Humans just 0.01% of all life but have destroyed 83% of wild mammals

Humans just 0.01% of all life but have destroyed 83% of wild mammals

SOURCE: The Guardian and National Academy of Sciences DATE: May 21, 2018 SNIP: Humankind is revealed as simultaneously insignificant and utterly dominant in the grand scheme of life on Earth by a groundbreaking new assessment of all life on the planet. The world’s 7.6 billion people represent just 0.01% of all living things, according to the study. Yet since the dawn of civilisation, humanity has caused the loss of 83% of all wild mammals and half of plants, while livestock kept by humans abounds. The transformation of the planet by human activity has led scientists to the brink of declaring a new geological era – the Anthropocene. One suggested marker for this change are the bones of the domestic chicken, now ubiquitous across the globe. The new work reveals that farmed poultry today makes up 70% of all birds on the planet, with just 30% being wild. The picture is even more stark for mammals – 60% of all mammals on Earth are livestock, mostly cattle and pigs, 36% are human and just 4% are wild animals. [C]omparison of the new estimates with those for the time before humans became farmers and the industrial revolution began reveal the full extent of the huge decline. Just one-sixth of wild mammals, from mice to elephants, remain, surprising even the scientists. In the oceans, three centuries of whaling has left just a fifth of marine mammals in the...
Toxic Algae Blooms Occurring More Often, May Be Caught in Climate Change Feedback Loop

Toxic Algae Blooms Occurring More Often, May Be Caught in Climate Change Feedback Loop

SOURCE: Inside Climate News DATE: May 15, 2018 SNIP: Blooms of harmful algae in the nation’s waters appear to be occurring much more frequently than in the past, increasing suspicions that the warming climate may be exacerbating the problem. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) published newly collected data on Tuesday reporting nearly 300 large blooms since 2010. Last year alone, 169 were reported. While NOAA issues forecasts for harmful algal blooms in certain areas, the advocacy group called its report the first attempt to track the blooms on a nationwide scale. The study comes as scientists have predicted proliferation of these blooms as the climate changes, and amid increasing attention by the news media and local politicians to the worst cases. Just as troubling, these blooms could not only worsen with climate change, but also contribute significantly to greenhouse gas emissions. [R]esearchers have found evidence that algal blooms are not just consequences of climate change, but are also sources of climate-warming emissions. In a study released in March, researchers affiliated with the University of Minnesota, Minnesota Sea Grant and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency found that, globally, lakes and manmade “impoundments” like reservoirs emit about one-fifth the amount of greenhouse gases emitted by the burning of fossil fuels. The majority of that atmospheric effect comes from methane, an especially potent short-lived climate pollutant. “We found that, as the lakes go greener, more eutrophic, the atmospheric effect of the lakes skyrockets,” said John Downing, the paper’s lead researcher and director of the Minnesota Sea Grant. “That’s because plants are decomposing and shooting methane and CO2 into the...
In the Arctic, the Old Ice Is Disappearing

In the Arctic, the Old Ice Is Disappearing

SOURCE: New York Times DATE: May 14, 2018 SNIP: In the Arctic Ocean, some ice stays frozen year-round, lasting for many years before melting. But this winter, the region hit a record low for ice older than five years. This, along with a near-record low for sea ice over all, supports predictions that by midcentury there will be no more ice in the Arctic Ocean in summer. As darker, heat-absorbing water replaces reflective ice, it hastens warming in the region. Older ice is generally thicker than newer ice and thus more resilient to heat. But as the old ice disappears, the newer ice left behind is more vulnerable to rising temperatures. “First-year ice grows through winter and then to up to a maximum, which is usually around in March,” said Mark A. Tschudi, a research associate at the Colorado Center for Astrodynamics Research at the University of Colorado, Boulder. “As summer onsets, the ice starts to melt back.” Some of the new ice melts each summer, but some of it lingers to grow thicker over the following winter, forming second-year ice. The next summer, some of that second-year ice survives, then grows even thicker and more resilient the next winter, creating what is known as multiyear ice. Some ice used to last more than a decade. Today, Arctic sea ice is mostly first-year ice. While the oldest ice has always melted when currents pushed it south into warmer waters, now more of the multiyear ice is melting within the Arctic Ocean, leaving more open water in its wake. “I’ve been on record saying that it may be 2030 that...
Alien Waters: Neighboring Seas Are Flowing into a Warming Arctic Ocean

