Algae in a pond may look flimsy. But scientists are using algae to develop industrial-strength material that's as hard as steel but only a fraction of the weight.
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Viruses, pollution and warming ocean temperatures have plagued corals in recent years. The onslaught of abuse has caused mass bleaching events and threatened the long-term survival of many ocean species. While corals have little chance of surviving through a mass bleaching, a new study found that when corals turn a vibrant neon color, it's in a last-ditch effort to survive, as CBS News reported.
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By Rebecca Staudenmaier
For the first time, scientists have discovered microplastics inside small organisms living in the soil in Antarctica, according to a new study published on Wednesday.
Dangers of Plastic Pollution<p>The authors of the study said the traces indicate the microplastic pollution may have already "deeply" infiltrated Antarctica's remote land-based food system.</p><p>"The implications of plastic ingestion by this species include the potential redistribution of microplastics through the soil profile and transfer to their common predators, the moss mites," Elisa Bergami of the University of Siena told news agency AFP.</p><p>Although plastic pollution in the oceans is already widely known and well-documented, Bergami said that less attention is being paid to Antarctica's land contamination.</p><p>The presence of plastics in one of the world's most remote food chains could potentially stress Antarctica's fragile ecosystem even further.</p><p>Scientific research posts, military facilities and tourism have turned the area around King George Island in the South Shetland Islands into "one of the most contaminated regions of Antarctica," researchers said.</p>
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The toxic algae blooms that have killed dogs in Texas, North Carolina and Georgia have been detected in three New York City parks. Parents and pet owners are being warned to keep their kids and dogs away from the infected water, which can be fatal when dogs lap it up, swallow it while swimming, or lick it off their own fur, as the New York Times reported.
By Stephen Garnett, Les Christidis, Les Christidis and Scott Thomson
Scientists worked out a few differences over how to name species. Laurent Gillieron / EPA
How It All Began<p>In May 2017 two of the authors, Stephen Garnett and Les Christidis, published an <a href="https://www.nature.com/news/taxonomy-anarchy-hampers-conservation-1.22064" target="_blank">article in Nature</a>. They argued taxonomy needed rules around what should be called a species, because currently there are none. They wrote:</p><blockquote>for a discipline aiming to impose order on the natural world, taxonomy (the classification of complex organisms) is remarkably anarchic […] There is reasonable agreement among taxonomists that a species should represent a distinct evolutionary lineage. But there is none about how a lineage should be defined.<br>'Species' are often created or dismissed arbitrarily, according to the individual taxonomist's adherence to one of at least 30 definitions. Crucially, there is no global oversight of taxonomic decisions — researchers can 'split or lump' species with no consideration of the consequences.<br></blockquote><p>Garnett and Christidis proposed that any changes to the taxonomy of complex organisms be overseen by the highest body in the global governance of biology, the International Union of Biological Sciences (<a href="https://www.iubs.org/" target="_blank">IUBS</a>), which would "restrict […] freedom of taxonomic action."</p>
An Animated Response<p>Garnett and Christidis' article raised hackles in some corners of the taxonomy world – including coauthors of this article.</p><p>These critics rejected the description of taxonomy as "anarchic." In fact, they argued there are detailed rules around the naming of species administered by groups such as the International Commission on Zoological <a href="https://www.iczn.org/" target="_blank">Nomenclature</a> and the International Code of <a href="https://www.iapt-taxon.org/nomen/main.php" target="_blank">Nomenclature</a> for algae, fungi, and plants. For 125 years, the codes have been almost universally adopted by scientists.</p><p>So in March 2018, 183 researchers – led by Scott Thomson and Richard Pyle – wrote an animated response to the Nature article, published in <a href="https://journals.plos.org/plosbiology/article?id=10.1371/journal.pbio.2005075" target="_blank">PLoS Biology</a>.</p><p>They wrote that Garnett and Christidis' IUBS proposal was "flawed in terms of scientific integrity […] but is also untenable in practice". They argued:</p><blockquote>Through taxonomic research, our understanding of biodiversity and classifications of living organisms will continue to progress. Any system that restricts such progress runs counter to basic scientific principles, which rely on peer review and subsequent acceptance or rejection by the community, rather than third-party regulation.</blockquote><p>In a separate paper, another group of taxonomists <a href="https://www.researchgate.net/publication/319422386_What_really_hampers_taxonomy_and_conservation_A_riposte_to_Garnett_and_Christidis_2017" target="_blank">accused</a> Garnett and Christidis of trying to suppress freedom of scientific thought, likening them to Stalin's science advisor Trofim Lysenko.</p>
