Ecosystems and Biodiversity

New research from the University of Gothenburg has revealed that copepods have a significant effect on marine life. This group of tiny crustaceans live in almost every freshwater and marine habitat, and it turns out that they release chemical cues that trigger phytoplankton to enact defense mechanisms. In some cases, these reactions can result in large scale, toxic algal blooms. This insight into the marine food web has researchers excited about the potential of further research into these ubiquitous crustaceans. Via EurekAlert!

A new species of killer whale, known as Type D killer whales, may have just been discovered near Cape Horn, Chili. This species of killer whale was first documented after a stranding in New Zealand in 1955, where their rounded heads were noted to be different from other species. Some genetic samples are set to be analyzed, and scientists will soon know based on DNA from skin samples if this species is indeed new to science. Via Science Daily

Water Quality and Supply

Postdoctoral scholars, led by Christopher Free, at UC Santa Barbara’s Bren School of Environmental Science & Management, are investigating the effects of warming waters on the productivity of fisheries worldwide. For example, East Asia recorded the largest warming declines and a 15-35% reduction in fisheries’ productivity. As a result, regions with the fastest growing human populations are experiencing reductions in food supply and employment. In addition, Free believes overfishing threatens fishery productivity, especially in warming waters. As a result of overfishing, breeding populations becomes too depleted to recover and makes them vulnerable to warming oceans. Steadily rising ocean temperatures are forcing fish to migrate to cooler waters where the conditions are not as suitable for them to recover normally. This will result in less food and fewer profits worldwide. Free believes more research needs to be done to fully understand how climate change is affecting fish populations and the fisheries we rely on. Via Science Daily

A new study looks at how coastal wetlands (marshes, mangroves, seagrasses) are burying more carbon in their soils due to sea-level rising, highlighting the importance of preserving the wetlands to counter global warming. Scientists pooled data from 345 wetland sites on six continents to look at how wetlands stored carbon for 6,000 years. For wetlands facing rising seas, carbon concentrations quadrupled in just the top 20 centimeters of soil, the difference more significant the deeper they searched. This is happening because the carbon added to wetland soils is buried faster as the wetlands become wetter and storage space increases. Furthermore, carbon dioxide is released slower underwater. Via Science Daily

Government Initiatives

A study from the University of British Columbia has assessed the illegal and unrecorded trade of seahorses. Seahorse trade is restricted by the United Nations Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). CITES limits seahorse trade to sustainable and legal trade. Still, many nations with export bans are exporting dried seahorse. Much of the traded seahorse, up to 37 million seahorses per year, are taken as bycatch from non-selective fishing methods, like bottom trawling. Experts call for regulated, sustainable fishing with strictly enforced penalties. Via EurekAlert!

Energy and Power

Abdelrhman Mohamed, graduate student from Washing State University, is the first to collect highly specialized heat resistant bacteria from the Yellowstone’s National Park hot springs, ranging from about 43 to nearly 93 degrees Celsius. His team submerged electrodes, and after 32 days they found multiple bacterial communities attached on the carbon surface of the electrodes, remarkably producing electricity. Mohamed and his team believes these bacteria can be used to generate electricity for low-power applications and convert toxic pollutants into less harmful substances while generating electricity in the process. In order to capture the bacteria in a cheap and reliable way, he invented an electronic device that could control the electrodes for long periods of time. Optimizing his experiments, Mohamed is optimistic this is a way for humans to reduce environmental pollution and have sustainable energy. Via Science Daily

An interdisciplinary team of researchers has developed an autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) to help map phytoplankton abundance. Phytoplankton form the base of the marine food chain, and changes to their abundance can cause changes higher trophic levels. Unfortunately, scientists have a tough time counting plankton both because they are microscopic and they tend to collect in patches. The specialized AUV can choose its own routes within a given area to make a 3D map of phytoplankton patches. Via

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