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November 26 2013

19:15

Ocean Acidity Rising 10x Faster Than At Any Time in the Past 55 Million Years

Credit: Christopher Krembs, TAMU

Ocean acidification continues to rise at a rate “unprecedented in Earth’s history,” a direct result of past and current increases in carbon and greenhouse gas emissions, posing significant threats to the health and integrity of marine ecosystems and the diverse range of products and services they provide the world over, according to a report produced by the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme, UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission and the Scientific Committee on Oceanic Research (SCOR) and released for the Third Symposium on the Ocean in a High CO2 World..

The latest scientific research on ocean acidification indicates the pH of the oceans is decreasing 10-times faster than at any time in the past 55 million years and may be decreasing faster “than at any time in the last 300 million years,” according to “Ocean Acidification: A Summary for Policymakers” presented at the Third Symposium on the Ocean in a High CO2 World.

The culprit: rising anthropogenic (human) emissions of CO2. The amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) in our atmosphere has risen 40 percent since the start of the Industrial Revolution. The oceans historically have absorbed about ¼ of all the CO2 released into the atmosphere by humans since that time. Today, they absorb some 10 million metric tons of CO2 on a daily basis, the report authors note in an executive summary. To date, those emissions have led ocean acidity to increase 26 percent.

Ocean acidification: Rising human carbon emissions the culprit

Increasing ocean acidification lowers the capacity of the oceans to absorb seawater and hence also threatens the viability of marine ecosystems. That spells potential trouble for already troubled ocean plant and animal species, many of which are of vital importance to human societies the world over.

As the authors highlight, the gathering of 540 experts from 37 countries in Monterey, California for the Third Symposium on the Ocean in a High CO2 World attests to the growing amount of interest, scientific research, and sense of urgency, regarding “ocean acidification, its impacts on ecosystems, socio-economic consequences and implications for policy.”

What do we need to do in respone to what amounts as a “clear and present danger” to the health and integrity of marine ecosystems? The report authors state the solution plainly and succinctly:

“Reducing CO2 emissions is the only way to minimise long-term, largescale risks.”

Source:

Source: “Ocean Acidification Summary for Policymakers”

Considerations for Policy Makers

In the executive summary, they go on to highlight a summary of considerations they recommend policy makers take into account in their decision making:

  • The primary cause of ocean acidification is the release of atmospheric CO2 from human activities. The only known realistic mitigation option on a global scale is to limit future atmospheric CO2 levels.
  • Appropriate management of land use and land-use change can enhance uptake of atmospheric CO2 by vegetation and soils through activities such as restoration of wetlands, planting new forests and reforestation.
  • Geoengineering proposals that do not reduce atmospheric CO2 – for example, methods that focus solely on temperature (such as aerosol backscatter or reduction of greenhouse gases other than CO2) – will not prevent ocean acidification. Adding alkaline minerals to the ocean would be effective and economically feasible only on a very small scale in coastal regions, and the unintended environmental consequences are largely unknown.
  • The impacts of other stressors on ocean ecosystems such as higher temperatures and deoxygenation – also associated with increasing CO2 – will be reduced by limiting increases in CO2 levels.
  • The shellfish aquaculture industry faces significant threats and may benefit from a risk assessment and analysis of mitigation and adaptation strategies. For example, seawater monitoring around shellfish hatcheries can identify when to limit the intake of seawater with a lower pH, hatcheries can be relocated, or managers can select larval stages or strains that are more resilient to ocean acidification for breeding.
  • At local levels, the effects of ocean acidification on ecosystem resilience may be constrained by minimising other local stressors3,4,5 through the following:
  1. Developing sustainable fisheries management practices such as regulating catches to reduce overfishing and creating long-term bycatch reduction plans. If implemented and enforced, this type of management has been shown to sustain ecosystem resilience.
  2. Adopting sustainable management of habitats, increased coastal protection, reduced sediment loading and application of marine spatial planning.
  3. Establishing and maintaining Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) that help manage endangered and highly vulnerable ecosystems to enhance their resilience against multiple environmental stressors.
  4. Monitoring and regulating localised sources of acidification from runoff and pollutants such as fertilisers.
  5. Reducing sulphur dioxide and nitrous oxide emissions from coal-fired power plants and ship exhausts that have significant acidifying effects locally.

