On June 8, We Celebrate Our Oceans, Our Future
By Sarah Chasis
June 8 is World Oceans Day, dedicated to celebrating our beautiful, mysterious, and life-giving oceans.
As our oceans make up more than 70 percent of the earth's surface, their health drives the future of our planet. Oceans give us every other breath we take, provide a critical source of protein and a way of life for billions of people, contribute trillions of dollars to the world economy, and are home to 50 percent to 80 percent of this planet's life.
They are also time-honored places to escape the stresses of everyday life. To play with our families under the warm sun, beside the crashing waves. To wonder at the horizon and imagine the varied sea creatures swimming deep below the waves. Our oceans are cause for celebration, even when it may be difficult to celebrate.
This year has been one of bombshell environmental reports. Decades of gloomy climate change predictions couldn't prepare us for the latest IPCC report's screeching siren. We've disrupted the planet's climate through our fossil fuel addiction and only by slashing carbon emissions immediately do we have a shot of avoiding catastrophic effects — more superstorms, more drought, more extinction, more lives lost.
Last month's U.N. biodiversity report didn't offer up any silver linings, with the news that up to a million species are at risk of extinction, many within decades, because of human activity. Climate change wasn't even a leading cause of extinctions — habitat loss and overfishing edge out climate impacts … for now.
It's a harsh message — decades of chronic overfishing, pollution and habitat destruction have stripped our seas of much of their diversity and abundance. Industrial and military ocean noise is on the rise, upsetting the ocean's delicate acoustic habitat and challenging the ability of marine wildlife to mate, find food, migrate, and, ultimately, survive. Carbon dioxide emissions have made oceans more acidic, which makes it harder for shell-building organisms like oysters and scallops to grow their protective coverings and survive, and climate change's warmer waters bring coral bleaching, mass marine wildlife migrations, an increase in dead zones and deoxygenation as we suffocate marine life. Unless we act, ocean ecosystems will continue to deteriorate or, in some cases, collapse entirely, and the consequences will reverberate through human society.
It's more than a bit scary and uncomfortable to think about.
But we can imagine another, better future where we protect nature — and, in turn, nature protects us. If we act now we can slow, stop, and reverse biodiversity loss. And healthy oceans will help buffer against climate change. There are solutions — they're tried and true. We must cut carbon emissions, protect significant areas of land and ocean and eliminate unsustainable fishing practices.
We know change is possible because we are making it happen. NRDC is securing protections for our oceans and the life it supports. Day after day, we'll keep fighting to protect whales, sharks and other endangered sea life, to secure our ocean sanctuaries, to fight harmful offshore drilling and stop overfishing.
Watch this short film of just some of this year's victories:
Just like our amazing blue world, these achievements are worth celebrating.
And help us fight for our oceans' health. We can do this, together.
What if We Treated Our Oceans as if They Matter? https://t.co/5QV5EPP5Vt— The YEARS Project (@YEARSofLIVING) April 14, 2019
Sarah Chasis is senior director of the Oceans Division, Nature Program at the Natural Resources Defense Council.
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By Katherine Kornei
Clear-cutting a forest is relatively easy—just pick a tree and start chopping. But there are benefits to more sophisticated forest management. One technique—which involves repeatedly harvesting smaller trees every 30 or so years but leaving an upper story of larger trees for longer periods (60, 90, or 120 years)—ensures a steady supply of both firewood and construction timber.
A Pattern in the Rings<p>The <a href="https://www.encyclopedia.com/science/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/coppice-standards-0" target="_blank">coppice-with-standards</a> management practice produces a two-story forest, said <a href="https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Bernhard_Muigg" target="_blank">Bernhard Muigg</a>, a dendrochronologist at the University of Freiburg in Germany. "You have an upper story of single trees that are allowed to grow for several understory generations."</p><p>That arrangement imprints a characteristic tree ring pattern in a forest's upper story trees (the "standards"): thick rings indicative of heavy growth, which show up at regular intervals as the surrounding smaller trees are cut down. "The trees are growing faster," said Muigg. "You can really see it with your naked eye."</p><p>Muigg and his collaborators characterized that <a href="https://ltrr.arizona.edu/about/treerings" target="_blank">dendrochronological pattern</a> in 161 oak trees growing in central Germany, one of the few remaining sites in Europe with actively managed coppice-with-standards forests. They found up to nine cycles of heavy growth in the trees, the oldest of which was planted in 1761. The researchers then turned to a historical data set — more than 2,000 oak <a href="https://eos.org/articles/podcast-discovering-europes-history-through-its-timbers" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">timbers from buildings and archaeological sites</a> in Germany and France dating from between 300 and 2015 — to look for a similar pattern.</p>
A Gap of 500 Years<p>The team found wood with the characteristic coppice-with-standards tree ring pattern dating to as early as the 6th century. That was a surprise, Muigg and his colleagues concluded, because the first mention of this forest management practice in historical documents occurred only roughly 500 years later, in the 13th century.</p><p>It's probable that forest management practices were not well documented prior to the High Middle Ages (1000–1250), the researchers suggested. "Forests are mainly mentioned in the context of royal hunting interests or donations," said Muigg. Dendrochronological studies are particularly important because they can reveal information not captured by a sparse historical record, he added.</p><p>These results were <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-78933-8" target="_blank">published in December in <em>Scientific Reports</em></a>.</p><p>"It's nice to see the longevity and the history of coppice-with-standards," said <a href="https://www.teagasc.ie/contact/staff-directory/s/ian-short/" target="_blank">Ian Short</a>, a forestry researcher at Teagasc, the Agriculture and Food Development Authority in Ireland, not involved in the research. This technique is valuable because it promotes conservation and habitat biodiversity, Short said. "In the next 10 or 20 years, I think we'll see more coppice-with-standards coming back into production."</p><p>In the future, Muigg and his collaborators hope to analyze a larger sample of historic timbers to trace how the coppice-with-standards practice spread throughout Europe. It will be interesting to understand where this technique originated and how it propagated, said Muigg, and there are plenty of old pieces of wood waiting to be analyzed. "There [are] tons of dendrochronological data."</p><p><em><a href="mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Katherine Kornei</a> is a freelance science journalist covering Earth and space science. Her bylines frequently appear in Eos, Science, and The New York Times. Katherine holds a Ph.D. in astronomy from the University of California, Los Angeles.</em></p><p><em>This story originally appeared in <a href="https://eos.org/articles/tree-rings-reveal-how-ancient-forests-were-managed" target="_blank">Eos</a></em> <em>and is republished here as part of Covering Climate Now, a global journalism collaboration strengthening coverage of the climate story.</em></p>
Earth's ice is melting 57 percent faster than in the 1990s and the world has lost more than 28 trillion tons of ice since 1994, research published Monday in The Cryosphere shows.
By Jewel Fraser
Noreen Nunez lives in a middle-class neighborhood that rises up a hillside in Trinidad's Tunapuna-Piarco region.