Meanwhile, the oceans are dying…

Lest we forget. From Radio Australia, Feb. 21:

Marine species at risk as oceans acidify
British scientists say the current level of carbon dioxide emissions will wipe out about 30 per cent of the world’s marine species by the end of the century. Much of the carbon dioxide put into the atmosphere through fossil fuel burning is being absorbed by the world’s oceans, causing them to acidify. Scientists at Plymouth University in England have examined underwater volcanoes, where carbon dioxide bubbles naturally, to see how marine life copes in acidic water.

Dr. Jason Hall Spencer says a lot of organisms cannot survive in such conditions. “What we notice, unfortunately, is there’s very dramatic shifts in the ecosystem,” he said. “There’s a tipping point that occurs at about the levels of ocean acidification we expect to see at the end of this century. But even before that, even within the next few years, the water becomes corrosive to the shells of organisms and some corals can’t survive.”

The new research was presented at a meeting in Vancouver.

Signs of ocean death have been mounting for some time.

See our last post global ecological collapse.

  1. Meanwhile, the oceans are dying…
    The release of findings of the International Biosphere-Geosphere Program briefly thrust the acidification of the oceans into the headlines this month (a fleeting distraction from Miley Cyrus, the JFK assassination anniversary, and other such pressing matters), finding that acidification could increase by 170% by 2100—a rate unsurpassed in in 300 million years. (BBC News, Nov. 17) Now, the Nov/Dec. issue of Foreign Affairs runs an utterly terrifying piece, “The Devolution of the Seas: Consequences of Oceanic Destruction,” by Alan B. Sielen, on the breakneck plunder of marine life. He writes that we are witnessing “the transformation of once complex oceanic ecosystems featuring intricate food webs with large animals into simplistic systems dominated by microbes, jellyfish, and disease. In effect, humans are eliminating the lions and tigers of the seas to make room for the cockroaches and rats.” One chilling passage:

    Today, fishing vessels drag huge nets outfitted with steel plates and heavy rollers across the sea floor and over underwater mountains, more than a mile deep, destroying everything in their path. As industrial trawlers bulldoze their way along, the surfaces of seamounts are reduced to sand, bare rock, and rubble. Deep cold-water corals, some older than the California redwoods, are being obliterated. In the process, an unknown number of species from these unique islands of biological diversity—which might harbor new medicines or other important information—are being driven extinct before humans even get a chance to study them.

    Typically, Sielen retreats from the implications of his own research, appealing in his conclusion for rationality from the capitalists: “Business leaders should understand better than most the direct links between healthy seas and healthy economies.” The notion that “business leaders” answer to anything other than the bottom line is utterly baseless. Regulation may buy us a little time. But that is not going to stave off planetary collapse either. There are too many holes in the dyke, not enough regulatory fingers—in fact, the fingers are being chopped off by “deregulation,” “free trade,” “neoliberalism,” “laissez faire” or whatever they are calling it this week. The destruction of the biosphere is a systemic problem and it will ultimately demand a systemic solution. Sorry.

    “[F]or all its stinginess, capitalist production is thoroughly wasteful with human material, just as its way of distributing its products through trade, and its manner of competition, make it very wasteful of material resources, so that it loses for society what it gains for the individual capitalist.” —Marx, Capital, III, p. 180

  2. Fuck the fish

    A 2006 study by Dr. Boris Worm of Dalhousie University in Halifax finds that all salt-water fish will be extinct by 2048 due to overfishing, pollution, habitat loss, and climate change. "I was shocked and disturbed by how consistent these trends are—beyond anything we suspected," Worm says in a press release release. Adds study researcher Nicola Beaumont of the UK's Plymouth Marine Laboratory: "This isn't predicted to happen. This is happening now." Already, 29% of edible fish and seafood species have declined by 90%—and this affects us human beings in ways more fundamental than having to give up lox and bagels. Ocean species filter toxins from the water, protect shorelines, and reduce the risks of algae blooms such as the red tide. "If biodiversity continues to decline, the marine environment will not be able to sustain our way of life. Indeed, it may not be able to sustain our lives at all," Beaumont says. (CBS, Nov. 2, 2006)

    That 2006 story barely even made a ripple. Meanwhile, Indian Country Today Media Network just reported (May 2, 2014) that Alaska Natives and Canadian First Nations are uniting to in a struggle to stop plans for the world's largest open-pit mine, dubbed Kerr-Sulphurets-Mitchell (KSM), which is slated for critical salmon habitat in the Unuk River watershed, straddling the border between British Columbia and Alaska. 