Taxonomy can influence how conservation funding is allocated. Queensland Museum
Finding Common Ground<p>This might have been the end of it. But the editor at PLoS Biology, Roli Roberts, wanted to turn consternation into constructive debate, and invited <a href="https://journals.plos.org/plosbiology/article?id=10.1371/journal.pbio.2005249" target="_blank">a response</a> from Garnett and Christidis. In the to and fro of articles, we all found common ground.</p><p>We recognised the powerful need for a global list of species – representing a consensus view of the world's taxonomists at a particular time.</p>
By Sonya Angelica Diehn
Dams are often touted as environmentally friendly. Although they do represent a renewable source of energy, a closer look reveals that they are far from green. DW lays out the biggest environmental problems of mega-dams.
1. Dams Alter Ecosystems<p>Water is life — and since dams block water, that impacts life downstream, both for ecosystems and people. In the case of the <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/ethiopia-egypt-sudan-make-slow-progress-in-nile-dam-row/a-52015611" target="_blank">Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD)</a>, which is being built in Ethiopia and is set to be Africa's largest source of hydroelectric power, Egypt is concerned it will receive less water for things like agriculture.</p><p>Downstream ecosystems rely not only on water, but also on sediment, both of which are held back by big dams. As solid materials build up in a manmade reservoir, downstream land becomes less fertile and riverbeds can become deeper or even erode away. <a href="https://www.pnas.org/content/115/47/11891" target="_blank">Emilio Moran</a>, a professor of geography and environment at Michigan State University in the US, described sediment loss of 30 to 40% as a result of large dams.</p><p>"Rivers carry sediment that feeds the fish, it feeds the entire vegetation along the river. So, when you stop sediment flowing freely down the streams, you have a dead river."</p><p>And ecosystems may have adapted to natural flooding, which dams take away. </p><p>Mega-dams also often have a large footprint on land upstream. Aside from displacing human communities, flooding to create a reservoir also kills plants, and leaves <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/tanzanias-biggest-wildlife-reserve-under-threat/a-43902762" target="_blank">animals to drown or find new homes</a>. Reservoirs can also further fragment valuable habitat and cut off migratory corridors. </p>
2. Dams Reduce Biodiversity and Cause Extinction<p>Aquatic species, particularly fish, are vulnerable to the impacts of dams. Moran says the Itaipu Dam, which was constructed on the border between Paraguay and Brazil in the 1970s and 1980s, resulted in a 70 percent loss of biodiversity.</p><p>"On the Tucuruí Dam that was built in the 80s in the Amazon," he added, "there was a 60% drop in productivity of fish."</p><p>Many fish species rely on the ability to move about freely in a river, be it to seek food or return to where they were born. Migratory species are badly affected by the presence of dams. In 2016, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) reported a 99% drop in catches of <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/poaching-dams-imperil-ancient-danube-fish/a-43907515" target="_blank">sturgeon</a> and paddlefish — both of which are migratory — over a period of three decades. Overfishing and river alteration were cited as major threats to the species' survival. </p><p>A <a href="http://www.mrcmekong.org/highlights/the-study-on-sustainable-management-and-development-of-the-mekong-river-including-impacts-of-mainstream-hydropower-projects/" target="_blank">2018 study</a> predicted that fish stocks on <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/a-dam-building-race-threatens-the-mekong-river/a-50049206" target="_blank">Asia's Mekong River</a> could drop by 40% as a result of dam projects – with consequences not only for biodiversity, but for the people whose lives and livelihoods depend on those fish.</p><p>The stakes for biodiversity are particularly high for animals threatened with extinction. And not only for aquatic species. The <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/new-orangutan-species-found-in-indonesian-forest/a-41217498" target="_blank">Tapanuli orangutan</a> — the Earth's rarest ape, with only 500 individuals left — could finally be pushed to the brink if a planned hydroelectric project in Sumatra, Indonesia, is completed. Dams can literally snuff out species. </p>
