth Day is more important than ever.
Each year, April 22nd is a reminder of the responsibility we have to be stewards of the planet on which we live. Earth Day reminds us of the environmental issues that may not always be at the forefront of all conversations. But how did it start? And who do we have to thank for bringing environmental issues into the national spotlight?
Once upon a time, sturgeon the size of school buses roamed the oceans, seas, and rivers of the world. Huso huso is the largest and now the rarest species of sturgeon, growing on average to about 25 feet long. Huso huso lives in the Caspian and Black Seas and it is now unclear whether the species has gone extinct in the wild or not. When the International Union for Conservation of Nature (the IUCN) last surveyed the species in 2010, the population had decreased by 90% over the past sixty years and a number of the populations had gone extinct in the wild. Most if not all individuals are now bred and raised in hatcheries.
Many threats face coral reefs today, from coral bleaching to storms to boats and anchors that break fragile coral branches. But all hope is not lost - corals are capable of regrowth. Recently, a great deal of research has gone into understanding coral resiliency.
Corals take at least several decades for regrowth and it is a slow and steady process. Naturally, it is important for coral to have evolved the ability to rebuild and regrow because natural disasters like storms and variations in fish grazing happen all the time. The problem now is how corals can regrow in the context of human-caused environmental change.
Fisheries are vital for providing protein and nutrients to people around the world; they sustain human life on earth, but humans are currently not using them sustainably.
Offshore drilling often sparks a heated debate. Many environmentalists would view this form of oil abstraction as particularly harmful to the marine environment. . . While criticism surrounds the oil industry, there is no questioning that America relies heavily on oil.
Garbage patches are not an accumulation of these horrific encounters between wildlife and trash, however, they are spiraling masses of something much more subtle and sinister.
“The best bumper sticker I’ve ever seen,” my grandmother told us between gifts, “was one that read ‘Throw it away? There is no away.’”
We aimed for a waste-free gift-giving this year, not buying any new items for gift wrapping whatsoever. Rather than worry about buying enough wrapping paper, gift bags, gift tags, and tissue paper, it was fun to see which bags and boxes have made a comeback year after year.
One billion oysters will be given a new home in New York Harbor. That’s the goal of a non-profit organization called the Billion Oyster Project (BOP). Partnering with a variety of other people, including schools, restaurants, and the general public, BOP is planning on restoring the vast oyster reefs which used to single-handedly filter all of the water in New York Harbor.
This morning, the White House announced the National Ocean Council approved the Nation's first ocean plans- the Northeast Ocean Plan and the Mid-Atlantic Ocean Action Plan. The cornerstone of each of these plans is a database of maps, marine species, climate information, renewable energy, and human activities. . .
I once wrote an article entitled “Oceans: Earth’s Final Frontier” in which I cited the statistic that, despite covering 70% of the earth’s surface, only 5% of oceans have been explored by humans. It is no surprise then that so many people are fascinated by the oceans. As a fellow ocean lover, I understand why one may be enamored of the mysteries, the possibilities for exploration, the need for protection, and the ability to manipulate the ecosystem for use for human progress. The possibilities for working with the ocean are limitless.
Global Weirding: The Coral Catastrophe
Coral reefs are the rainforests of the sea. Full of diversity and severely endangered, corals play a very similar role in reefs to the role of trees in rainforests. Corals provide a backbone for the most lush, colorful, and productive ecosystems on the planet.
For humans, reefs buffer shorelines, provide homes for important fisheries species, are important tourist destinations, and can provide novel medicines. According to a study done in 1997, the economic worth of coral reefs adds up to approximately $375 billion each year, even though reefs only cover 1% of the earth’s surface. Yet all of this value is at risk under the influence of climate change.
“Exposing the truth about global warming hysteria” reads the tagline of the website GlobalClimateScam.com. However, this is what I’m about to attempt: to expose the truth about the importance of why everyone is so up in arms about this whole global warming problem and what buzzwords like “global warming” and “climate change” mean. So here we go: ocean acidification and climate change, the basics.
The European shore crab, scientific name Carcinus maenus, is in the process of taking over the world. This little creature, also frequently referred to as the green crab, features all the characteristics of your average crab, but now also has a feature most animals do not: it occupies five of the world’s seven continents.
This summer, I got a chance to fulfill my dream of being Jacques Cousteau. Unfortunately, this experience was short-lived as I was returned to being a mere civilian after completing a game with the campers at the Central Park Zoo. Noah Chesnin, Policy Program Manager for New York Seascape at the Wildlife Conservation Society, created this game. For half an hour, the carpeted classroom floors were transformed into the coasts of the tri-state area, the open ocean, and the depths of the Hudson canyon as students swam around as a whale, a ship, coral, fish, turtles, recreational fishermen, the coast guard, or even Jacques Cousteau himself. This role playing game demonstrates just how many different individuals need to coordinate in order for things to run smoothly in the oceans. For example, the students playing the role of whales had to come up with compromises with boats, such as introducing shipping lanes to prevent collisions.
Since the game recognizes the importance of teamwork in marine policy work, Chesnin presented his ocean planning game on August 31st during the New York Aquarium’s event entitled “Navigating New York’s Busy Ocean: Whales, Ships and a New Era of Ocean Planning.” This idea, that I like to call “Collabor-Ocean,” is represented simply through the game and is vital to ocean planning
We will focus on topics ranging from Ocean Planning, Ports, Aquatic Noise, Hull Biofouling, Plastics, Watersheds, Ocean Acidification and much more. We hope you are as excited as we are for this new project!
Please reach out to J.Seyer@namepa.net with any suggested subject topics or if you are interested in contributing posts.