    A story which is similarly receiving virtually no mainstream media play.

    So, so, so deeply out of wack.

  3. Earth faces ‘sixth great extinction’

    Species of plants and animals are dying out at least 1,000 times faster than they did before humans arrived on the scene, and the world is now on the brink of a sixth great extinction, a according to a new study the journal Science. The study looks at past and present rates of extinction and finds a lower rate in the past than scientists previously thought. Species are disappearing about 10 times faster than biologists had believed, said the study’s lead author, biologist Stuart Pimm of Duke University. "We are on the verge of the sixth extinction," Pimm said. "Whether we avoid it or not will depend on our actions."

    Pimm’s study focused on the rate of species disappearing from Earth. It calculated a "death rate" of how many species per million become extinct each year. In 1995, Pimm found that the pre-human rate of extinctions on Earth was about 1. But taking into account new research, Pimm and his colleagues refined that background rate to about 0.1. Now the rate is about 100 to 1,000, Pimm said—1,000 to 10,000 times higher.

    Numerous factors are causing species disappear much faster, said Pimm and co-author Clinton Jenkins of the Institute of Ecological Research in Brazil. The top issue is habitat loss: Species are finding nowhere to live as more places are built up and altered by humans. Invasive species and climate change are also affecting where species can survive, and overfishing is reducing ocean populations, Pimm said. (AP, May 30)

  4. Fuck the fish redux

    From the World Wildlife Fund, Sept. 15:

    A new report on the health of the ocean finds that the marine vertebrate population has declined by 49 percent between 1970 and 2012.

    WWF’s Living Blue Planet Report tracks 5,829 populations of 1,234 mammal, bird, reptile, and fish species through a marine living planet index. The evidence, analyzed by researchers at the Zoological Society of London, paints a troubling picture. In addition to the plummeting number of marine vertebrate species, populations of locally and commercially fished fish species have fallen by half, with some of the most important species experiencing even greater declines.

    These findings coincide with the growing decline of marine habitats, where the deforestation rate of mangroves exceeds even the loss of forests by 3-5 times; coral reefs could be lost across the globe by 2050; and almost one-third of all seagrasses have been lost.

    Global climate is one of the major drivers causing the ocean to change more rapidly than at any other point in millions of years…

  5. Fuck the coral

    From the Washington Post, Oct. 8:

    For just the third time on record, scientists say they are now watching the unfolding of a massive worldwide coral bleaching event, spanning the globe from Hawaii to the Indian Ocean. And they fear that thanks to warm sea temperatures, the ultimate result could be the loss of more than 12,000 square kilometers, or over 4,500 square miles, of coral this year — with particularly strong impacts in Hawaii and other U.S. tropical regions, and potentially continuing into 2016.

    The event is being brought on by a combination of global warming, a very strong El Nino event, and the so-called warm "blob" in the Pacific Ocean, say the researchers, part of a consortium including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration as well as XL Catlin Seaview Survey, The University of Queensland in Australia, and Reef Check.

    "This is only the third time we’ve seen what we would refer to as a global bleaching event, an event that causes mass bleaching in the Indian Ocean, the Pacific Ocean, and the Atlantic-Caribbean basin," said Mark Eakin, who heads NOAA’s Coral Reef Watch. The prior events, Eakin continues, "were in 1998 and 2010, and those were pretty much one year events. We’re looking at a similar spatial scale of bleaching across the globe, but spanning across at least 2 years. So that means a lot of these corals are being put under really prolonged stress, or are being hit 2 years in a row."

    The total loss could amount to 5 percent of the world's corals in 2015, according to Eakin. That’s not as bad as the loss in 1998, but there’s a fear that if the event continues into 2016, the losses would grow.