3. Dams Contribute to Climate Change (and Are Affected by It)<p>As reservoirs fill, upstream forests are flooded, eliminating their function as carbon sinks. As the drowned vegetation decomposes, decaying plants in manmade reservoirs release methane, a powerful greenhouse gas. That makes reservoirs sources of emissions — particularly those in <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/forest-sos-earths-green-lungs-disappear/a-44908586" target="_blank">tropical forests</a>, where there is dense growth. It's estimated that greenhouse gas emissions from dams amount to about <a href="https://academic.oup.com/bioscience/article/66/11/949/2754271" target="_blank">a billion tons annually</a>, making it a significant global source.</p><p>And as the climate changes, more frequent and prolonged drought means dams will capture less water, resulting in <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/hydropower-supply-dries-up-with-climate-change/a-42472070" target="_blank">lower electricity production</a>. Countries dependent on hydropower will be especially vulnerable as temperatures keep rising. </p><p>Moran described a vicious circle, for example in Brazil, which gets 60 to 70% of its energy from hydropower: "If you wipe out half the rainforest, there will a loss of half the rainfall. And then there won't be enough water to provide the amount of power from those dams," he explained. </p>
4. Dams Reduce Water Quality<p>Manmade reservoirs trap fertilizers that run into the water from surrounding land. In addition, in some developing countries, sewage flows directly into the reservoirs. This kind of pollution can result in algae blooms that suck the oxygen out of the water, making it acidic and potentially harmful to people and animals.</p><p>Still water in large manmade lakes is warm at the top and cold at the bottom, which can also affect water quality. While warm water promotes the growth of harmful algae, the cold water that is often released through turbines from the bottom of a reservoir may contain damagingly high mineral concentrations. </p><p>In some cases, water in manmade reservoirs is of such bad quality that it is not even fit to drink. </p>
5. Dams Waste Water<p>Since more surface area of the water gets exposed to the sun, reservoirs result in much more evaporation than the natural flow of the river before that dam existed. It's estimated at least 7% of the total amount of freshwater needed for human activities evaporates from the world's reservoirs every year.</p><p>This effect is made worse in hot regions, Moran pointed out. "Certainly if you had a reservoir in a tropical area with high temperatures, there is going to be a lot of evaporation," he said. And big reservoirs "are, of course, evaporating constantly."</p><p>Reservoirs are also a haven for invasive plant species, and weed-covered reservoir banks can lead to evapotranspiration — or the transfer of water from the land to the atmosphere through evaporation from soil and transpiration from plants. Such evapotranspiration amounts to six times more than the evaporation from the water's surface. And there is even evidence that dams increase water use and promote water waste by creating a false sense of water security. </p><p>In the face of <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/water-shortages-pose-growing-risk-to-global-stability/a-50394997" target="_blank">dwindling global freshwater resources</a>, some question whether dams should be reconsidered. </p>
So What Are the Alternatives?<p>The evidence is damning. But if mega-dams have so many harmful environmental effects, what are the alternatives? Although some green groups point to small hydropower as being more ecologically sound, Moran is skeptical. "A dam is a dam - it's blocking the fish, it's blocking the sediment."</p><p>He pointed to the need to consider not just how to maximize energy production, but also maintain ecological productivity. One option he cited is the use of in-stream turbines. </p><p>And many environment advocates agree that other renewable energies such as solar and wind can provide clean electricity at a far lower environmental cost. </p>
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By Manuela Callari
It can grow to a maximum of six inches (16 centimeters), change color depending on mood and habitat, and, like all seahorses, the White's seahorse male gestates its young. But this tiny snouted fish is under threat.