Main image credit: Christopher Krembs, TAMU

The post Ocean Acidity Rising 10x Faster Than At Any Time in the Past 55 Million Years appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

November 05 2013

16:44

14 Steps to Reduce Black Carbon and Stabilize the Cryosphere

on_thin_iceClimate change is causing unprecedented changes in the Earth’s regions of snow and ice, portents of profound, dramatic change for ecosystems and societies around the world, according to a joint report released by The World Bank and The International Cryosphere Climate Initiative (ICCI) November 4.

The Earth’s cryosphere is warming more rapidly than anticipated – “at a pace unprecedentd in the historic record.” Rather than abating, in most cases warming and melting is accelerating, posing ecosystems and societies around the world with a variety of fundamental threats, including an increasing frequency of droughts and floods, and dramatic shifts in water, food and energy resource availability, according to “On Thin Ice: How Cutting Pollution Can Slow Warming and Save Lives.”

The Earth’s cryosphere: “On Thin Ice”

Stabilizing and preserving the cryosphere merits inclusion as a global imperative, the report authors stress. Leadership – in the form of explicit and sustained guidance, direction, support and incentives – is needed across markets, industries, the government, private and public sectors if there is any chance of this objective being realized, however.

In “On Thin Ice,” the World Bank and ICCI report authors lay out 14 practical measures that if enacted by 2030 could drastically reduce short-lived carbon pollutants (SLCPs) – primarily black carbon and methane – and stabilize conditions in the world’s threatened snow and ice-bound regions. Doing so, they assert, would bring “multiple health, crop, and ecosystems benefits and decrease risks to development from water resource changes, including flooding and other major impacts or climate feedbacks we may not foresee today.”

The effects of climate change are being seen and felt disproportionately in the Earth’s cryosphere, whether it’s Arctic sea ice, Antarctic ice shelves, the Greenland ice sheet, the Alaskan coast or the freshwater glaciers of the Andes, Rockies and Himalayas. Moreover, “rapid changes in the cryosphere observed during the first decade of this century are continuing or accelerating,” according to the report.

“Warming in the cryosphere poses serious threats to disaster preparedness, to water resources in some heavily populated regions, and to adaptation and ecosystems preservation. Intensified monitoring in cryosphere regions is needed to provide better and earlier warning of changes.”

Ongoing warming “has the potential to trigger disastrous feedback mechanisms from the cryosphere into the global climate systems,” the report authors continue, including “loss of albedo from sea ice and snow cover and loss of permafrost leading to greater carbon fluxes into the atmosphere (particularly where emissions occur as methane.”

Credit:

Credit: “On Thin Ice,” World Bank, ICCI

Methane emissions from thawing permafrost alone could increase atmospheric carbon “as much as 5-30% by the end of this century if current cryosphere warming is not slowed,” they warn.

Reducing Black Carbon and methane emissions

Implementing the 14 measures recommended in the report by 2030 “could slow warming in the Arctic by more than a full degree by 2050, resulting in up to 40 percent reduced loss of summer sea ice and 25 percent reduced loss of springtime snow cover compared to the baseline,” however.

As stated in the report’s executive summary,

“Accelerating actions to decrease short-lived pollutants from key sectors can make a real difference by slowing these dangerous changes and risks to development while improving public health and food security.”

Rapidly scaling up just four cleaner cooking solutions alone could save as many as 1 million human lives a year. Reducing diesel emissions in transportation can prevent 340,000 deaths Achieving a 50% reduction in open field and forest burning could avoid 190,000 deaths from air pollution, according to the report.

Source:

Source: “On Thin Ice,” World Bank, ICCI

There’s no time to waste, they emphasize. “With projections of large cryosphere impacts such as Arctic sea ice loss occurring by mid-century, speed is of the essence in addressing and operationalizing these cryosphere and development challenges.”

