Most homebuyers don’t think about Antarctica when buying beachfront property. But maybe they should. The 5.4 million-square-mile Antarctic ice sheet is melting, and scientists estimate that if it disappeared completely, sea level would rise by 200 feet. While no one expects complete melting to happen in the immediate future, competing pressures are increasing the rate of ice melt, whose impacts will be felt in varying ways around the globe – and could even affect that beachfront buy sooner rather than later. In addition to Antarctica’s globally significant role in sea level rise, ocean and atmospheric circulation, and carbon cycling, it has a unique ecosystem that offers myriad opportunities for scientific research. Last week, at a congressional briefing hosted by Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory (LDEO), scientists discussed the changing Antarctic and research opportunities in light of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine’s strategic vision for NSF-supported research in Antarctica and the Southern Ocean over the next ten years.
A remote and largely pristine stretch of ocean off Antarctica received international protection on Friday, becoming the world’s largest marine reserve as a broad coalition of countries came together to protect 598,000 square miles of water.
If you’ve ever spent a quiet afternoon fishing on a lake or kayaking past the greenery of a salt marsh, you’ve likely encountered programs and projects that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) oversees. FWS protects and manages our nation’s numerous fish and wildlife resources and uses conservation practices to give everyone in our nation the opportunity to enjoy those resources. FWS first introduced their Mitigation Policy in 1981, which was comprised of “recommendations on mitigating the adverse impacts of land and water developments on fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats.” The need for revisions to the decades-old policy stems from climate change, new conservation science, and the increasing loss of habitats for many organisms protected by the FWS. The draft policy was available for public comment from March to May 2016, and since then, the agency has been making revisions to their policy. A hearing on September 22 by the Senate Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Fisheries, Water, and Wildlife reviewed the proposed changes.
In school, most students learn to measure acidity or pH with a litmus test. Unfortunately, monitoring the acidity of the ocean is not as simple as dunking a small piece of paper in liquid and waiting for the color to change, and the impacts of acidity changes to marine life are more complex than a simple change in color. Atmospheric carbon dioxide is absorbed by the ocean, which makes it difficult for marine calcifiers (a group comprised of many different organisms, such as molluscs, crustaceans, and corals) to make their own shells and skeletons. Ocean acidification doesn’t just harm these creatures. It threatens our nation’s economic stability, from our $7.3 billion seafood industry to our $101.1 billion recreation and tourism sector. But it doesn’t stop there – it also affects our homeland security.
Deep in the oceans exist some of the world’s oldest and most mysterious sea canyons and mountains, or seamounts. Formed millions of years ago by extinct volcanoes and sediment erosion, sea canyons and seamounts are biodiversity hot spots — home to many rare and endangered species.
The first two weeks of July were especially busy on Capitol Hill as lawmakers made a final legislative push before they left for recess. Appropriations bills were high on their agenda since Fiscal Year (FY) 2016 expires at the end September, and the Senate and House are now on a seven-week hiatus until September 6.
Representative Sam Farr (CA-20) opened the Marine Technology Society and the House Oceans Caucus Congressional briefing this week by noting his attempts over 28 years in Congress “trying to develop as much interest in the ocean as there is in space.”
Rules will require extensive contingency plans in event of oil spill.
Just in time for International Plastic Bag Free Day on July 3rd, the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation passed S. 3086, the Marine Debris Act Amendments of 2016.
Ahead of the Discovery Channel’s annual Shark Week, the award-winning actor traveled to Capitol Hill on Thursday to push for greater protections for one of the deadliest creatures in the ocean.