Ocean Wise combs the headlines to bring you the most interesting ocean news. This week learn how fish are using UV light to communicate, why plant productivity is reducing due to climate change — and so much more. Read on!
Ecosystems and Biodiversity
Researchers from Australia and the U.S. have discovered that the Great Barrier Reef anemonefish, Amphiprion akindynos, can see UV light. This specialized visual system allows A. akindynos to hunt zooplankton, locate its home anemone, and communicate with other clownfish across short distances. Because clownfishes’ distinctive white stripes reflect UV light, they can use this adaptation to visually communicate with other clownfish without being spotted by predators. Via ScienceDaily
An international team of scientists has completed the largest and most comprehensive global assessment of the effects of ocean warming on the distribution of fish communities. They looked at data for the period from 1985-2014, from the North Atlantic, Western Europe, Newfoundland and the Labrador Sea, the U.S. east coast, the Gulf of Mexico and the North Pacific from California to Alaska. We know that marine species tend to track ocean temperature, but this is the first study of how entire communities respond, and shows that the redistribution of species is very predictable by temperature alone. Via EurekAlert!
Water Quality and Supply
Researchers from the University of Waterloo suggest that Canadian water reservoirs should be managed more closely to prevent toxic algal blooms. Water reservoirs collect phosphorus washed from neighbouring farmland and algae thrives off of dissolved phosphorus, especially in the summer months. Treating the reservoir water to prevent phosphorus from reaching pools of algae could be the solution. Via Phys.org
Extreme droughts are expected to become increasingly common due to climate change. A study from Los Alamos National Laboratory predicts that the impact of drought on plants might outweigh any benefits plants might receive from higher concentrations of CO2. Drought can increase the frequency of forest fires and insect outbreaks, causing even more carbon to be released into the atmosphere. The research team’s models predict that current reductions in global plant productivity will have tripled by 2075. Phys.org
Canada’s National Zero Waste Council has released preliminary findings from an ongoing study, which indicate that government and industry can reduce packaging and food waste by working together and reviewing the supply system as a whole. The full report will be released early in the new year and will contain recommendations for reducing waste. Via Vancouver Sun
Scientists from the University of Exeter and UK Centre for Fisheries, Environment and Aquaculture Science have warned that the US State Department’s COAST climate risk insurance program doesn’t do enough to protect Caribbean fisheries from the effects of climate change. While insurance will shield fishers from financial loss due to extreme weather events, the scientists state that policymakers must do more to protect coastal ecosystems, invest in pre-storm preparation, and extend payment plans to include marginalized groups. Via Phys.org
Energy and Power
Wind energy is an important source of renewable energy, but turbines can cause the death of birds, and even more so of bats. Bats pollinate, disperse seeds and keep insect populations in check, making them important to ecosystem health. In this dilemma, ecological protections seem to stand in the way of reducing carbon emissions. German scientists conducted a survey of stakeholders in the European Union’s wind energy field to understand whether experts think wind power ought to be limited, or if they think its ecological impacts can be overlooked. They found that of all the stakeholder groups surveyed, only members of the wind energy sector believed that energy production was more important than biodiversity. All other groups would support measures to lower the ecological impact of wind energy production. Via TechXplore
Using a new modeling approach for long-term electricity generation infrastructure planning, researchers found the USA national power grid may need an additional 5.3-12% of power generating capacity to meet future demand and reliability requirements. Traditional projections do not consider the impacts of climate change and future water constraints on electricity generation. Currently the USA power grid uses a lot of coal, nuclear, and natural gas fuel to generate electricity, all of which have high water requirements for cooling. This could become an issue as our climate changes and water resources become more limited. Moving towards more renewable energies such as wind and solar that don’t have high water requirements would lower both emissions and water usage. Via TechXplore