Building an Ocean Seahorse Destination<p>Seahorses are found in tropical and temperate coastal water worldwide, but are most abundant around Australia, China and the Philippines. </p><p>Trade in the tiny creatures is strictly regulated because of their use in traditional medicine, aquariums and their sale as dried curios. But because they are poor swimmers and cannot easily move elsewhere, habitat loss is a particular threat for these curious animals. </p><p>Seahorses wrap their tails around seagrass and corals to avoid being carried away on currents. They use the habitat to spawn and hide from predators such as crabs, while also feeding on riches of plankton and small crustaceans living in the reef.</p><p><span></span>Where corals aren't available, <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/aqc.1217" target="_blank">scientists</a> found seahorses taking up residence in fishing nets and old crab traps abandoned at the bottom of the ocean. </p>
Mixing With the Locals<p>Baby seahorse mortality is high in the wild because they are easily caught, so those bred in the protected environment of the aquarium weren't ready to be released into the wild until early May.</p><p>The team released 90 new arrivals into Sydney Harbor, placing some directly into the purpose-built hotels, and others onto a net that wild seahorses had already settled on.</p><p>Before setting them free, the researchers marked each young seahorse with a fluorescent tag with unique IDs inserted just beneath the skin to track how they get on in the different environments. </p><p>"The most exciting part was being able to put these animals into the wild and then go back a month later and still see them surviving and growing," said McCracken. </p><p>The seahorses will be old enough to mate and reproduce around October or November 2020. And researchers hope that by then, they will be able to breed with the wild population. </p>
Building a Global Seahorse Hotel Chain<p>With seahorses everywhere facing the loss of their coral reef homes, similar projects have sprung up in places like Greece and South Africa, home to the world's most endangered seahorse, the Knysna seahorse. </p><p>"The endangered South African seahorse is benefiting from something quite similar, even though it wasn't intentional," said Peter Teske, professor at the Department of Zoology, University of Johannesburg.</p><p>In the South African <a href="https://www.researchgate.net/publication/322649251_An_endangered_seahorse_selectively_chooses_an_artificial_structure" target="_blank">case</a>, seahorses have bedded down in "Reno mattresses" — wire cages filled with rocks — that were used to build a new marina. Researchers from NGO Knysna Basin Project found the structures acted as a refuge for the animals.<span></span></p><p><span></span>While Teske describes the seahorse hotels as "a positive news story" and a great way to create public awareness of conservation, he added that establishing artificial habitats in some areas will only prevent the extinction of local populations.</p><p>"For a complete recovery, it is necessary to give the natural habitat a chance to regenerate," said the seahorse expert. </p>
Underwater Mascot<p>In Australia, the researchers hope the project could provide an opportunity to raise awareness not only of the plight of the Sydney seahorses but the other animals with which it shares its ocean habitat.</p><p>The waters around Sydney and the east coast are rich in biodiversity and include several threatened species like the weedy seadragon — a relative of the seahorse — and the grey nurse shark. Like the seahorse, they're also under pressure from pollution, ocean traffic and habitat loss through storms and coastal construction. </p><p>"It's a good thing to get people's support and interest. The seahorses are a useful vehicle to get people concerned if the harbor is in trouble," said David Booth, professor of marine ecology at the University of Technology Sydney who is also working on the project. </p><p>The hotels have become an attraction for divers hoping to catch a glimpse of these small but near mythical creatures. </p><p>"Everyone loves seahorses," added Booth, "they are so popular." </p>
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By Shaun Brooks and Julia Jabour
Australia wants to build a 2.7-kilometre concrete runway in Antarctica, the world's biggest natural reserve. The plan, if approved, would have the largest footprint of any project in the continent's history.
