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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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Farms with just one or a handful of different crops encourage fewer species of pollinating and pest-controlling insects to linger, ultimately winnowing away crop yields, according to a new study.
Up to half of the detrimental impacts of the "landscape simplification" that monocropping entails come as a result of a diminished mix of ecosystem service-providing insects, a team of scientists reported Oct. 16 in the journal Science Advances.
Monocrop palm oil plantation Honduras.
SHARE Foundation / Flickr / CC BY-NC 2.0
"Our study shows that biodiversity is essential to ensure the provision of ecosystem services and to maintain a high and stable agricultural production," Matteo Dainese, the study's lead author and a biologist at Eurac Research in Bolzano, Italy, said in a statement.
It stands to reason that, with declines in the sheer numbers of insects that ferry pollen from plant to plant and keep crop-eating pests under control, these services will wane as well. But until now, it hasn't been clear how monocultures affect the number and mix of these species or how crop yields might change as a result.
Aiming to solve these questions, Dainese and his colleagues pulled together data from 89 studies cutting across a variety of landscapes, from the tropics of Asia and Africa to the higher latitudes of northern Europe. They tabulated the number of pollinating and pest-controlling insects at these sites — both the absolute number of individuals and the number of species — along with an assessment of the ecosystem services the insects provided.
In almost all of the studies they looked at, the team found that a more diverse pool of these species translated into more pollination and greater pest control. They also showed that simplified landscapes supported fewer species of service-providing insects, which ultimately led to lower crop yields.
The researchers also looked at a third measure of the makeup of insect populations — what they called "evenness." In natural ecosystems, a handful of dominant species with many more individuals typically live alongside a higher number of rarer species. The team found as landscapes became less diverse, dominant species numbers dwindled and rare species gained ground. This resulting, more equitable mix led to less pollination (though it didn't end up affecting pest control).
"Our study provides strong empirical support for the potential benefits of new pathways to sustainable agriculture that aim to reconcile the protection of biodiversity and the production of food for increasing human populations," Ingolf Steffan-Dewenter, one of the study's authors and an animal ecologist at the University of Würzburg in Germany, said in the statement.
The scientists figure that the richness of pollinator species explains around a third of the harmful impacts of less diverse landscapes, while the richness of pest-controlling species accounts for about half of the same measure. In their view, the results of their research point to the need to protect biodiversity on and around crops in an uncertain future.
"Under future conditions with ongoing global change and more frequent extreme climate events, the value of farmland biodiversity ensuring resilience against environmental disturbances will become even more important," Steffan-Dewenter said.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Mongabay.
Ivory Coast's rainforests have been decimated by cocoa production and what is left is put in peril by a new law that will remove legal protections for thousands of square miles of forests, according to The Guardian.
By Karin Kirk
Greenland had quite the summer. It rose from peaceful obscurity to global headliner as ice melted so swiftly and massively that many were left grasping for adjectives. Then, Greenland's profile was further boosted, albeit not to its delight, when President Trump expressed interest in buying it, only to be summarily dismissed by the Danish prime minister.
During that time I happened to be in East Greenland, both as an observer of the stark effects of climate change and as a witness to local dialogue about presidential real estate aspirations, polar bear migrations and Greenland's sudden emergence as a trending topic.
Heavy metals that may damage a developing brain are present in 95 percent of baby foods on the market. Cirou Frederic / PhotoAlto Agency RF Collections / Getty Images
Heavy metals that may damage a developing brain are present in 95 percent of baby foods on the market, according to new research from the advocacy organization Healthy Babies Bright Futures (HBBF), which bills itself as an alliance of scientists, nonprofit organizations and donors trying to reduce exposures to neurotoxic chemicals during the first three years of development.
By Kerstin Palme
Creepy-crawlies are among the oldest life forms on this planet. Before dinosaurs ever walked the earth, insects were certainly already there. Some estimates date their origins to 400 million years ago. They're also extremely successful. Of the 7 to 8 million species documented on Earth, around three quarters are likely bugs.
But several insect species could disappear for good in the next few decades and that would have serious consequences for humans.
Volvo introduced its first-ever all-electric vehicle this week, kicking off an ambitious plan to slash emissions and phase out solely gas-powered vehicles starting this year.
The report, released Wednesday, found that almost every European who lives in a city is exposed to unhealthy air, Reuters reported.