Of potentially profound significance for coastal regions and populations, “rates of sea-level rise might be significantly slowed by 2050, with a potential near-leveling-off in rates before the end of the century if SLCP measures are combined with CO2 emissions held to 450ppm.

“This decrease in sea-level rise could range from 10 cm to half a meter or more. Perhaps more important, temperature reductions in polar regions from these measures would help minimize the risk of essentially irreversible ice sheet loss or disintegration in West Antarctica and Greenland, which could ultimately raise ocean levels by several decimeters by 2100—and by many meters over a period of centuries or millennia.”

The post 14 Steps to Reduce Black Carbon and Stabilize the Cryosphere appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

October 08 2013

19:50

New Research Reveals Climate Warming 55 MYA was Geologically Instantaneous

PETMfig1 (1)New research into past changes in climate indicates that global warming can take place much more suddenly than previously thought – over the course of only about 13 years. Temperatures at high latitudes rose as much as 8ºC (14ºF) and oceans warmed from surface to bottom some 55 million years ago during what’s known as the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM).

The rapid rise in global temperature caused massive disruptions and changed climate conditions, weather patterns, the distribution of plant and animal species, and ecology the world over. Driving it all was a massive increase in the amount of CO2 released into the atmosphere. The massive, abrupt injection of CO2 into the atmosphere, in turn, was driven by intense volcanic activity on the seafloor, which also drove a further separation of the American and Eurasian tectonic plates and the widening of the North Atlantic Ocean basin.

Instantaneous Global Warming

The scientific consensus was that a massive release of CO2 into the atmosphere over a period of some 10,000 years drove the PETM temperature rise. Research conducted by two Rutgers University geologists indicates that a doubling of atmospheric CO2 during the PETM occurred in a geologic instant, over a mere 13 years, driving a global temperature rise of 5ºC (9ºF), however, according to a Phys.org report.

Studying drilling core samples from an area of southern New Jersey that was covered by a warm sea during the PETM, Rutgers’ geologists Morgan Schaller and James Wright discovered an alternating, cyclic pattern of dark clay bands about 2 centimeters thick rich in organic material. Analyzing the clay bands, the pair of researchers found changes in ratios of heavier carbon-13 and lighter carbon-12 isotopes.

The 20% drop in atmospheric carbon-13 concentration they measured in the core samples can “plausibly account” for their observations is “a large, instantaneous release of C-13-depleted carbon,” associated with intense volcanic activity, according to their report, “Evidence for a rapid release of carbon at the Paleocene-Eocene thermal maximum,” in the current issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“Scientists have been using this event from 55 million years ago to build models about what’s going on now,” Schaller was quoted as saying. “But they’ve been assuming it took something like 10,000 years to release that carbon, which we’ve shown is not the case. We now have a very precise record through the carbon release that can be used to fix those models.”

The research pair estimates the intense marine volcanic activity some 55 million years ago caused some 3,000 gigatons of carbon to be released into the atmosphere from hydrocarbon-rich, organic mudstone, and methane hydrate deposits on the seafloor of the continental margins.

In addition to forcing rapid warming, this led to an abrupt rise in the acidity of the oceans, which, in turn, led to mass extinctions of the phytoplankton that not only form the base of the marine food chain, but produce as much as half the oxygen in the atmosphere and absorb as much as half the total atmospheric CO2 sequestered as part of the carbon cycle. Similarly drastic changes have been found in terrestrial flora and fauna.

Though nowhere near the same order of magnitude, human CO2 emissions are causing similarly profound and abrupt climate and ecological change today. “We’ve shown unequivocally what happens when CO2 increases dramatically – as it is now, and as it did 55 million years ago,” Wright was quoted.

“The oceans become acidic and the world warms up dramatically. Our current carbon release has been going on for about 150 years, and because the rate is relatively slow, about half the CO2 has been absorbed by the oceans and forests, causing some popular confusion about the warming effects of CO2. But 55 million years ago, a much larger amount of carbon was all released nearly instantaneously, so the effects are much clearer.”

