Ocean Wise combs the headlines to bring you the most interesting ocean news. This week find out how underwater loudspeakers can help coral, how low a blue whale’s heart rate can go— and so much more. Read on!

Ecosystems and Biodiversity

An international research team used underwater loudspeakers to bring the sounds of healthy coral reefs to damaged ones in a process called “acoustic enrichment”. The sounds attract fish to the reefs, doubling the number of juvenile fish that settle there – an important part of the process of reef recovery. The arriving fish came from all levels of the food chain, including detrivores, herbivores, planktivores, and piscivores. Acoustic enrichment might help to accelerate coral reef restoration. Via EurekAlert!

New research from UBC’s Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries predicts that enlarging the mesh size of China’s industrial fishing nets could increase the value and abundance of 21 economically important fish species. The mesh currently used by trawlers is so small that undersized, “trash” fish are caught before they can reproduce. The study estimates that, over time, widened meshes would double the average weight of caught fish, increase their average price fivefold, and improve the species’ overall abundance. Via Phys.org

For the first time ever, researchers have been able to record a blue whale’s heart rate. Using a sensor-packed tag with electrodes imbedded in the suction cups used to attach it, researchers were able to collect ground-breaking data. At the surface, the whale’s heart operated at about 25-37 beats per minute (bpm), but when the whale dove their heart rate slowed to about 4-8bpm. However, the lowest recorded heart rate during the dive reached an astonishing 2bpm which was about 30 to 50 percent lower than scientists had predicted. Future studies are working towards adding an accelerometer to the tag so scientists can better understand how different activities may be affecting heart rates. They also hope to gather similar data on other members of the rorqual whale group such as fin whales, humpbacks, and minke whales. Via Science Daily 

Water Quality and Supply

Satellites might be the key to observing ocean acidification. Water absorbs the CO2 that is increasing in our planet’s atmosphere, creating carbonic acid and making oceans more acidic. The lower pH can be detrimental to marine life, especially for animals that need to form shells. At this time, there are no sensors in space that can measure pH directly, but new studies propose methods to merge data sets to measure acidity. When combined with measurements of temperature and salinity taken from space, ocean chemistry can be calculated using any two of partial pressure of CO2, dissolved inorganic carbon, alkalinity, or pH. Via Phys.org

Bogs, also known as peatlands, are excellent stores of carbon dioxide – their protection and enhancement may even be an effective method of combating climate change. The stagnant, low-oxygen water that forms bogs prevents dead material from breaking down and releasing carbon dioxide. Scientists worry that bogs’ carbon sequestering ability could be impacted by climate change, but new research suggests that some peatlands may be more resistant to rising temperatures than others. Via Phys.org

Government Initiatives

Back in 2000, the EU Water Framework Directive (WFD) set a target to bring all bodies of water in the EU member states into a good ecological and chemical state by 2027. Since then, Environmental Chemist Dr. Werner Brack has been coordinating the SOLUTIONS project which drew to a close last year. Based on the current WFD indicator system, there is still a long way to go as there have not been any demonstrated improvements in water quality under the current measures that have been implemented. To improve this, the SOLUTIONS project has delivered 15 policy briefs that have set out how policy makers can implement developed concepts and tools for monitoring and reducing exposure to complex mixtures. If implemented, these concepts and tools will provide the scientific information needed to protect Europe’s water resources and improve ecological health. Via Phys.org

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has partnered with the New Jersey Conservation Foundation to prevent the invasion of Chinese pond mussels. The dinner plate-sized mussels can outcompete native species of shellfish and take over waterways. The mussels are believed to have arrived in larval form to a New Jersey pond near the Delaware River after Asian carp were imported to a fish farm. Officials lowered water levels and used a copper-based mollusk and algae killer to successfully eradicate the mussels. The ponds will be monitored for the mussel DNA. Via Phys.org

Energy and Power

A new study commissioned by environmental NGOs provides an inventory of hydropower in Europe. The study’s findings indicate that if the current plans for new hydroelectric dams are carried out, it will effectively mean the end of free-flowing rivers in Europe. Over a quarter of new plants are to be built in nature reserves, particularly in the Balkans, and would result in dramatic declines in plant and animal species. Via The Guardian

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