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 Analysts: Beijing Parade a 'Bazaar' of Stolen Technology

Show commemorating victory over Japan in World War II involved long, medium and short range missiles, a range of tanks and 200 fighter aircraft More

Bernie Sanders Surge Reflects US Shift on Socialism

Although most analysts say it is unlikely he will get the Democratic nomination, Sanders' campaign opens up questions and issues that are otherwise marginalized More

Video On IS Frontline, Kurdish Fighters Ready for Offensive

Peshmerga soldiers say although they need more heavy artillery, they are poised to take the fight to the Islamic State extremists on their turf 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.
Drowned Migrant Toddler Photo Triggers European Outragei
X
Henry Ridgwell
September 04, 2015 11:36 AM
The harrowing picture of a drowned three-year-old Syrian boy washed up on a Turkish beach appears to have galvanized Europe’s leaders into doing more to address the refugee crisis. France, Germany and Italy issued a joint call Thursday for compulsory quotas of refugees for all EU states. But there were chaotic scenes in Hungary as police tried to force migrants off a train heading for Austria. Henry Ridgwell has more. And a caution, some of the images in this report may be disturbing.
Video

Video Drowned Migrant Toddler Photo Triggers European Outrage

The harrowing picture of a drowned three-year-old Syrian boy washed up on a Turkish beach appears to have galvanized Europe’s leaders into doing more to address the refugee crisis. France, Germany and Italy issued a joint call Thursday for compulsory quotas of refugees for all EU states. But there were chaotic scenes in Hungary as police tried to force migrants off a train heading for Austria. Henry Ridgwell has more. And a caution, some of the images in this report may be disturbing.
Video

Video Russians Observe 11th Anniversary of Beslan School Attack

This week, Russians have been observing the 11th anniversary of the attack by Islamic militants on a school in Russia's North Caucasus region that killed more than 330 hostages, including 186 children. The three-day siege and massacre that started on September 1, 2004 took place in Beslan, a town in the republic of North Ossetia, and is one of the bloodiest terrorist acts ever in Russia. VOA's Mike Richman reports.
Video

Video Native Americans Debate: Father Serra, Saint or Sinner?

Pope Francis will canonize an 18th century missionary to Spanish California during a papal visit to the United States this month.  But some Native Americans have criticized the elevation to sainthood of the missionary priest, Junipero Serra. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan has more from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Calais School Offers Another Face of Europe’s Migrant Crisis

Europe is facing mounting criticism over how it’s handling its biggest migration crisis since World War II. But not all Europeans believe building walls or passing repressive policies are the answer. A school for migrants in the French port city of Calais, is opening doors and building bonds across nationalities. VOA's Lisa Bryant reports.
Video

Video Kurdish Fighters on IS Frontline Ready for Offensive

Finger on the trigger, the Kurdish Peshmerga soldier stared across the dust at a village taken over by Islamic State extremists. The Kurdistan’s Khazir frontline, just 45 minutes from the Islamic State stronghold of Mosul. And at this point, the militants were less than two kilometers away. VOA's Sharon Behn reports.
Video

Video China Announces Troop Cuts at WWII Parade

Chinese President Xi Jinping Thursday announced plans to cut the world’s largest military force by 300,000 troops. The announcement was made during a massive military parade to commemorate victory over Japan in World War II. The event was shunned by most Western leaders and for some is raising fresh concerns about China’s military ambitions. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video Russia-Japan Relations Cool as Putin Visits China for WWII Anniversary

Russian President Vladimir Putin is in Beijing for commemorations of the 70th anniversary of China's WWII victory over Japan. Putin is expected to visit Japan later this year, but tensions between Tokyo and Moscow over islands disputed since the war, and sanctions over Ukraine, could pour cold water on the plan. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Yemen ‘on Brink of Disaster’ as Medical Shortages Soar

Aid agencies warn Yemen is on the brink of humanitarian disaster – with up to half a million children facing severe malnutrition, and hospitals running out of basic medicines. There are fears Yemen's civil war could escalate as the coalition led by Saudi Arabia tries to drive back Houthi rebels, who seized control of much of the country earlier this year. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Apps Helping Kenyan Businesses Stay Ahead of Counterfeiters

Counterfeit goods in Kenya cost the government as much as $1 billion each year in lost tax revenues. The fake goods also hurt entrepreneurs who find it hard to carve out a niche in the market and retain customers. But as Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi, information technology is being used to try to beat the problem.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.

VOA Blogs