The runway is part of an aerodrome to be constructed near Davis Station, one of Australia's three permanent bases in Antarctica. It would be the first concrete runway on the continent.
Year-Round Access<p>The Australian Antarctic Division (AAD), a federal government agency, <a href="https://www.antarctica.gov.au/living-and-working/travel-and-logistics/aviation/davis-aerodrome/about-the-project/" target="_blank">argues</a> the runway would allow year-round aviation access between Hobart and Antarctica.</p><p>Presently, the only Australian flights to Antarctica take place at the beginning and end of summer. Aircraft land at an aerodrome near the Casey research station, with interconnecting flights to other stations and sites on the continent. The stations are inaccessible by both air and ship in winter.</p><p>The AAD says year-round access to Antarctica would provide significant science benefits, including:</p><ul><li>better understanding sea level rise and other climate change impacts</li><li>opportunities to study wildlife across the annual lifecycle of key species including krill, penguins, seals and seabirds</li><li>allowing scientists to research through winter.</li></ul><p><span></span>Leading international scientists <a href="https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/antarctic-science/article/delivering-21st-century-antarctic-and-southern-ocean-science/A5E6D29C34AA2794140C6B4966E63048" target="_blank">had called for</a> improved, environmentally responsible access to Antarctica to support 21st-century science. However, the aerodrome project is likely to reduce access for scientists to Antarctica for years, due to the need to house construction workers.</p>
Australia says the runway would have significant science benefits. Australian Antarctic Division
Australia: An Environmental Leader?<p>Australia has traditionally been considered an environmental leader in Antarctica. For example, in 1989 under the Hawke government, it urged the world to abandon a mining convention in favour of a new deal to ban mining on the continent.</p><p>Australia's <a href="https://www.antarctica.gov.au/about-us/antarctic-strategy-and-action-plan/20-year-action-plan/" target="_blank">20 Year Action Plan</a> promotes "leadership in environmental stewardship in Antarctica", pledging to "minimise the environmental impact of Australia's activities".</p><p>But the aerodrome proposal appears at odds with that goal. It would cover 2.2 square kilometres, increasing the total "<a href="https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/antarctic-science/article/what-is-footprint-in-antarctica-proposing-a-set-of-definitions/7FBDB26F3AF2F5A6C157FCB2E6A2D996" target="_blank">disturbance footprint</a>" of all nations on the <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41893-019-0237-y" target="_blank">continent</a> by 40%. It would also mean Australia has the biggest footprint of any nation, overtaking the United States.</p>
The contribution of disturbance footprint from countries in Antarctica measured from Brooks et al. 2019, with Australia's share increasing to 35% including the aerodrome proposal. Shaun Brooks<p>Within this footprint, environmental effects will also be intense. <a href="http://epbcnotices.environment.gov.au/_entity/annotation/174a3e6b-4f42-ea11-b0a8-00505684324c/a71d58ad-4cba-48b6-8dab-f3091fc31cd5?t=1594857491287" target="_blank">Construction</a> will require more than three million cubic metres of earthworks - levelling 60 vertical metres of hills and valleys along the length of the runway. This will inevitably cause dust emissions – on the windiest continent on Earth - and the effect of this on plants and animals in Antarctica is <a href="https://doi.org/10.1017/S0954102019000440" target="_blank">poorly understood</a>.</p><p>Wilson's storm petrels that nest at the site will be displaced. Native lichens, fungi and algae will be destroyed, and irreparable damage is expected at adjacent lakes.</p><p>Weddell seals breed within 500 metres of the proposed runway site. Federal environment officials <a href="http://epbcnotices.environment.gov.au/_entity/annotation/174a3e6b-4f42-ea11-b0a8-00505684324c/a71d58ad-4cba-48b6-8dab-f3091fc31cd5?t=1594857491287" target="_blank">recognise</a> the dust from construction and subsequent noise from low flying aircraft have the potential to disturb these breeding colonies.</p>