The post New Research Reveals Climate Warming 55 MYA was Geologically Instantaneous appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

September 10 2013

20:45

Warming Ocean Portends Troubling Changes at the Base of the Marine Food Web

NOAA MESA Project

Conducting research of potentially vital importance to marine and coastal zone resource policy makers and managers, fisheries managers, fishing communities and stakeholders worldwide, researchers from the University of East Anglia’s (UEA) School of Environmental Sciences and School of Computing Sciences and the University of Exeter have found that warming ocean temperatures pose potentially grave risks to the marine food web.

The research team for the first time determined that ocean temperature – as well as light and nutrient levels – has a direct impact on the chemical cycles, diversity and productivity of phytoplankton populations, microscopic marine organisms that form the base of the marine food web and play an outsized role in absorbing atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2).

As lead researcher Dr. Thomas Mock explained in a UEA news report,

“Phytoplankton, including micro-algae, are responsible for half of the carbon dioxide that is naturally removed from the atmosphere. As well as being vital to climate control, it also creates enough oxygen for every other breath we take, and forms the base of the food chain for fisheries so it is incredibly important for food security.

Changes at the base of the marine food web

“Previous studies have shown that phytoplankton communities respond to global warming by changes in diversity and productivity. But with our study we show that warmer temperatures directly impact the chemical cycles in plankton, which has not been shown before.”

More specifically, the research team found that marine micro algae apparently don’t produce as many ribosomes as when temperatures are lower. Rich in phosphorous, ribosomes assemble the proteins essential to phytoplankton life functioning.

A reduction in ribosomes leads to the production of more nitrogen as opposed to phosphorous, which increases the demand for nitrogen in the oceans. This, in turn, would eventually lead to more blue-green algae, or cyanobacteria, which fix atmospheric nitrogen as part of their basic life functioning.

Source: World Resources Institute

Source: World Resources Institute

Cyanobacteria also soak up oceanic oxygen, creating low oxygen, hypoxic, conditions that have led to the creation of large and growing marine and coastal area “dead zones” devoid of the seafood species we rely on as sources of food and nutrition. Dead zones have formed in areas such as the Mississippi River delta in the Gulf of Mexico, where large quantities of nitrogen from terrestrial sources, such as fertilizer runoff from farms, flows out via river deltas into the ocean.

“The impact of temperature on marine phytoplankton resource allocation and metabolism,” appears in the September 8, 2013 online edition of Nature Climate Change.

Main image credit: Source: NOAA MESA Project

Featured image credit: Pulpolux!!!, courtesy flickr

The post Warming Ocean Portends Troubling Changes at the Base of the Marine Food Web appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

August 06 2013

18:32

Analogues from Earth’s Past Bode Ill for Coral Reefs, Marine Ecosystems

Marine ecosystems in danger in a greenhouse worldIn a bid to anticipate the effects of a warming world, climate scientists around the world are scouring the geological record for modern-day analogues – periods of Earth history when the concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere reached or exceeded the 400 parts per million (ppm) we find today.

Delving into climate, marine biology, ecosystems and the marine ecology of 42 million to 57 million years ago – encompassing the so-called Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM) – paleobiologists and colleagues at UC San Diego’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography conclude that the human population just 80 years hence may be living in a “greenhouse world,” dependent, in part, on vastly different marine food webs.

Life in a “Greenhouse World”

The level of CO2 in the atmosphere – the primary contributor to the Greenhouse Effect – hasn’t exceeded 280 ppm throughout human history – up until modern times that is. Having exceeded 400 ppm for the first time in human history several times this May, annual global greenhouse gas emissions continue to increase at ever greater rates despite best efforts to contain and reduce them.

