By Marlene Cimons
Much of the deep sea has never been explored close-up by humans. Some submarines have plumbed its depths, but reaching the ocean bottom is a complicated and expensive journey, challenging because the seabed lies under more than three miles of water, which exerts huge amounts of pressure. "We know more about space than about the bottom of the oceans in our own planet, even though more than two-thirds of the surface of the Earth is covered by marine sediments," said Olivier Sulpis, a researcher and doctoral student at McGill University's department of earth and planetary sciences.
Thus, "we hear less about the effects of human activity at the seafloor than on corals, for instance, simply because coral bleaching sounds more appealing than mud dissolving at the bottom of the sea," he added. "When you think that before Google maps arrived, it took humans several centuries to map the continents, it's easy to understand why exploring the deep sea is so hard."
Nevertheless, he and his colleagues found a way to study it without actually going there. They recreated its environment in the lab, building little boxes filled with sediments overlain by sea water, keeping them in the dark. They duplicated sea water temperature and chemistry, as well as the composition of the sediment. By mimicking seabed conditions, "we don't need to go to the bottom of the sea to do measurements, and we save some time and energy." Sulpis said.
Sulpis and his team studied ocean floor sediment from the middle of the North Atlantic. Olivier Sulpis
What they found was worrisome. It has already been established that climate change—specifically atmospheric carbon dioxide emitted by fossil fuel burning—has been acidifying the oceans, damaging fragile coral reefs and disturbing vulnerable marine ecosystems. But the McGill scientists discovered that carbon dioxide also has begun to drift to the ocean bottom, dissolving the very materials that help put the brakes on acidification.
"Humans have become a geological force, and there is not a single part of the surface of our planet where we cannot find a trace of human activity," Sulpis said. "Paleoclimate scientists and Earth sciences students have heard and described many times past abrupt climate change and ocean acidification episodes, millions of years ago, that caused mass extinctions all around the world. These events were caused by meteoritic impacts, global wildfires, volcanic eruptions, etc. Today, it seems that we are at the dawn of one of these catastrophic events, and we don't need to look far to find the cause of it. Each one of us is the cause of it."
A diver surveys coral bleaching.The Ocean Agency
Normally, the seafloor is chalky white, largely made up of calcite formed from the skeletons and shells of planktonic organisms and corals. Calcite neutralizes carbon dioxide acidity, keeping seawater from becoming too acidic. But these days, at least in certain hotspots such as the North Atlantic and the southern oceans, the ocean's chalky bed is turning murky brown, the result of human activities that are causing carbon dioxide levels in the water to become too high and the water too acidic, according to new research published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Eventually, the researchers predicted, the calcite won't be able to keep pace with acidification, dissolving before it can do its job.
"The calcite at the bottom of the ocean is like a big anti-acid pill," Sulpis said. "It dissolves when there is too much CO2 and this neutralizes excess CO2 in the process. If the seafloor runs out of calcite, the ocean loses its anti-acid pill, and we could go towards a scary state of runaway ocean acidification."
The researchers measured how fast sediments dissolved when placed in boxes covered by seawater. "We did this for a few years, and eventually we realized that we understand this dissolution reaction well enough to describe it using simple mathematical equations," Sulpis explained. "If we know the chemical conditions and the sediment properties down there, we can compute the dissolution rate of calcite in these sediments. "
They used state-of-the-art ocean models, computing calcite dissolution rates across the seafloor. The experiments produced insights as to what controls calcite dissolution in marine sediments. By comparing pre-industrial and modern seafloor dissolution rates, they could determine how much of the total dissolution was caused by humans.
Scientists know that calcite has historically helped de-acidify the ocean. "What is surprising and concerning, however, is that it is already happening now," Sulpis said. "Scientists thought it would take much longer before we start seeing some calcite dissolution at the seafloor that is caused by our CO2. We know how our climate works. We know how our oceans works, but what we are incapable of predicting is our society and how we will adapt our behavior to this changing world."
The findings have far-reaching implications. "Just as climate change isn't just about polar bears, ocean acidification isn't just about coral reefs," said David Trossman, now a research associate at the University of Texas-Austin and co-author of the study. "Our study shows that the effects of human activities have become evident all the way down to the seafloor in many regions, and the resulting increased acidification in these regions may impact our ability to understand Earth's climate history."