Playing Politics<p>So given the environmental concern, why is Australia so determined to build the aerodrome? We believe the answer largely lies in Antarctic politics.</p><p>Australian officials <a href="https://www.antarctica.gov.au/site/assets/files/54470/future_science_opportunities_synthesis_report_final.pdf" target="_blank">have said</a> the project would "contribute to both our presence and influence" on the continent. Influence in Antarctica has traditionally corresponded to the strength of a nation's scientific program, its infrastructure presence and engagement in international decision-making.</p><p>Australia is a well-regarded member of the Antarctic Treaty. It was an original signatory and claims sovereignty over 42% of the continent. It also has a solid physical and scientific presence, maintaining three large year-round research stations.</p><p>But other nations are also vying for influence. China is constructing its fifth research station. New Zealand <a href="https://www.stuff.co.nz/science/113844159/scott-base-rebuild-to-cost-250-million" target="_blank">is planning</a> a NZ$250 million upgrade to Scott Base. And on King George Island, six stations have been built <a href="https://doi.org/10.3402/polar.v31i0.18206" target="_blank">within a 5km radius</a>, each run by different nations. This presence is hard to justify on the basis of scientific interest alone.</p>
Getting Our Priorities Straight<p>We believe there are greater and more urgent opportunities for Australia to assert its leadership in Antarctica.</p><p>For example both Casey and Mawson stations – Australia's two other permanent bases – discharge sewage into the pristine marine environment with little treatment. And outdated fuel technology at Australia's three stations regularly causes <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jenvman.2018.02.024" target="_blank">diesel spills</a>.</p><p>At Wilkes station, which Australia abandoned in the 1960s, thousands of tonnes of contaminants have been <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/rec.12383" target="_blank">left behind</a>.</p><p>Australia should fix such problems before adding more potentially damaging infrastructure. This would meet our environmental treaty obligations and show genuine Antarctic leadership.</p>
Sunscreen pollution is accelerating the demise of coral reefs globally by causing permanent DNA damage to coral. gonzalo martinez / iStock / Getty Images Plus
On July 29, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed into law a controversial bill prohibiting local governments from banning certain types of sunscreens.
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Less than a week after the official start of summer, New Jersey's largest lake was shut down by state officials due to a harmful algae bloom. Now, well into the heart of summer, Lake Hopatcong remains closed. And, several other lakes that have seen their waters turn green due to a rise in cyanobacteria have also been shut down, including Budd Lake and parts of Greenwood Lake.
By Grace Francese
Outbreaks of potentially toxic algae are fouling lakes, rivers and other bodies of water across the U.S. Nationally, news reports of algae outbreaks have been on the rise since 2010.
