Atlantic Ocean ‘running out of breath’

Atlantic Ocean ‘running out of breath’

SOURCE: BBC DATE: June 18, 2019 SNIP: A huge international research programme has been launched to assess the health of the Atlantic Ocean. The iAtlantic project is the biggest ever mounted in the planet’s second largest ocean.It involves more than 30 partners, funded by the EU, and is being co-ordinated by Edinburgh University. The scientists will use an array of hi-tech devices, including robot submarines, to scan the deep ocean from the Arctic to South America. They want to assess the effects of climate change on plants and animals. “What will happen to these animals in the future as the Atlantic changes?” Prof Roberts says. “As it gets warmer, as it gets more acidic and also – in some areas – as it runs out of breath. “Because the Atlantic, like many ocean basins in the world, is being deoxygenated – it’s losing the oxygen that is vital to life.” The cause is climate change, 90% of the world’s global warming has been absorbed by the...
It’s only a matter of time before deep-sea mining comes to Canada. We’re not ready.

It’s only a matter of time before deep-sea mining comes to Canada. We’re not ready.

SOURCE: The Narwhal DATE: March 26, 2019 SNIP: The deep sea, broadly considered the area of ocean below 200 metres, encompasses half of the world’s total ocean estate. To this day, just 5 per cent of the ocean abyss has been explored. It is only in the last decade that major advances in ocean-exploring technology, growing demand for metals used for tech gadgets, and the diminishing availability of these metals on land has created the burgeoning industry of deep sea mining. This year, Canadian-registered company Nautilus Minerals Inc. is slated to begin Solwara 1, an operation in Papua New Guinea that will extract seafloor massive sulphides from hydrothermal vent ecosystems in the deep sea. Each year, this operation plans to extract 1.3 million tonnes of vent and seabed material high in copper, zinc, gold and silver. Extraction requires a process of directly drilling, removing, and flattening down the vents and chimneys, essentially leaving a pile of rubble in its place. “All deep sea mining removes material from the seafloor,” says Dr. Kirsten Thompson, a marine mammal scientist and ecology lecturer at the University of Exeter in Devon, United Kingdom. “In removing this material, the habitat and species that are associated with the ecosystem are destroyed.” “For some types of mining, this destruction is irreversible on a local scale and recovery is not expected within our lifetimes,” says Thompson. Before long, Canadian and international mining companies alike may start turning their attention towards Canadian waters — that is, if they haven’t already. The Offshore Pacific Area of Interest off the west coast of Vancouver Island is of particular concern to...
UN Warns of Rising Levels of Toxic Brine as Desalination Plants Meet Growing Water Needs

UN Warns of Rising Levels of Toxic Brine as Desalination Plants Meet Growing Water Needs

SOURCE: United Nations University DATE: January 14, 2019 SNIP: The fast-rising number of desalination plants worldwide — now almost 16,000, with capacity concentrated in the Middle East and North Africa — quench a growing thirst for freshwater but create a salty dilemma as well: how to deal with all the chemical-laden leftover brine. In a UN-backed paper (“The state of desalination and brine production: A global outlook“), experts estimate the freshwater output capacity of desalination plants at 95 million cubic meters per day — equal to almost half the average flow over Niagara Falls. For every litre of freshwater output, however, desalination plants produce on average 1.5 litres of brine (though values vary dramatically, depending on the feedwater salinity and desalination technology used, and local conditions). Globally, plants now discharge 142 million cubic meters of hypersaline brine every day (a 50% increase on previous assessments). Desalination plants near the ocean (almost 80% of brine is produced within 10km of a coastline) most often discharge untreated waste brine directly back into the marine environment. The authors cite major risks to ocean life and marine ecosystems posed by brine greatly raising the salinity of the receiving seawater, and by polluting the oceans with toxic chemicals used as anti-scalants and anti-foulants in the desalination process (copper and chlorine are of major...
The ‘great dying’: rapid warming caused largest extinction event ever

The ‘great dying’: rapid warming caused largest extinction event ever

SOURCE: The Guardian DATE: December 6, 2018 SNIP: Rapid global warming caused the largest extinction event in the Earth’s history, which wiped out the vast majority of marine and terrestrial animals on the planet, scientists have found. The Permian mass extinction, known as the “great dying”, occurred around 252m years ago and marked the end of the Permian geologic period. The study of sediments and fossilized creatures show the event was the single greatest calamity ever to befall life on Earth, eclipsing even the extinction of the dinosaurs 65m years ago. Up to 96% of all marine species perished while more than two-thirds of terrestrial species disappeared. The cataclysm was so severe it wiped out most of the planet’s trees, insects, plants, lizards and even microbes. The great dying event, which occurred over an uncertain timeframe of possibly hundreds of years, saw Earth’s temperatures increase by around 10C (18F). Oceans lost around 80% of their oxygen, with parts of the seafloor becoming completely oxygen-free. Scientists believe this warming was caused by a huge spike in greenhouse gas emissions, potentially caused by volcanic activity. “It does terrify me to think we are on a trajectory similar to the Permian because we really don’t want to be on that trajectory,” Stanford University scientist Jonathan Payne said. “It doesn’t look like we will warm by around 10C and we haven’t lost that amount of biodiversity yet. But even getting halfway there would be something to be very concerned about. The magnitude of change we are currently experiencing is fairly large.” Curtis Deutsch, an oceanography expert at University of Washington said: “We are...
As North Sea Oil Wanes, Removing Abandoned Rigs Stirs Controversy

As North Sea Oil Wanes, Removing Abandoned Rigs Stirs Controversy

SOURCE: Yale E360 DATE: June 26, 2018 SNIP: Two decades ago, the North Sea was one of the world’s largest sources of oil, pumping up 6 million barrels a day. That figure is now down to 1.5 million barrels, and the industry is turning to the task of decommissioning the estimated 600 production platforms in the North Sea. The British sector alone contains 470 of them, along with roughly as many other offshore installations, plus 10,000 kilometers of pipelines and 5,000 wells. The British industry expects to carry out more than 200 decommissions between now and 2025. Many steel rigs will be cut off just below the seabed, and either dragged ashore in one piece or dismantled offshore. A handful of early giant concrete structures, which can weigh as much as 400,000 tons, may have to stay put because there is no way of moving them. The British industry estimates the final bill at $51 billion, though some analysts say it will be double that. Whatever the price, since decommissioning is tax deductible, the cost will be largely born by taxpayers. Are they getting value for their cleanup cash? Will the expenditure even be good for the environment? Some ecologists say no on both counts. [T]here has been a growing debate among marine scientists about whether the cleanup may sometimes do more harm than good. For during their lives of 30-40 years, many of the rigs have turned into valuable marine habitats, providing rare hard structures in a sea whose bed is mostly soft sand and mud. They are surrogate reefs, often occupied by rare species. Linked by ocean...