Reporting in the August 2 special edition of Science, Scripps researchers found indications that atmospheric CO2 concentrations between 42 million and 57 million years ago reached 800-1,000 ppm. Tropical ocean temperatures, moreover, were comparable to that of a hot tub (35º C, 95º F), polar ocean temperatures were similar to those of San Francisco Bay today (12ºC, 53º F), and there were no polar ice sheets.

Moreover, marine “food webs did not sustain the abundance of large sharks, whales, seabirds, and seals of the modern ocean,” Scripps News reports. Coral reefs – the “rainforests of the sea” – largely disappeared. Instead, the researchers found the seabed was dominated by accumulations of the tiny, microscopic shells of foramenifera akin to “gravel parking lots.”

The Scripp’s research team project that humans may be living in such a “greenhouse world” in only 80 years, dependent on vastly changed, less rich and less productive marine food webs. Larger diatoms and other plankton typically support the highly productive marine ecosystems and food webs that help us, as well as large marine animals survive and thrive today. The base of the “greenhouse ocean” marine food web of 50 million years ago, in contrast, was characterized by much smaller picoplankton.

“The tiny algae of the greenhouse world were just too small to support big animals,” Scripps Institution, UC San Diego paleobiologist Richard Norris was quoted as saying. “It’s like trying to keep lions happy on mice instead of antelope; lions can’t get by on only tiny snacks.”

Troubling portents of climate change

Rapid warming events similar to those projected today, such as the PETM, occurred during this period of Earth history can serve as indicators for what we can expect should concentrations of atmospheric carbon and other greenhouse gases continue to increase, climate scientists say. Global mean temperatures rose 5-9º C (9-16º F) during the PETM, causing dramatic changes in ecosystems and their productivity, including “massive migrations of animals and plants and shifts in climate zones.”

“Notably, despite the disruption to the Earth’s ecosystems, the extinction of species was remarkably light, other than a mass extinction in the rapidly warming ocean,” according to Scripps News’ report.

“In many respects the PETM warmed the world more than we project for future climate change, so it should come as some comfort that extinctions were mostly limited to the deep sea,” Norris was quoted. “Unfortunately, the PETM also shows that ecological disruption can last tens of thousands of years.”

In another recently released study, scientists at the University of Colorado, Boulder’s Arctic and Alpine Research Center found similarly troubling portents of ecosystems disruption in the Arctic. Sea levels during the Pliocene some 3 million to 5 million years ago – the most recent period of geologic time scientists believe atmospheric CO2 concentrations reached 400 ppm – global mean temperatures were some 3-5ºF (2-5ºC) warmer. What is now Arctic tundra was covered in forest and sea levels were some 65-80 feet (20-24m) higher.

What can be done to avert such relatively rapid and drastic change?

“An abrupt halt to fossil fuel use at current levels would limit the period of future climate instability to less than 1,000 years before climate largely returns to pre-industrial norms,” Scripps News’ paraphrased Norris.

Continuing to burn fossil fuels at our current rate in this and coming decades “magnifies the period of climate instability” and bring about a period of major ecological change stretching out some 20,000 years or more and lasting for 100,000 years, according to the report authors, which included researchers from Yale and the UK’s University of Bristol.

The post Analogues from Earth’s Past Bode Ill for Coral Reefs, Marine Ecosystems appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

June 19 2013

00:08

Hawaii’s Fishermen: Scapegoats for Forces Outside their Control

Are Hawaii's fishermen the scapegoats over environmental problems of which they have no control?Climate change is affecting fisheries in the Western Pacific and around the world, but a host of other factors, including land use, are threatening fisheries and the health and integrity of marine ecosystems. Aiming for sustainable fisheries, marine policymakers, resource managers, fishermen and other stakeholders are increasingly looking to take a more holistic, integrated approach to fisheries management, as evidenced during the latest meeting of the Western Regional Fishery Management Council (WRFMC) meeting, which was held in Oahu.

Often blamed for overexploiting fish stocks, local fishermen in Hawaii are keenly aware of external impacts on the health and integrity of marine ecosystems and fish populations. At the latest WRFMC meeting in Honolulu, they argued in support of taking a more comprehensive ecosystems management approach, specifically zooming in on how land use and associated runoff from cities, agriculture and industry are harming marine ecosystems and fisheries.