What are algae blooms?<p>These smelly blooms <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8tZooDsX8Fo" target="_blank">aren't actually algae at all</a>, but photosynthetic microorganisms called cyanobacteria.</p><p>Runoff from farm fields is often polluted with phosphorous and other chemicals in manure and commercial fertilizers. When this polluted runoff gets into lakes, it feeds the growth of cyanobacteria, especially in warm weather. Increasingly heavy rains and flooding, exacerbated by the climate crisis, make the problem worse. </p>
What are microcystins?<p>Many algae blooms are gross, forming a foul-smelling slime on a lake's surface, but not hazardous. But for reasons no one yet understands, some produce poisonous chemicals called cyanotoxins, including the group known as microcystins.</p>
What are the health risks?<p>Microcystin-producing cyanobacteria are a hazard to anyone, but the <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/habs/" target="_blank">Centers for Disease Control and Prevention</a> says children are especially vulnerable, since they're most likely to ingest water while swimming. Exposure can cause coughing, nausea, weakness, cramping and headaches, as well as long-term health effects such as liver failure.</p><p>Contact with skin, drinking <a href="https://www.ewg.org/toxicalgalblooms/#map" target="_blank">contaminated tap water</a> or eating contaminated fish can also cause health problems. Even breathing in microcystins can be harmful, and recent studies have shown that the <a href="https://www.news-press.com/story/tech/science/environment/2019/03/15/new-health-questions-raised-fgcu-research-toxic-algae-dust/3176195002/" target="_blank">toxins can become airborne</a>, drifting a mile or more from the site of the outbreak.</p>
How can I recognize and avoid algae blooms?<p>The best approach is to check with your city, county or state health departments, which may issue warnings. You can also use EWG's <a href="https://www.ewg.org/interactive-maps/2019_microcystin/map/" target="_blank">map</a>to see whether authorities have found microcystins in a particular lake in the past few years.</p><p>If you can't find information about a specific lake, get to know the <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xsgg2rqPKEE&feature=youtu.be" target="_blank">warning signs</a>. Look out for dead fish or animals in or near the water, and slime that looks like blue, blue-green, bright green or dark green spilled paint.</p><p>Only experts who test the water can determine definitively whether an algae bloom is toxic. So if you come across what looks like an algae outbreak, stay away – even if you're not sure it's toxic. Don't swim in it, and do your best to avoid breathing the air around it. Contact your health department and alert local news media.</p>
What should I do if I think my child has been exposed to a toxic algae outbreak?<p>If you think your child has come into contact with toxic algae, or shows flu-like symptoms after playing in or near it, rinse them off with water. Make sure they also drink plenty of water. Seek medical attention as soon as possible.</p>
How can we prevent algae blooms?<p>Farming practices like vegetative buffers along streams and rivers help minimize runoff, but these practices won't be widely implemented without regulations that require farmers to apply them. </p><p>Ideally, states would test lakes and other bodies of water for microcystins and other cyanotoxins and warn the public when there's danger. But EWG's new report found that only 20 states test regularly for microcystins and make the data public, and often only after a delay.</p><p>The Environmental Protection Agency should regulate these toxins to protect our tap water supplies. <a href="https://nepis.epa.gov/Exe/ZyPDF.cgi/P100N2VG.PDF?Dockey=P100N2VG.PDF" target="_blank">More than two-thirds</a> of all Americans get their drinking water from utilities that rely at least in part on lakes, rivers or other surface water. Yet the EPA doesn't regulate the level of microcystins and other cyanotoxins in drinking water.</p><p>For more info about toxic algae outbreaks, check out this <a href="https://www.ewg.org/news-and-analysis/2019/05/toxic-algae-blooms-what-you-should-know" target="_blank">overview</a>. EWG also maintains a resource center on algae blooms <a href="https://www.ewg.org/key-issues/water/toxicalgae" target="_blank">here</a>.</p>
By David Elliott
Dive beneath the brilliant blue waters surrounding Thailand's Koh Tao island and you might come face to face with a giant sculpture of the sea goddess Mazu.
But a closer look reveals an even bigger surprise – Mazu is alive.
