News / Science & Technology

Scientists Say Global Warming Affects Marine Life

Global warming and changing ocean chemistry affect marine nutrients and marine life
Global warming and changing ocean chemistry affect marine nutrients and marine life

In Narragansett Bay, Rhode Island, winter flounder no longer reproduce at the rate they used to.  Nutrients that once supported a rich marine life are less abundant.  And the water is warmer. It suffers from overfishing and shows signs of toxic chemicals banned 50 years ago. In short, say scientists at the University of Rhode Island, Narragansett Bay is typical of other coastal areas around the world. 

Reinner Lohmann teaches a course in marine pollution at the University of Rhode Island. He studies organic pollutants in Narragansett Bay; specifically, the chemical contents in sediment where small organisms feed and are the start of the marine food chain. He has found hundreds of pollutants including the pesticide DDT that was banned in the United States 40 years ago. "They may be stored in the sediments, but on a nice stormy day the sediments swell up and the compounds get released back into the water and can be taken back by fish," he explained.

Lohmann says every few years the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency checks on the contaminants in fish tissue.  Based on that data, government scientists establish safe eating guidelines for different fish.

The government fish advisories are based on the risk of cancer if you eat fish every day.  Lohmann says humans can take 20 to 30 years to eliminate the toxics they consume when they eat contaminated fish.  And long-term exposure to contaminants and the transfer of toxics from mother to child are major scientific concerns.

"We can detect these contaminants virtually everywhere," Lohmann said. "We have done studies in the Atlantic, the Arctic, in the Pacific -- they are everywhere."

Other researchers at the University of Rhode Island are studying the effects of warming water temperatures.

"One degree, it seems like nothing. But if you think back to the last glacial maximum (when the glaciers were at their thickest and the sea levels at their lowest), the change in temperature from that time until now is only five degrees celsius, or 10 degrees fahrenheit," Candace Oviatt said. Oviatt has studied the bay for more than 40 years. "So one degree is huge and we have seen huge changes on the bay as consequences of that."

Oviatt points to an 80 percent increase in rain storms.  This April, large areas of Rhode Island were flooded, overwhelming several water treatment plants.  Raw sewage, fertilizers and urban pollution ran freely into the bay.

"There is a lot of climate effects. One of the ones we experienced this week was this huge rain storm when we got eight inches [20.3 cm] of rain in three days," Oviatt said.

She adds that warmer temperatures in the bay and more rain water trigger a chain reaction of low oxygen and high levels of nutrients in the water, killing many organisms. "The winter flounder used to lay their eggs during the winter time because there are no predators, but if we heat up the bay waters, then those predators become active and they eat the eggs and the young juvenile winter flounder," she said.

Oviatt says overfishing and warmer waters have reduced the number of winter flounder by 75 percent.  That's led to an end to commercial flounder fishing, and a two-fish limit on recreational anglers.

Yet despite the strains on Narragansett Bay, another University of Rhode Island researcher, Scott Nixon, says the bay is in better shape now than 50 years ago when metals, oils and waste often were thrown directly into the ocean. Now there are other concerns. "I think most coastal ecologists would probably say the most pervasive, chronic, widespread problem is nutrient pollution: nitrogen and phosphorus pollution that comes from agricultures," he said.

Nixon said he hopes developing countries learn from our mistakes and stop polluting their coastal areas before more damage occurs.

You May Like

Video Indiana Controversy Points to Divergent Notions of Religious Freedom

Gay-marriage opponents are looking for ways to maintain their beliefs in face of changing culture, one writer says More

UNICEF Denies North Korean Measles Outbreak

Agency dismisses Russian media report after government, WHO assurances More

Turkey Seen Taking Harder Stance Against Militant Kurds

Stance comes as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is being seen as moving closer to generals More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Indiana Controversy Highlights Divergent Meanings of Religious Freedomi
X
Jerome Socolovsky
April 01, 2015 1:41 AM
Indiana’s state government has triggered a nationwide controversy by approving a law that critics say is aimed at allowing discrimination against gays and lesbians. The controversy stems from divergent notions of religious freedom in America. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Indiana Controversy Highlights Divergent Meanings of Religious Freedom

Indiana’s state government has triggered a nationwide controversy by approving a law that critics say is aimed at allowing discrimination against gays and lesbians. The controversy stems from divergent notions of religious freedom in America. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Nigerians Welcome Buhari's Return to Power

Crowds of jubilant Nigerians nationwide have celebrated the return to power of former military ruler Muhammadu Buhari. The retired army general won this year's presidential election with more than 2 million votes more than incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan. Buhari's supporters hope he can strengthen the country's economy and security once he takes office in late May. Zlatica Hoke has this story.
Video

Video Report: State of Black America a 'Tale of Two Nations'

The National Urban League has described this year's "State of Black America" report as a "tale of two nations." The group's annual report, released earlier this month (March), found that under an equality index African Americans had only 72% parity compared to whites in areas such as education, economics, health, social justice and civic engagement. It’s a gap that educators and students at Brooklyn’s Medgar Evers College are looking to close. VOA's Daniela Schrier reports from the school.
Video

Video Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadists

At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video Gamma Ray Observatory to Open Soon in Mexico

American and Mexican scientists have completed construction of the world's largest gamma ray observatory, situated high in central Mexico’s Sierra Negra Mountain. The observatory's huge array of water-based detectors will soon start discovering secrets about black holes and supernovas. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials Underway in West Africa

Ebola has claimed the lives of more than 10,000 people in West Africa. Since last summer, researchers have rushed to get anti-Ebola vaccines into clinical trials. While it's too early to say that any of the potential vaccines work, some scientists say they are seeing strong results from some of the studies. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Philippines. Close to five million foreign visitors traveled there last year, perhaps lured by the country’s tropical beaches. But Jason Strother reports from Manila that the country hopes to entice more travelers to stay indoors and spend money inside new casinos.
Video

Video Civilian Casualties Push Men to Join Rebels in Ukraine

The continued fighting in eastern Ukraine and the shelling of civilian neighborhoods seem to be pushing more men to join the separatist fighters. Many of the new recruits are residents of Ukraine made bitter by new grievances, as well as old. VOA's Patrick Wells reports.
Video

Video Islamic State Prisoners Talk of Curiosity, God, Regret

Islamic State fighter, a prisoner of Kurdish YPG forces, asked his family asking for forgiveness: "I destroyed myself and I destroyed them along with me." The Syrian youth was one of two detainees who spoke to VOA’s Kurdish Service about the path they chose; their names have been changed and identifying details obscured. VOA's Zana Omer reports.
Video

Video Germanwings Findings Raise Issue of Psychological Testing for Pilots

More is being discovered about the co-pilot in the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 in the French Alps. Investigators say he was hiding a medical condition, raising questions about the mental qualifications of pilots. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.

VOA Blogs

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More