Update on Ocean Pollution

Written by on April 16, 2013 in Other News

UPDATE Apr 21 — The Great Pacific Garbage Patch

Check out this great article from the Ocean Health Index written by Dr. Kara Lavender Law of the Sea Education Association. She describes her initial thoughts about the garbage patch compared to what it actually looks like up close.

UPDATE Apr 16 — Atmospheric and Oil Pollution

Unfortunately, it seems like I’m constantly updating this post on pollution in the oceans. Although, I suppose all of these articles and studies suggest that we’re learning just how serious a problem this is and hopefully that will inspire us to clean up our act. Either way, here are a few new studies on ocean pollution:

Atmospheric Pollution and Coral Reefs

Air pollution has a big impact on the ocean.

Air pollution has a big impact on the ocean. Photo credit: guilherme cecílio via photopin cc.

A recent study found that air pollution can stunt the growth of coral. The research team found that the amount of fine particles in the air, mostly a result of burning fossil fuels, can shade coral from sunlight and cool the water, ultimately reducing growth rates. This research suggests that increasing levels of carbon dioxide isn’t the only thing that will affect corals in the near future.

To learn more about how air pollution affects coral, take a look at these articles:

Atmospheric Pollution and Sea Level Rise

New research shows that we could dramatically slow sea level rise by reducing certain air pollutants, including black carbon, methane, tropospheric ozone and hydrofluorocarbons. These specifc pollutants can remain in the atmosphere anywhere from a week to a decade. This might seem like a long time, but they can actually influence climate change much more quickly than carbon dioxide which remains for centuries.

To learn more, check out this article: Cutting Specific Atmospheric Pollutants Would Slow Sea Level Rise

Oil Pollution and Marine life

Scientists from several Norwegian research institutions are trying to determine how much oil pollution can be tolerated by life in the Barents Sea. The researchers measured tolerance levels when a species is in the larval stage because that is when it is most vulnerable to oil pollution. Establishing tolerance levels will help officials effectively manage oil production in the surrounding area. Research is completed for cod, herring, halibut, deepwater shrimp and Iceland scallops and will now focus on krill.

To learn more about specific tolerance levels, check out this article: Learning the limits for marine species


UPDATE Mar 31 — Here’s another great article on potential solutions to our ocean pollution problem.

Ocean Array Could Clean Up Tons Of Plastic

Boyan Slat, a young entrepreneur, wants to develop an array of floating devices that could clean up more than 7 million tons of plastic suspended in the top layer of the infamous garbage patches. Resembling a manta ray, the device would be attached to the sea floor in an area where natural currents would carry plastic straight to it. Watch the following TEDxTalks to learn more about it.


UPDATE Mar 24 — Since our ocean pollution posts a couple weeks ago (see bottom), two new interesting articles have been published involving the issue of plastic in our oceans.

Should Plastics Be Labeled “Hazardous” to Reduce Ocean Pollution?

This one is an interesting article from National Geographic that discusses a comment piece in Nature about labeling plastic differently in order to get different reactions from consumers. If some plastic waste was labeled “hazardous” we would be forced to deal with it differently on land and new regulations would be put in place. Do you think this would work?

Fish lose sense of smell in polluted waters

This one is about a new study that has revealed that fish living in lakes polluted with metals are losing their sense of smell. Fish rely on their sense of smell to find food and mates, to navigate in murky water and to avoid predators. Losing their ability to do all of these things could have devastating effects on whole populations. The good news is that if the fish can get to cleaner water, they will eventually regain their sense of smell.

Marine litter on a beach.

Marine litter on a beach. Photo credit: habitatnews via photopin cc

To learn more, check out our previous pollution articles:

Copyright © 2013 by Marine Science Today, a publication of Marine Science Today LLC.

About the Author

About the Author: Emily Tripp is the Publisher and Editor of MarineScienceToday.com. She holds marine science and biology degrees from the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science and a Master of Advanced Studies degree in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation from Scripps Institution of Oceanography. When she's not writing about marine science, she's probably running around outside or playing with her dog. .


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