Alien Waters: Neighboring Seas Are Flowing into a Warming Arctic Ocean

SOURCE: Yale e360 DATE: May 10, 2018 SNIP: As the Arctic heats up faster than any other region on the planet, once-distinct boundaries between the frigid polar ocean and its warmer, neighboring oceans are beginning to blur, opening the gates to southern waters bearing foreign species, from phytoplankton to whales. The “Atlantification” and “Pacification” of the Arctic Ocean are now rapidly advancing. A new paper by University of Washington oceanographer Rebecca Woodgate, for example, finds that the volume of Pacific Ocean water flowing north into the Arctic Ocean through the Bering Strait surged up to 70 percent over the past decade and now equals 50 times the annual flow of the Mississippi River. And over on the Atlantic flank of the Arctic, another recent report concludes that the Arctic Ocean’s cold layering system that blocks Atlantic inflows is breaking down, allowing a deluge of warmer, denser water to flood into the Arctic Basin. “You have all this warm Pacific water coming into the Arctic and what is that going to mean?” says Robert Pickart, a physical oceanographer with the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts who studies Pacific Arctic circulation. “Not only is there more water going through, but there’s an increase in the amount of heat going through.” Adding more heat, he says, is “going to change the composition of the water and its likelihood to melt sea ice.” In addition, waters from the Atlantic that have long entered the Arctic Ocean and circled down deep are being driven higher onto shallow sea shelves north of Alaska by increasingly intense storms. (The Arctic’s extensive sea ice cover used...
We knew vacationing had a big carbon footprint, but we didn’t know it was this big

We knew vacationing had a big carbon footprint, but we didn’t know it was this big

SOURCE: Mashable and Nature Climate Change DATE: May 7, 2018 SNIP: A new study published this week in the journal Nature Climate Change suggests that vacationing actually releases far more climate change-inducing greenhouse gases into Earth’s atmosphere than previously expected. When taking into account not only the direct emissions from jet and automobile engines, but also the millions of supply chains needed to feed and support vacationers, researchers found that global tourism today generates 8 percent of the carbon we send into Earth’s atmosphere each year. Previous studies put estimates at around 3 percent, Arunima Malik, lead author of the study, said in an interview. These emissions are expected to balloon as travel surges globally. Unsurprisingly, the U.S. topped the list of the globe’s carbon tourism producers. Germany joins America in the top four, along with China and India, two nations with burgeoning middle classes, whose ability to afford travel is anticipated to...
‘We’ve fallen off a cliff’: Scientists have never seen so little ice in the Bering Sea in spring

‘We’ve fallen off a cliff’: Scientists have never seen so little ice in the Bering Sea in spring

SOURCE: Seattle Times DATE: May 3, 2018 SNIP: In the middle of February, one-third of the ice covering the Bering Sea off Alaska’s West Coast vanished within a week when an enormous pulse of heat swept over the Arctic. Scientists were stunned. This rapid meltdown precipitated a record-shattering decline in Bering Sea ice through the winter and into spring, which has threatened the very way of life in Alaska’s coastal villages — reliant on the ice cover for navigation and hunting. February and March ice levels were as low as far back as scientists can reconstruct, dating back more than 160 years. Now, the ice is almost entirely gone — just 10 percent of normal levels as of the end of April. “We’ve fallen off a cliff: very little sea ice remains in the Bering Sea,” tweeted Rick Thoman, an Alaska-based climatologist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, on April 29. The ice extent over the Chukchi Sea, just north of the Bering Sea abutting Alaska’s northwest coast, is also abnormally depleted. It recently began its melt season earlier than ever before...