News In Pairs Like Castanets

By Daniel de la Calle

Maybe influenced by the traditional Spanish music I was listening to while writing, here are some news in twos:

Ω   There are two billion tonnes of fish in the oceans, which is about 660 pounds/300 kilograms for each human being on the planet.  Villy Christensen, ecosystem modeller with the University of British Columbia Fisheries Centre speaking at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science said the problem is that half of that biomass is made of smaller fish living in the mesopelagic zone (extending in the oceans to a depth of 1,000 meters) that are not commercially fished.  “Small open-ocean fish, nice for whales to eat”, he said.  The last forty years have also seen a decline of roughly 55% in commercially fished species that measure at least three feet.  “There’s been a drastic composition change.  This is global, this is for everywhere,” affirmed Christensen, calling for more research to better manage fisheries and stocks.

Ω   Also at the AAAS annual meeting and also from the University of Columbia Fisheries Centre, Professor William Cheung presented some predictions generated with computer simulators that accounted for increases in acidification and temperature and decreasing oxygen levels.  “What we find is that if we just look at warming, the animals will shift their distribution, because for fish and for some of the shellfish, they like to live in a certain temperature of the water, and if water gets warmer, they will very likely move to a higher latitude or move north, so that they can find cooler water to live,” Cheung said.  “In addition, with less oxygen and with more acidic waters in some regions, that may also reduce their capacity for growth, so overall it may actually reduce the potential catch in some regions of the world.”  For example, in the Norwegian Sea, ocean warming by itself may result in a 15 per cent increase in fisheries catch potential. However, accounting for  acidification and de-oxygenation, the increase turns to a decrease of 15 per cent, and the region from a “winner” to a “loser.”

Ω   Session number 9 at the XXXII SCAR Open Science Conference, July 16-19 2012, in Portland, Oregon, will be on Ocean Acidification in the Southern Ocean. “Presentations are invited on new Southern Ocean understanding (from observational, experimental and modeling approaches) on the scale of past, present and future ocean acidification; responses of marine organisms and ecosystem structure, functioning and biodiversity; perturbations to biogeochemical cycling and feedbacks to the climate system; and the societal and policy challenges of ocean acidification.”
Further information on the conference can be found HERE

Ω   Continuing on the Southern Ocean, an international committee of experts is meeting this month to begin the implementation of a new observing system for its study.  Understanding of the Southern Ocean, a key player in the climate and ecosystem functioning of the planet, has always been hampered by lack of data.  This is why the science community has established the Souther Ocean Observing System (SOOS).  Some of their priorities will be to determine the role of this ocean on the planet’s heat and freshwater balance, to establish its overturning circulation and its role in the stability of the Antarctic ice sheet, as well as its contribution to sea-level rise, to foresee the future of Antarctic sea ice, the future and consequences of carbon uptake and the impacts of global change on ecosystems.

Ω   USA President Barack Obama requested a 5% budget increase for the National Science Foundation in the year 2013.  The NSF Director Subra Sursh detailed last February 13 the $7.373 billion budget, “emphasizing that new knowledge resulting from federal investments in science and technology is needed to ensure the nation’s future prosperity and global competitiveness,” as says their website.
Reading down the highlights for 2013 I found:
“$203 million for the Science, Engineering and Education for Sustainability portfolio, which includes priority work on clean energy alternatives, sustainable chemical and manufacturing practices, water conservation, ocean acidification, natural disaster prediction and response and understanding the changes occurring in coastal and Arctic ecologies.”

Ω   A Montana-based company by the name of Sunburst Sensors just received a $2.5 million contract from the National Science Foundation to provide 110 of their Submersible Autonomous Moored Instruments (SAMI) for a sensor network that over the next three years will be deployed off the coast of North America.  It is all part of the 30-year Ocean Observation Initiative.
The sensors are designed to track pH levels and the amount of dissolved carbon dioxide in water to monitor Ocean Acidification.

Ω   Youtube video titled “Ocean Acidification: Where will all the seashells go?”

Ω   And a second video on Ocean Acidification found on the Vancouver Sun website HERE

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