World’s Largest Iceberg Could Collide With Island Home to Penguins and Seals
The world's largest iceberg could collide with South Georgia Island, posing a major risk to the wildlife that call it home.
The iceberg, dubbed A68a, broke off from Antarctica's Larsen C ice shelf in 2017. After three years at sea, it is now approaching South Georgia Island, where it could run aground. This would block seals and penguins from foraging in open water, British Antarctic Survey (BAS) ecologist Professor Geraint Tarling explained in a press release.
"When you're talking about penguins and seals during the period that's really crucial to them – during pup- and chick-rearing – the actual distance they have to travel to find food (fish and krill) really matters," Tarling said. "If they have to do a big detour, it means they're not going to get back to their young in time to prevent them starving to death in the interim."
A68a iceberg heads towards #SouthGeorgia – The iceberg is the size of the UK county of Somerset and if it becomes g… https://t.co/ebEJhX83PM— Antarctic Survey (@Antarctic Survey)1604503189.0
The iceberg is now approximately 311 miles away from the island and roughly the same size, The Guardian reported. It is currently headed directly toward the island, according to the BAS.
This is a common route for icebergs that break off from Antarctica to take, BBC News explained. Currents carry the icebergs north, where they catch on the continental shelf surrounding the island. Because A68a only extends around 656 feet below the waterline, it could advance quite far before getting stuck.
If that happens, Tarling told the BAS the iceberg could be stuck for up to 10 years, increasing its impact on wildlife. The last time an iceberg ran aground off South Georgia, in 2004, large numbers of dead seal pups and penguin chicks were found on local beaches, BBC News reported.
The iceberg could also harm ecosystems on the bottom of the ocean.
"It scrapes along the seafloor and affects those communities of animals there," Australian Antarctic Program Partnership glaciologist Dr. Sue Cook told The Guardian.
The grounding could also have human impacts. Cook told The Guardian it could impede shipping, while BBC News reported the iceberg could disrupt the island's fishing industry.
However, it is still unclear if the iceberg will stick.
"Whether it grounds and gets stuck or drifts past the island is in the balance," BAS remote-sensing and mapping specialist Dr. Peter Fretwell said in the press release. "The currents should take it on what looks like a strange loop around the south end of South Georgia, before then spinning it along the edge of the continental shelf and back off to the northwest. But it's very difficult to say precisely what will happen."
If it does stay in the ocean, it could actually help local wildlife, Tarling explained. The dust it carries would fertilize plankton, which supports the entire food web. Plankton also draws carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere, helping to combat the climate crisis.
A68a is what is left of iceberg A68, which broke off from the Larsen C ice shelf in July of 2017, according to The Guardian. At the time, it was larger than the country of Luxembourg at roughly 109 miles long and 31 miles wide. After losing a chunk, it was renamed A68a and is now about 93 miles long and 30 miles wide.
Cook told The Guardian that it was normal for Antarctica to calve icebergs and that A86a was not extraordinarily large. However, there have been concerns that the Larsen C ice shelf could disintegrate.
"This is happening in a region where there's a lot of change," Cook said.
Correction: An earlier version of this story said that South Georgia Island was in Antarctica. It is not.
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Fertility issues are on the rise, and new literature points to ways that your environment may be part of the problem. We've rounded up some changes you can make in your life to promote a healthy reproductive system.
