Ocean Wise combs the headlines to bring you the most interesting ocean news. This week find out the latest threat to the coral reef in Grand Cayman, how plastic is harming hermit crabs — and so much more. Read on!
Ecosystems and Biodiversity
In Grand Cayman, cruise companies are planning a port renovation that would require removing 10 acres (4 ha) of coral reef, disturbing a unique ecosystem containing several endangered species. The cruise companies argue that the development will boost tourism, but local tour operators are skeptical that locals will benefit, and scuba guides believe that a thriving coral reef is essential for attracting tourists. Caymanians will vote on the redevelopment proposal next year. Via BBC
A study published last May reported that beaches on the Cocos Islands in Australia were inundated by an estimated 414 million pieces of plastic. Subsequent studies to determine the impact of this debris on hermit crabs found that an estimated 570,000 crabs have been killed on Cocos (composed of 27 islands), and that 61,000 more have died in a similar fashion on Henderson Island, located more than 8,000 miles away. Crab mortalities were due to the crustaceans being trapped in plastic debris they were substituting for shells, which hermit crabs normally use as protective homes. The study was conducted by Jennifer Lavers, a researcher with the University of Tasmania’s Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies, and Alex Bond, a curator of London’s Natural History Museum. Via ScienceAlert
Water Quality and Supply
Water quality is critical for maintaining both environmental and human health, but monitoring it is an expensive, laborious process. To solve this problem, a team of researchers at Colorado State University have turned to satellite data. By matching images of inland water with known water quality measurements, the researchers suggest that a predictive model could be created to estimate the water quality of all visible bodies of water based on their appearance (for example, algal blooms may appear as green swirls on the surface of the water). The researchers have made these pairs of images and water quality tests available in the hopes that this data will usher in a new age of satellite-based water quality monitoring. Via EurekAlert!
As water scarcity becomes a growing concern for farmers across the globe, researchers from Utah State University are working to optimize water management practices in the western United States. According to the researchers’ preliminary results, advanced pivot irrigation technologies could allow farmers to maintain crop yields while using 20% less water. Along with other water conservation practices, these advancements could help prevent the area’s vital aquifers from running dry. Via Phys.org
The Seychelles government is participating in a new debt swap program that will help fund projects designed to protect marine life and handle the effects of climate change. Partnered with the Nature Conservancy and other charitable investors, the Seychelles has promised to use the annual savings to turn 30% of its national waters into a marine protected area. The government and local fishers hope that the new protections, enforced by the country’s coast guard and air force, will help replenish fish stocks in the Indian Ocean. Via BBC
Winnipeg’s North End sewage treatment plant is the chief source of phosphorus going into Lake Winnipeg and causing algal blooms. The City of Winnipeg has a two year plan to make its water treatment plant perform in accordance with environmental regulations; but Manitoba’s Conservation and Climate Ministry has ordered the city to implement an interim phosphorus reduction plan that will be created by an advisory group. Winnipeg’s mayor, Brian Bowman, is concerned that an untested plan could delay the two year goals, or even damage the plant, with devastating effects on Lake Winnipeg. Via Global News
Energy and Power
Water and energy security are linked, since many methods of generating energy require water, and extracting water uses up energy. A research team from LUT University in Finland is measuring the water footprint of thermal power plants across the globe. They used satellite data to verify types of thermal power plants and their cooling systems, and GIS analysis to link those power plants rivers, lakes and seas from which they draw water. The team was able to estimate the amount of seawater and freshwater demanded by each type of thermal power plant. Via TechXplore
California state, local and federal governments are working with the US military to negotiate leases for floating wind turbines off the Central California coast. On the East Coast and in Europe, offshore wind turbines have already been installed but the Pacific Ocean is faced with additional challenges. Due to the steep slopes off the continental shelf of the Pacific Ocean, offshore wind turbines will need to float on the surface, tethered or moored by cables to the sea floor. This poses concerns for the military, with the potential impact these turbines would have on their training missions, while biologists worry about the impacts this could have on migratory bird and whale populations. However, if approved, it is predicted that the offshore wind farms could produce 1.5 times California’s energy consumption (based on 2014 numbers). Via TechXplore