“Hawaii fishermen asked policymakers to address how runoff caused by land development harms reefs, fisheries and oceans when they consider how to cope with the effects of climate change,” the AP’s Audrey Mcavoy wrote in news report.

Adopting an ecosystems-based approach to fisheries management

Established by Congress in 1976 per the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation Act (MSA), the WRFMC is one of eight Fishery Management Councils in the US. Its regulatory authority stretches from the Pacific Ocean waters off Hawaii to include those off Guam, American Samoa and the Northern Mariana Islands. MSA was amended in 1996 “to prevent overfishing, minimize by-catch and protect the fish stocks and habitat.”

Adopting a bottom-up approach to fisheries and marine resource management, the Council is made up of 16 Council members, which draw on input from local and community fishermen and the broader public, as well as marine scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center and the University of Hawaii at Manoa’s Pelagic Fisheries Research Program.

Local fishermen have wound up being “scapegoats” for declining fish stocks and catches, one fishermen told committee members, arguing “that what happens on land is one cause of deteriorating reefs.”  But he says fishermen can’t control what happens ‘up mauka,’ or “toward the mountains,” Mcavoy reported from the Regional Ecosystem Advisory Committee for Hawaii fisheries meeting.

Said local fishermen Carl Jellings,

“We fight every day so we can continue fishing. It’s getting harder and harder because more things are happening in the environment that we’re getting blamed for.”

Push for public-private collaboration on climate change adaptation strategies

Scientists at the meeting highlighted the rise in global mean temperatures and a drop in local rainfall, pointing out how different fish species differ in their ability to adapt to climate change.

They also highlighted that ongoing increases in carbon and greenhouse gas emissions are resulting in ocean acidification, putting additional pressure on coral reefs and marine ecosystems and biodiversity.

These threats are very real and pose very difficult problems that involve fundamental trade-offs and controversy, they added.

The committee drafted recommendations proposing public-private sector collaboration to craft climate change adaptation strategies. These are to be considered by WRFMC members.

A proposal that the state also study Hawaii’s carrying capacity – how many people can live in and visit Hawaii without irrevocably harming natural resources – was also adopted. “How are you going to say we’ve got to reduce 1 million tourists to be sustainable? Or 10 million tourists to become sustainable? How are you going to tell the hotel industry that? The tourism industry that?” Jellings was quoted as saying.

The post Hawaii’s Fishermen: Scapegoats for Forces Outside their Control appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

June 03 2013

16:52

EarthTalk: The Importance of Preserving Wetlands

EarthTalk® is a weekly environmental column made available to our readers from the editors of E/The Environmental Magazine

Dear EarthTalk: Why are wetlands so important to preserve?  – Patricia Mancuso, Erie, PA

Wetlands serve a variety of important ecological functions including feeding downstream waters, trapping floodwaters, recharging groundwater supplies, removing pollution and providing fish and wildlife habitat.Wetlands include swamps, marshes, bogs, riverbanks, mangroves, floodplains, rice fields—and anywhere else, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), that saturation with water is the dominant factor determining the nature of soil development and the types of plant and animal communities there. They are widespread in every country and on every continent except Antarctica. If all the world’s wetlands were put together, they would take up an area one-third larger than the United States.

Environmentalists, biologists and others concerned about the health of the planet and its inhabitants recognize the key role wetlands play in life on Earth. The EPA points out that, besides containing a disproportionately high number of plant and animal species compared to other land forms, wetlands serve a variety of ecological services including feeding downstream waters, trapping floodwaters, recharging groundwater supplies, removing pollution and providing fish and wildlife habitat. Wetlands can also be key drivers of local economies, given their importance to agriculture, recreation and fishing.

