Every week Ocean Wise combs the headlines to bring you the water report: the world’s latest news in ocean conservation. This week, a frog posts a dating profile to Match.com; researchers calculate your sandwich’s carbon footprint, British Columbia mulls over spill legislation— and way more. Read on!
Ecosystems + Biodiversity
The shortfin mako shark is the fastest fish in the ocean, reaching 100 km per hour by way of an advanced finning technique and higher metabolism. Now, researchers from Harvard have found that the dermal denticles on their rough skin produce specific vortex patterns that reduce drag and increase lift, which is sure to be of interest to air-frame designers.Via National Geographic.
Live seafood is part of the culinary tradition of southern China. A new report into the Chinese trade in live reef fish highlights that much of the trade there is illegal, and that 15 to 20 species of reef fishes, mostly groupers and large wrasse, are in danger of being wiped out. Although the trade is not large by global fisheries standards, it is disproportionately valuable, with only 20-30,000 metric tonnes annually flowing through Hong Kong but valued in excess of $1 billion USD. Via Eurekalert!
Narwhals tend to hang about the edge of slow-moving glaciers off the Greenland coast that produce clear, fresh water. Researchers don’t know why, but it could be because the freshwater shocks small marine critters that are food for fish, which are in turn eaten by the narwhals. Alternatively, it might be because they are using freshwater to shed their skin like their close relative, beluga whales. Via University of Washington/
Romeo, an 11-year-old Sehuencas water frog in Bolivia, has been searching for a date for Valentine’s Day. With the help of conservation scientist Arturo Munoz, Romeo posted his profile to Match.com as a way to find that special someone and establish a breeding program. Barring a romantic match, Romeo suggests that fellow romantic souls can donate to Global Wildlife Conservation to support sending biologists into the rain forest to find him a mate. Global News
Water Quality and Supply
Hydrated electrons occur when a free electron “rotates” water molecules towards it, effectively forming a large multi-molecule ion (H2nOn–). They are hard to make, requiring powerful lasers, but extremely reactive and break up complex molecules. Now, a team from Martin Luther University has managed to make them using a green LED, tiny amounts of a catalyst, and vitamin C. They have demonstrated how even the most stubborn pollutants in water can be disintegrated easily and cost effectively using this technique.Via Eurekalert!
Metal-organic frameworks are a next-generation material that form large, sponge-like crystals with the largest internal surface area of any known substance. New research has demonstrated that they are as good as cell membranes at selectively letting ions through. With further development, these membranes could perform the dual functions of removing salts from seawater and separating metal ions. This offers new technological approaches for the water and mining industries. As well as cheap desalination, a particularly promising idea is the separation of lithium, essential for batteries, from seawater.Via Phys.org
The subsidized distribution of mosquito netting has been successful in combating malaria in developing countries, but may be having unintended consequences on the marine ecosystem. A recent study out of the Institute of Zoology has reported widespread use of insecticide-laced mosquito nets being used for fishing. Further study is needed to measure any ecosystem effects; the issue is not straightforward, with some researchers highlighting potential positive effects as small-scale fishers target smaller, more abundant species. Ecowatch and ZSL
British Columbia is planning further development of regulations to protect the environment from chemical spills. Following up on the first phase of regulations approved in October 2017, this second phase will focus on response times, compensation, and restrictions on bitumen transportation. The initial intentions paper will be published by the end of the month for public comment. Via BC Gov News.
A team of volunteer conservationists spent a week and a half cleaning predators off the southern end of the Great Barrier Reef in order to protect parts of the reef from damage. Twenty five divers, led by a local dive operator, killed 25,000 Crown-of-Thorns starfish by lethal injection. The Australian government has subsequently announced a $60 million AUS grant to continue the starfish cull. Australian Broadcasting Company
Energy and Power
Most sources of renewable energy are unreliable and a constant criticism of renewables is that you can’t maintain a stable electricity grid without a constant load from thermal or nuclear sources. But energy modelers at Stanford University have shown that, by grouping 139 countries into 20 regions, you can create energy systems that provide sufficient power and maintain a stable base load across the grid. An added bonus: the cost of producing and distributing electricity would be much lower than it would for fossil fuels. Via Stanford University.
British cities are awash with sandwich shops: not just Subway, but four or five other chains are on every high street, along with mom-and-pop delis. Now researchers from the University of Manchester have concluded that the all day breakfast sandwich — a mix of sausage, bacon and egg — has the largest carbon footprint of them all. Including shipping, cooling and waste disposal, the UK’s sandwich habit (200 per person per year) is equivalent to emissions from 8.6 million cars. Via The Guardian
Water Report editor: Caroline Taylor. Contributors: Martin Farncombe, Cindy Yu, Laura Bekar, Kelsey Smith, Olga Espejo, James Schultz, Neil Tracey.