Oceans losing oxygen at unprecedented rate, experts warn

Oceans losing oxygen at unprecedented rate, experts warn

SOURCE: The Guardian DATE: December 7, 2019 SNIP: Oxygen in the oceans is being lost at an unprecedented rate, with “dead zones” proliferating and hundreds more areas showing oxygen dangerously depleted, as a result of the climate emergency and intensive farming, experts have warned. Sharks, tuna, marlin and other large fish species were at particular risk, scientists said, with many vital ecosystems in danger of collapse. Dead zones – where oxygen is effectively absent – have quadrupled in extent in the last half-century, and there are also at least 700 areas where oxygen is at dangerously low levels, up from 45 when research was undertaken in the 1960s. All fish need dissolved oxygen, but the biggest species are particularly vulnerable to depleted oxygen levels because they need much more to survive. Evidence shows that depleted levels are forcing them to move towards the surface and to shallow areas of sea, where they are more vulnerable to fishing. Some ocean areas are naturally lower in oxygen than others, but these are even more susceptible to damage when their oxygen levels are depleted further, the report’s authors said. Species that can more easily tolerate low oxygen levels, such as jellyfish, some squid and marine microbes, can flourish at the expense of fish, upsetting the balance of ecosystems. The natural oceanic cycles of phosphorus and nitrogen are also at risk. The world’s oceans are already being overfished, and assailed by a rising tide of plastic waste, as well as other pollutants. Seas are about 26% more acidic than in pre-industrial times because of absorbing the excess carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, according...
Uranium contaminated site collapsed into the Detroit River during the Thanksgiving holiday

Uranium contaminated site collapsed into the Detroit River during the Thanksgiving holiday

SOURCE: World Socialist Web Site DATE: December 7, 2019 SNIP: The shoreline of a Detroit, Michigan property contaminated by uranium and other chemicals dating back to the 1940s collapsed into the Detroit River during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. The public was not alerted to the existence of the toxic spill until a report was published this week by the local paper in Windsor, Ontario. The property known today as the Detroit Dock was previously owned by Revere Copper and Brass, Inc., a provider of uranium rods for US nuclear weapons development during and after World War II. According to a report in the Windsor Star on Thursday, the property has been listed by both the US Department of Energy and the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as a contaminated site for decades. It has also been listed by the Wall Street Journal as one of the country’s forgotten nuclear legacy “waste lands” where “potential exists for significant residual radiation.” The Windsor Star report said, “The riverbank apparently collapsed under the weight of large aggregate piles stored at the site by Detroit Bulk Storage which has a long-term lease on the property for such use.” The Star report also said the collapse of the site—which is adjacent to the property of the historic colonial-era Fort Wayne and the narrowest stretch of the Detroit River between the US and Canada—“initially remained unknown to many responsible state and federal environmental regulatory agencies” because of the holiday weekend. [R]epresentatives of the US EPA were unaware of the collapsed shoreline when contacted by the Windsor Star. The agency officials said that federal responsibility for...
Trump administration again reauthorizes wildlife-killing ‘cyanide bombs’ despite strong opposition

Trump administration again reauthorizes wildlife-killing ‘cyanide bombs’ despite strong opposition

SOURCE: Western Watersheds Project and Center for Biological Diversity DATE: December 5, 2019 SNIP: The Trump administration today announced it will reauthorize use of sodium cyanide in wildlife-killing devices called M-44s. These “cyanide bombs” received approval from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency despite inhumanely and indiscriminately killing thousands of animals every year. They have also injured people. “This appalling decision leaves cyanide traps lurking in the wild to threaten people, pets and imperiled animals,” said Collette Adkins, carnivore conservation director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The EPA imposed a few minor restrictions, but these deadly devices have just wreaked too much havoc to remain in use. To truly protect humans and wildlife from these poisonous contraptions, we need a nationwide ban.” The EPA allows use of the devices by Wildlife Services, the animal-killing program of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The EPA also authorizes M-44 use by state agencies in South Dakota, Montana, Wyoming, New Mexico and Texas. A federal court recently approved a ban on M-44 use by Wildlife Services across more than 10 million acres of public land in Wyoming. The Wyoming ban is as part of an agreement resulting from a lawsuit brought by the Center and other wildlife advocacy groups. More than 99.9 percent of people commenting on the proposal asked the EPA to ban M-44s, according to analysis from the Center for Biological Diversity and Western Environmental Law Center. M-44 devices spray deadly sodium cyanide into the mouths of unsuspecting coyotes, foxes and other carnivores lured by smelly bait. Anything or anyone that pulls on the baited device can be killed or severely...
What happens when hermit crabs confuse plastic trash for shells? An ‘avalanche’ of death.