Infertility and Environmental Health: The Facts<ul> <li>Sperm count is declining steeply, significantly, and continuously in Western countries, with no signs of tapering off. Erectile dysfunction is on the rise, and women are facing increasing rates of miscarriage and difficulty conceiving.</li><li>Why? A huge factor is our environmental health. Hormones (particularly testosterone and estrogen) are what make reproductive function possible, and our hormones are increasingly being negatively affected by harmful, endocrine-disrupting chemicals commonplace in the modern world—in our homes, foods, and lifestyles.</li></ul>
What You Can Do About It<p>It should be noted that infertility can be caused by any number of factors, including medical conditions that cannot be solved with a simple change at home.</p><p><em>If you or a loved one are struggling with infertility, our hearts and sympathies are with you. Your pain is validated and we hope you receive answers to your struggles.</em></p><p>Read on to discover our tips to restore or improve reproductive health by removing harmful habits and chemicals from your environment.</p>
Edit Your Health<ul><li>If you smoke, quit! Smoking is toxic, period. If someone in your household smokes, urge them to quit or institute a no-smoking ban in the house. It is just as important to avoid secondhand smoke.</li><li>Maintain a healthy weight. Make sure your caloric intake is right for your body and strive for moderate exercise.</li><li>Eat cleanly! Focus on whole foods and less processed meals and snacks. Studies have found that eating a Mediterranean-style diet is linked to increased fertility.</li><li>Minimize negative/constant stress—or find ways to manage it. Hobbies such as meditation or yoga that encourage practiced breathing are great options to reduce the physical toll of stress.</li></ul>
Edit Your Home<p>We spend a lot of time in our homes—and care that what we bring into them will not harm us. You may not be aware that many commonly found household items are sources of harmful, endocrine-disrupting compounds. Read on to find steps you can take—and replacements you should make—in your home.</p><p><strong>In the Kitchen</strong></p><ul> <li>Buy organic, fresh, unprocessed foods whenever possible. <a href="https://www.ehn.org/clean-grocery-shopping-guide-2648563801.html" target="_blank">Read our grocery shopping guide for more tips about food.</a></li><li>Switch to glass, ceramics, or stainless steel for food storage: plastics often contain endocrine-disrupting chemicals that affect fertility. <a href="https://www.ehn.org/bpa-pollution-2645493129.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Learn more about the dangers of plastic here.</a></li><li>Ban plastic from the microwave. If you have a plastic splatter cover, use paper towel, parchment paper, or an upside-down plate instead.</li><li>Upgrade your cookware: non-stick may make life easier, but it is made with unsafe chemical compounds that seep into your food. Cast-iron and stainless steel are great alternatives.</li><li>Filter tap water. Glass filter pitchers are an inexpensive solution; if you want to invest you may opt for an under-the-sink filter.</li><li>Check your cleaning products—many mainstream products are full of unsafe chemicals. <a href="https://www.ehn.org/how-to-shop-for-cleaning-products-while-avoiding-toxics-2648130273.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Check out our guide to safe cleaning products for more info</a>.</li></ul><p><strong>In the Bathroom </strong></p><ul> <li>Check the labels on your bathroom products: <em>fragrance-free, paraben-free, phthalate-free</em> and organic labels are all great signs. You can also scan the ingredients lists for red-flag chemicals such as: triclosan, parabens, and dibutyl phthalate. Use the <a href="https://www.ewg.org/skindeep/" target="_blank">EWG Skin Deep database</a> to vet your personal products.</li><li>Ditch the vinyl shower curtain—that new shower curtain smell is chemical-off gassing. Choose a cotton or linen based curtain instead.</li><li>Banish air fresheners—use natural fresheners (an open window, baking soda, essential oils) instead.</li></ul><p><strong>Everywhere Else</strong></p><ul><li>Remove wall-to-wall carpet. If you've been considering wood or tile, here's your sign: many synthetic carpets can emit harmful chemicals for years. If you want a rug, choose wool or plant materials such as jute or sisal.</li><li>Prevent dust build-up. Dust can absorb chemicals in the air and keep them lingering in your home. Vacuum rugs and wipe furniture, trim, windowsills, fans, TVs, etc. Make sure to have a window open while you're cleaning!</li><li>Leave shoes at the door! When you wear your shoes throughout the house, you're tracking in all kinds of chemicals. If you like wearing shoes inside, consider a dedicated pair of "indoor shoes" or slippers.</li><li>Clean out your closet—use cedar chips or lavender sachets instead of mothballs, and use "green" dry-cleaning services over traditional methods. If that isn't possible, let the clothes air out outside or in your garage for a day before putting them back in your closet.</li><li>Say no to plastic bags!</li><li>We asked 22 endocrinologists what products they use - and steer clear of—in their homes. <a href="https://www.ehn.org/nontoxic-products-2648564261.html" target="_blank">Check out their responses here</a>.</li></ul>
Learn More<ul><li>For more information and action steps, be sure to check out <em>Count Down: How Our Modern World Is Threatening Sperm Counts, Altering Male and Female Reproductive Development, and Imperiling the Future of the Human Race</em> by EHS adjunct scientist Shanna Swan, PhD: <a href="https://www.shannaswan.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">available for purchase here.</a></li><li><a href="https://www.ehn.org/st/Subscribe_to_Above_The_Fold" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Sign up for our Above the Fold Newsletter </a>to stay up to date about impacts on the environment and your health.</li></ul>
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