In future work, the researchers plan to study how dissolution likely will progress in the coming centuries. Since much of the carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels still remains on the ocean surface, it could take decades, possibly even centuries, for CO2 to drop down to the bottom of the ocean, the scientists said. So all isn't lost—at least not yet, he said.
"Luckily for us, there is a lot of calcite out there, and only so much fossil fuel we can burn," Sulpis said. "That doesn't mean we have the green light to pollute more—it simply means that the oceans will be there to clean our mess, should it take thousands of years…" Hopefully, he added, "by then we will likely have stopped burning some fossil fuel, either because we ran out or—a smarter option—because we would have developed alternative, renewable energies."
Reposted with permission from our media associate Nexus Media.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
Watchdog Accuses Trump's NOAA of 'Choosing Extinction' for Right Whales by Hiding Scientific Evidence
By Julia Conley
As the North Atlantic right whale was placed on the International Union for Conservation of Nature's list of critically endangered species Thursday, environmental protection groups accusing the U.S. government of bowing to fishing and fossil fuel industry pressure to downplay the threat and failing to enact common-sense restrictions to protect the animals.
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By Beth Ann Mayer
Since even moderate-intensity workouts offer a slew of benefits, walking is a good choice for people looking to stay healthy.
How to Rock Your Walk<p>Walking isn't just fun and healthy. It's accessible.</p><p>"Walking is cheap," says Dr. John Paul H. Rue, a sports medicine doctor at <a href="https://mdmercy.com/" target="_blank">Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore</a>. "You can do it anywhere at any time; [it] requires little to no special equipment and has many of the same cardio benefits as running or other more intense workouts."</p><p>Want to up your walking game? Try the tips below.</p>
Use Hand Weights<p>Cardio and strength training can go hand-in-hand when you add weights to your walk.</p><p>A <a href="https://journals.lww.com/acsm-msse/Fulltext/2019/03000/Associations_of_Resistance_Exercise_with.14.aspx" target="_blank">2019 study</a> found that weight training is good for your heart, and <a href="https://www.mayoclinicproceedings.org/article/S0025-6196(17)30167-2/abstract" target="_blank">research</a> shows it reduces the risk of developing a <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/nutrition-metabolism-disorders" target="_blank">metabolic disorder</a> by 17 percent. People with metabolic disorders have a higher chance of being diagnosed with high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and diabetes.</p><p>Rue suggests not carrying weights for your entire walk.</p><p>"Hand weights can give you an added level of energy burning, but you have to be careful with these because carrying [them] over a long period of time or while walking could actually lead to some overuse injuries," he says.</p>
Make It a Circuit<p>As another option, consider doing a circuit. First, put a pair of dumbbells on your lawn or somewhere in your home. Walk around the block once, then stop and do some bicep curls and tricep lifts before walking around the block again.</p><p>Rue recommends <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/exercise-fitness/running-with-weights" target="_blank">avoiding ankle weights</a> during cardio workouts, as they force you to use your quadriceps rather than hamstrings. They can also cause muscle imbalance, according to the <a href="https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/wearable-weights-how-they-can-help-or-hurt" target="_blank">Harvard Health Letter</a>.</p>
Find a Fitness Trail<p>Strength training isn't limited to weights. You can get stronger by <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/bodyweight-workout" target="_blank">simply using your body</a>.</p><p>Often found at parks, fitness trails are obstacle courses with equipment for pullups, pushups, rowing, and stretches to build upper and lower body strength.</p><p>Try searching "fitness trails near me" online, checking out your local parks and recreation website, or calling the municipal office to <a href="https://calisthenics-parks.com/" target="_blank">find one</a>.</p>
Recruit a Friend<p>People who workout together stay healthy together.</p><p><a href="https://bmcgeriatr.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12877-017-0584-3" target="_blank">One study</a> showed that older adults who exercised with a group improved or maintained their functional health and enjoyed their lives more.</p><p>Enlist the help of a walking buddy with a regimen you aspire to have. If you don't know anyone in your area, apps like <a href="https://www.strava.com/" target="_blank">Strava</a> have social networking features so you can get support from fellow exercisers.</p>