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Small Pieces, Big Impact<p>Angeline Chen, Executive Director of Global Coralition – who spoke recently at the World Economic Forum's <a href="https://www.weforum.org/events/virtual-ocean-dialogues-2020/sessions/uplink-ocean-solutions-sprint" target="_blank">Virtual Ocean Dialogues</a> event – is effusive about the benefits of growing coral on land and the role it could play in rebuilding damaged ocean habitats.</p><p>Coral can be grown up to 50 times faster this way, she says, using a technique called <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0925857418303094" target="_blank">microfragmentation</a>. This involves dividing a piece of coral into much smaller fragments, which<a href="https://www.researchgate.net/publication/287204400_The_cultivation_of_massive_corals_using_micro-fragmentation_for_the_reskinning_of_degraded_coral_reefs" target="_blank"> stimulates the tissue</a> to grow. The pieces are grown a short distance apart and – because<a href="https://www.bbcearth.com/blog/?article=saving-coral" target="_blank"> corals are clonal animals</a> – they fuse together when their edges meet, forming a single mass.</p><p>Combined with other scientific methods, like<a href="https://www.globalcoralition.org/our-approach" target="_blank"> larval propagation and assisted evolution</a> to increase the resilience and reproductive rate of corals, Chen believes the impact of such projects, practiced all around the world, could be massive.</p><p>"With these farms, we could be growing a diverse array of resilient coral on a huge scale," she says.</p><p>Many organizations are practicing these methods, including <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0925857418303094" target="_blank">Mote Marine Laboratory</a> in Florida, US, and the government of Hawaii, which is out-planting 1 meter by 1 meter (3.2 foot) corals grown in one year – the <a href="https://dlnr.hawaii.gov/blog/2020/05/28/nr20-072/" target="_blank">largest to be grown in a land-based</a> nursery.</p>
<div id="507c8" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="e2c57fd8c727e7692e37866d6fc81164"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1266170721882890240" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">In the world of nursery raised corals, a one-meter coral is considered big. Yesterday, a team of biologists and te… https://t.co/wNWMyaARVf</div> — DLNR (@DLNR)<a href="https://twitter.com/dlnr/statuses/1266170721882890240">1590713599.0</a></blockquote></div>
Empowering Communities<p>Driving the work of Global Coralition and organizations like it is a simple fact: coral is vital to the planet.</p><p>Coral reefs are among the <a href="https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/education/tutorial_corals/welcome.html" target="_blank">most diverse ecosystems</a> on Earth, and they support nearly<a href="https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/features/Coral" target="_blank"> 1 million species of fish</a>, invertebrates and algae. They're crucial to humans, too. They<a href="https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/coral_protect.html#:~:text=Coral%20reefs%20provide%20a%20buffer,%2C%20property%20damage%2C%20and%20erosion." target="_blank"> protect our coasts from storms</a> and floods, and<a href="https://scripps.ucsd.edu/projects/coralreefsystems/about-coral-reefs/value-of-corals/" target="_blank"> provide work, medicine and food</a> to more than 1 billion people. In fact, coral <a href="https://www.unenvironment.org/news-and-stories/story/coral-reefs-we-continue-take-more-we-give#:~:text=Coral%20reef%20ecosystems%20provide%20society,the%20tourism%20and%20fisheries%20industries." target="_blank">reef ecosystems give society resources</a> and services worth $375 billion per year, according to the United Nations.</p><p>But coral faces myriad threats, including overfishing, pollution and climate change. Almost <a href="https://www.statista.com/chart/17126/reef-building-corals-under-threat/" target="_blank">half of reef-building coral species are under threat</a>, according to UN figures. And scientists predict we'll lose up to <a href="https://phys.org/news/2020-02-acidic-oceans-coral-reef-habitats.html" target="_blank">90% of all reefs</a> in the next 20 years if something isn't done soon.</p><p>For Chen and the Global Coralition, the answer lies in engaging and empowering local communities with the knowledge, tools and resources to reduce the local impacts of reef degradation while increasing key habitats and species.</p><p>The organization uses art, like the sculpture of Mazu, to bring people together around cultural themes that are <a href="https://www.globalcoralition.org/our-approach" target="_blank">meaningful to their communities</a>.</p><p>It then works with parties including local officials, marine ecologists, fisherman, students and dive centers to foster the unique skills to rehabilitate their local ecology. This work in turn improves quality of life, water quality, food security, income and employment opportunities and education in the region.</p>
The world's reef-building corals. Statista