What happens when hermit crabs confuse plastic trash for shells? An ‘avalanche’ of death.

SOURCE: Washington Post DATE: December 5, 2019 SNIP: A study that called attention to a remote cluster of islands off Australia’s coast was met with international concern when it published in May. In a harrowing account of their trip to the Cocos (Keeling) Islands two years prior, researchers recalled seeing beaches that were “literally drowning in plastic.” An estimated 414 million pieces of it. But Jennifer Lavers and her research team now say they made another startling observation while digging through copious amounts of litter on that 2017 trip: Many of the bottles, cans and containers were not empty. Scores of hermit crabs, mostly dead, were trapped inside. The scientists say plastic debris has caused the deaths of more than half a million hermit crabs on the Cocos Islands and the similarly remote Henderson Island in the South Pacific. Their findings illustrate yet another consequence of man-made waste that enters the world’s oceans and pollutes its beaches — defiling nature in ways that foster unsettling imagery. Turtles with straws in their nostrils. Sperm whales with pounds of garbage in their stomachs. And now, hermit crabs — lured into slippery plastic bottles they cannot climb out of. “The question was, is Cocos unique, or is this a more widespread problem that could be happening anywhere?” Lavers, a researcher with the University of Tasmania’s Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies, said in an interview. “That’s what these two islands suggest: A lot of places where you have crabs and debris, this is probably happening.” The staggering amount of plastic waste on the beaches of Henderson and Cocos Islands is well-documented, but...
Megafarms and deeper wells are draining the water beneath rural Arizona – quietly, irreversibly

Megafarms and deeper wells are draining the water beneath rural Arizona – quietly, irreversibly

SOURCE: AZCentral DATE: December 5, 2019 SNIP: Vast expanses of lush green fields are multiplying in the Arizona desert, forming agricultural empires nourished with billions of gallons of groundwater in the otherwise parched landscape. Arizona’s groundwater levels are plummeting in many areas. The problem is especially severe in unregulated rural areas where there are no limits on pumping. The water levels in more than 2,000 wells have dropped more than 100 feet since they were first drilled. The number of newly constructed wells is accelerating, and wells are being drilled deeper and hitting water at lower levels. This free-for-all is draining away the water that homeowners also depend on, leaving some with dry wells. As the groundwater is depleted, Arizona is suffering permanent losses that may not be recouped for thousands of years. These underground reserves that were laid down over millennia represent the only water that many rural communities can count on as the desert Southwest becomes hotter and drier with climate change. Unfettered pumping has taken a toll on the state’s aquifers for many years, but just as experts are calling for Arizona to develop plans to save its ancient underground water, pumping is accelerating and the problems are getting much worse. Big farming companies owned by out-of-state investors and foreign agriculture giants have descended on rural Arizona and snapped up farmland in areas where there is no limit on pumping. Buying property from struggling small farms and homeowners, they’ve drilled wells a thousand feet deep or more, often spending more than half a million dollars per well to irrigate tens of thousands of acres of hay,...
New projections show that South Florida is in for even more sea level rise

New projections show that South Florida is in for even more sea level rise

SOURCE: Miami Herald DATE: December 4, 2019 SNIP: The timeline for South Florida to prepare for sea level rise just sped up a little. New projections show the region is in for higher seas, faster. The latest predictions aren’t catastrophically different than previous years — unless your yard is already flooding a couple of times a year from the steadily encroaching seas. In that case, a few inches a few years early is pretty important. The sea rise curves unveiled Wednesday at the Southeast Florida Climate Leadership Summit in Key West tack on about three to five extra inches by 2060, and that number only gets bigger in the future. The region went from expecting between 14 and 26 inches of sea level rise by 2060 — commonly shortened to two feet by 2060 by local leaders — to predicting 17 to 31 inches of sea rise. “These numbers are all big enough that you can see that South Florida gets in big trouble quickly,” said Harold Wanless, a University of Miami professor of geology and member of the projections team. “If you look out the window, like the areas in the Keys that are flooding for weeks on end, this is not something that might happen, this is something that is already happening.“ These new numbers come from a group of more than a dozen scientists, researchers and local government staffers from South Florida as an update to 2015...