Try Meditation<p>According to the <a href="https://www.nccih.nih.gov/research/statistics/nhis/2017" target="_blank">2017 National Health Interview Survey</a>, published by the National Institutes of Health, meditation is on the rise, and for good reason.</p><p>Researchers <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29616846/" target="_blank">found</a> that mind-body relaxation practices can regulate inflammation, <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/biological-rhythms" target="_blank">circadian rhythms</a>, and <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/glucose" target="_blank">glucose</a> metabolism, as well as lower <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/high-blood-pressure-hypertension" target="_blank">blood pressure</a>.</p><p>"Any form of exercise can be turned into a meditation of some type, either by the surroundings you are walking in, like a park or trail, or by blocking out the outside world with music on your headphones," Rue says.</p><p>You can also play a podcast or download an app like <a href="https://www.headspace.com/headspace-meditation-app" target="_blank">Headspace</a> that has a library of guided meditations to practice while you walk.</p>
Do Fartlek Walks<p>Typically used in running, fartlek intervals alternate periods of increased and decreased speed. These are <a href="https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/benefits-of-hiit" target="_blank">high-intensity interval training (HIIT)</a> workouts, which allow exercisers to accomplish more in less time.</p><p><a href="https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0154075" target="_blank">One study</a> showed that 10-minute interval training improved <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/metabolic-syndrome" target="_blank">cardiometabolic</a> health, or lowered the risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes, just as well as working out at a continuous pace for 50 minutes.</p><p><a href="https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0111489" target="_blank">Research</a> also shows that HIIT workouts increase muscle <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/fast-twitch-muscles" target="_blank">oxidative</a> capacity, or the ability to use oxygen. To do a fartlek walk, try walking at an increased pace for 3 minutes, slow down for 2 minutes, and repeat.</p>
Gradually Increase Pace<p>A faster walking pace is associated with a lower risk of <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/copd" target="_blank">chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)</a> and respiratory diseases, according to a <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30303933/" target="_blank">2019 study</a>.</p><p>Still, it's best not to go from a stroll to an Olympic-worthy power walk in a day. Instead, increase your pace gradually to prevent injury.</p><p>"Start by walking at a brisk pace for about 10 minutes per day, 3 to 5 days per week," Rue says. "Once you've done this for a few weeks, increase your time by 5 to 10 minutes per day until you get to 30 minutes."</p>
Add Stairs<p>You've likely heard that taking the stairs instead of an elevator is a way to add more movement into your daily routine. It's also a way to step up your walking. Stair climbing has been shown to <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2211335519301123?via%3Dihub" target="_blank">decrease the risk of mortality</a> and can easily add a bit more challenge to your walk.</p><p>If you don't have stairs in your home, you can often find them outside a local municipal building, train station, or at a high school stadium.</p>
Is Your Walk a True Cardio Workout?<p>Not all walks are equal. A walk that's too leisurely may not provide enough burn to qualify as cardio. To see if you're getting a good workout, try to <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/how-to-check-heart-rate" target="_blank">measure your heart rate</a> using a monitor.</p><p>"A target goal for a good walking workout heart rate is about 50 to 70 percent of your maximum heart rate," Rue says, adding that maximum heart rate is <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/fitness-exercise/fat-burning-heart-rate" target="_blank">typically calculated</a> by 220 beats per minute minus your age.</p><p>You can also monitor how easily you can carry on a conversation while you walk to gauge your heart rate.</p><p>"If you can walk and carry on a normal conversation, that's probably a lower intensity walk," says Rue. "If you are slightly breathless but can still have a conversation, that's probably a moderate workout. If you are out of breath and can't talk normally, that's a vigorous workout."</p>
Takeaway<p>By shaking up your routine, you can add excitement to your workout and reap even more rewards than a basic walk provides. Increasing the pace and intensity of a workout will make it more effective.</p><p>Simply pick your favorite variation to add some spice to your next walk.</p>
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By Tiffany Means
Summer and fall are great seasons to enjoy the outdoors. But if you're already spending extra time outside because of the COVID-19 pandemic, you may be out of ideas on how to make fresh-air activities feel special. Here are a few suggestions to keep both adults and children entertained and educated in the months ahead, many of which can be done from the comfort of one's home or backyard.
The coronavirus may linger in the air in crowded indoor spaces, spreading from one person to the next, the World Health Organization acknowledged on Thursday, as The New York Times reported. The announcement came just days after 239 scientists wrote a letter urging the WHO to consider that the novel coronavirus is lingering in indoor spaces and infecting people, as EcoWatch reported.
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A new analysis by scientists at the Swiss-based International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) found that lemurs and the North Atlantic right whale are on the brink of extinction.
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