According to Wetlands International, a global non-profit dedicated to the conservation and restoration of wetlands around the world, wetlands are on the “front-line” as development pressures increase everywhere. “Wetlands are vulnerable to over-exploitation due to their abundance of fish, fuel and water,” reports the group, which works on the ground in 18 countries to educate the public and policymakers about the health of local wetlands and to advocate for better policies. “When they are viewed as unproductive or marginal lands, wetlands are targeted for drainage and conversion.”

“The rate of loss and deterioration of wetlands is accelerating in all regions of the world,” the group adds. “The pressure on wetlands is likely to intensify in the coming decades due to increased global demand for land and water, as well as climate change.”

The widespread expansion of development in the U.S. in recent decades has brought the issue of wetlands loss to the forefront of debates on zoning and land use planning. One of the key and underlying issues is concern about endangered species: More than a third of species on the U.S. Endangered Species List live only in wetlands and almost half use them at some time during their lifecycles.

While the issue lingers on in municipal planning meetings around the country, the federal government does what it can to protect wetlands. It does so through regulations spelled out in the Clean Water Act, which include providing tax incentives for selling or giving wetlands to land trusts or other conservation groups, via cooperative efforts with state and local entities, and by acquiring wetlands outright to add acreage to public lands systems. And several states have passed laws to regulate activities in wetlands, and many municipalities include wetlands conservation in their development permitting and zoning processes.

Readers can do their part by staying current on local zoning laws, keeping an eye on local wetlands and speaking up if something looks amiss. Potential problems are much easier to resolve early on than after damage is done, so speaking up soon can often lead to more successful and less contentious outcomes.
——————-
EarthTalk® is written and edited by Roddy Scheer and Doug Moss and is a registered trademark of E – The Environmental Magazine.

Image courtesy iStockPhoto

The post EarthTalk: The Importance of Preserving Wetlands appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

May 14 2013

21:40

Worldwide Efforts to Combat Drought, Desertification to Take Shape in Namibia This Year

Efforts to tacle accelerating drought and desertification take shape this year an Namibia  Land degradation – more specifically drought and desertification – have become increasingly pressing problems for a growing number of countries around the world, threatening efforts to alleviate poverty, improve basic health and sanitation and address socioeconomic inequality, as well as spur agricultural and sustainable economic development.

The only multilateral, international agreement linking development and environment to sustainable land management (SLM), high-level representatives from 195 nations will be gathering in Windhoek, Namibia from September 16-27 for the 11th bi-annual Conference of Parties (COP) to review implementation of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD). Meeting for the first time in southern Africa, UNCCD delegates will review implementation of the convention to date and plan for the ensuing two years of programs and actions.

One of the greatest challenges to sustainable development

Desertification, along with climate change and the loss of biodiversity, were singled out as the greatest challenges to sustainable development at the 1992 Rio Earth Summit. Unfortunately, desertification, land degradation and drought (DLDD) have accelerated during the 20th and 21st centuries to date, posing fundamental problems and challenges for drylands populations, nations and regions in particular.

Severe land degradation is estimated to be affecting 168 countries around the world, according to a first-of-its-kind cost-benefit analysis (CBA) of the global effects of desertification released during the UNCCD Conference and Committee Meeting held this past April in Bonn, Germany. That’s up sharply from 110 as of a previous analysis of data submitted by UNCCD parties in the mid-1990s.

The resulting losses, in lives, human potential, biodiversity and ecosystems health and integrity are alarming. Resulting in the devastation of an area three times that of Switzerland every year, UNCCD analysts estimate that the annual costs of combating land degradation have reached $490 billion…and that’s only expected to increase.

Home to some 2 billion people, approximately 40 percent of the Earth’s land area is considered drylands. Due to a combination of human activities and natural forces – climate change now prominent among them – 10-20 percent are already considered degraded. The total land area affected by desertification is estimated to range between 6 million and 12 million square kilometers, putting the livelihoods and lives of a billion inhabitants at risk.

In the report, “The Economics of Desertification, Land Degradation and Drought: Methodologies and Analysis for Decision-Making,”  UNCCD estimates the costs of land degradation to be between 3-5 percent of global agricultural Gross Domestic Production. Furthermore,  “the cost of siltation of water reservoirs is estimated at USD18.5 billion per year, and salinity in global agriculture at about USD12 billion per year.”

