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

Philippines, Muslim Rebels Try to Salvage Peace Pact

Peace process faces major setback after botched military operation to find terrorists results in bloody gunbattle between government forces, Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters More

Republicans Expect Long, Expensive Presidential Battle

Political strategist says eventual winner will be one who can put together strongest coalition of various conservative groups that make up Republican Party More

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Engineers have come up with a lever-operated design that makes use of easily accessible bicycle technology 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.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
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 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.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

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