Combatting Desertification via Sustainable Land Management

Continual research, development and rapid implementation of sustainable land management practices are the keys to meeting the challenges DLDD poses, according to the UNCCD. Unfortunately, progress in this regard has been slow and halting. Commodities, other products and ecosystem services afforded by land and ecosystems being affected by DLD are not being valued accordingly, nor are government and private sector institutional frameworks geared towards addressing the issue comprehensively or effectively, experts assert.

Posing a fundamental threat to agricultural and broad, sustainable socioeconomic development, crafting and implementing sustainable land management policies cuts across all facets of a society and challenges long, and often strongly held attitudes, values and institutional frameworks. That makes the process of addressing DLDD awkward, cumbersome and difficult, posing varied, substantial and difficult-to-resolve trade-offs and conflicts of interest.

In the midst of carrying out a ten-year strategy to address DLDD and foster development and implementation of sustainable land management policies and practices, the UNCCD is marshaling the resources of member nations in an effort to combat DLDD through sustainable land management. Part and parcel of this global initiative, UNCCD is identifying, helping develop, implement and sharing effective policies and best practices.

“SLM and ecosystem restoration are the key to enhancing the resilience of systems that are vulnerable to DLDD,” the UNCCD CBA report authors state. “Effective policies need to be based on a good understanding of the challenges faced on the ground.

“Generally speaking, policies that have successfully addressed a transition to more sustainable land-use practices have used participatory approaches, responded to local perceptions and priorities, enjoyed adequate government and civil society backing, and promoted technical packages with low risk and strong economic incentives.”

Furthermore, they go on, “Addressing weak governance and policy-induced distortions that operate through markets to promote  land-degrading activities are arguably amongst the most efficient means of tackling land degradation in developing countries.

“Lastly, given a rising global demand for commodities built on an unsustainable price signal (e.g. wheat price speculations) that converts natural capital for free to provide food, fiber, fodder and fuel, finance must become more accountable for its impact on nature, creating opportunities for change.”

Image credit: iJuliAn, courtesy flickr

The post Worldwide Efforts to Combat Drought, Desertification to Take Shape in Namibia This Year appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

February 27 2013

22:01

Mapping a Plague of Frogs

An interactive Web site, periodically updated, visualizes the occurrence of cases of amphibian chytrid fungus around the world.

August 14 2012

21:05

In Fragmented Brazilian Forest, Few Species Survive

New survey methods indicate that computer projections of surviving species vastly overstated their presence. And five large mammal species had essentially been wiped out.

August 13 2012

11:37

Defending a Sanctuary With Paint and Song

An artist in a treetop studio on the Puerto Rican island of Culebra is fighting an effort to build a hotel among the mangroves.

August 09 2012

15:39

On Our Radar: An Agent Orange Cleanup

American and Vietnamese crews will toil at a former Army air base at Da Nang, one of the most toxic of 28 dioxin "hot spots" in Vietnam.

August 02 2012

14:02

August 01 2012

18:15

Ancestral Remedies to the Rescue

Ethnobotanists help Micronesian communities preserve medicinal plant knowledge and resources for future generations.

July 27 2012

13:57

May 09 2012

14:09

Protecting Killer Frogs From Killer Humans

A new preserve in a mountainous region of western Colombia is intended to help protect the golden poison frog, whose skin is covered by a secretion of deadly alkaloid poison that can kill humans within minutes.
12:40

May 07 2012

16:20

On Our Radar: Myanmar's Ecosystems

Investors descend on Myanmar, which up to now has been spared the worst ravages of economically booming societies in Asia.

May 05 2012

15:07

Safeguarding Massive Trees, Champs of the Ecosystem

Mammoth trees accounted for only 1 percent of trees in a research plot but stored half of the area's biomass, researchers in Yosemite National Park found.

May 04 2012

17:46
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