Best of our wild blogs: 1 Apr 11

Return of a Magnificent Giant
from Butterflies of Singapore

Venturing Beyond NTU
from Macro Photography in Singapore

A chance for you to visit Raffles Lighthouse!
from wild shores of singapore

Call of the Ashy Tailorbird
from Bird Ecology Study Group and Oriental Pied Hornbills moulting rectrices

Read more!

Designing Asia's future 'vertical cities'

NUS programme seeks new urban models for growing populations
Jessica Cheam Straits Times 1 Apr 11;

THINK Asia's cities are crowded? Add population growth in coming decades and mass migration from rural areas, and you can expect things to get a lot more congested.

A programme launched recently by the National University of Singapore (NUS) and World Future Foundation (WFF) is determined to find a solution to this.

It is looking for new urban models for cities that cater to a greater population without compromising quality of life.

To do this, it has set up an international competition and symposium called Vertical Cities Asia, which will be held annually for the next five years.

Students of architecture and related disciplines from 10 top universities will be able to enter. The task? To design 1 sq km of land for 100,000 people, taking into account factors such as density, liveability and sustainability.

The dean of the NUS School of Design and Environment, Professor Heng Chye Kiang, said this contest will put Singapore on the map of cutting-edge urban design. It will require students to 'think out of the box', he added.

Currently, Singapore's Housing Board estates have a density of about 25,000 to 30,000 people per sq km.

'So we're talking about even taller buildings and vertical cities,' he said, citing Singapore's iconic public housing project, The Pinnacle@Duxton in Cantonment Road, as a possible housing model for high-density cities.

The 1,848-unit project features 12 skybridges linking seven residential blocks. If a city planner built similar projects across half a sq km of land, they could cater to 150,000 people, he calculated.

Prof Heng noted that efficient urban planning is crucial because urban sprawl is detrimental to the environment.

In the past five years, China has lost 8,830 sq km of farmland - the size of about 12 Singapores - to urban sprawl, and this has a huge impact on global food security, he added.

For the competition, two proposals from each university will be selected. A team comprising one staff member and two students from each university will be invited to take a sponsored trip to Singapore in July to present their entries.

The top three submissions will get cash prizes of up to $15,000.

WFF managing director Lu Bo said the foundation decided to sponsor the programme as 'it is meaningful to mobilise the students, who are city planners of tomorrow, to focus on urban solutions'.

The charitable organisation, started by Chinese entrepreneurs, has been registered and based in Singapore since 2008. It aims to fund environmental technologies and sustainable development.

The 10 participating universities include NUS, Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands, Tokyo University, Beijing's Tsinghua University, and the University of California, Berkeley. They have until June 30 to submit entries.

Read more!

Singapore: Paint to come with a dose of green

Neo Chai Chin Today Online 1 Apr 11;

SINGAPORE - Singaporeans' penchant for upgrading and pride in their homes have propelled them to the top ranks of paint consumers in the world.

The republic uses an average of 47kg of paint per capita - among the highest in the world, according to research firm IRL's profile of the Asia-Pacific paint industry published last June. It is expected to use 307,200 tonnes of paint by 2014, up 40 per cent from 2009.

And in tandem with growth, paint manufacturers are paying an increasing amount of attention to their environmental credentials.

More than 600 paint and coating products now bear the Singapore Environment Council's Green Label, according to SEC's website. And most of the 14 members in the Singapore Paint Manufacturers Association have Green Label-certified their products, said association president James Lim.

And technology like creating paint that keeps buildings cooler is one of the ways companies are attempting to improve their impact on the environment as paint consumption grows.

Paint manufacturers can expect double-digit growth this year on the back of economic growth in the Asia-Pacific, according to Frost and Sullivan.

The paint and coating industry relies heavily on the end-use industries it serves - the construction, steel, marine, automotive and furniture sectors, in particular, it noted in an industry review last year.

Singapore is considered a mature market within South-east Asia, said Mr Jeremy Rowe, AkzoNobel's managing director of decorative paints in South-east Asia and the Pacific. AkzoNobel is the Dutch parent company of Dulux paints.

Growth in Singapore is driven by the development of new infrastructure, and how often people re-paint their homes, said Mr Rowe. In the rest of South-east Asia, rapid economic development is fuelling growth. In Vietnam, for instance, many people are owning homes for the first time, he said.

About 60 per cent of AkzoNobel's decorative paint revenue from Singapore is from individual consumers, while the rest is from projects like upgrading of precincts, he said.

For Nippon Paint, retail sales and projects contribute equally to revenue. Local households tend to paint more during the holidays, and on occasions like Hari Raya Puasa and the Lunar New Year, said Mr Charlie Ong, general manager, Nippon Paint (Singapore).

To improve its environmental standards, AkzoNobel is targeting for 30 per cent of its global revenue to come from products that demonstrate greater eco-efficiency than those of its competitors, up from 20 per cent currently, said Mr Rowe.

Paints have in the past come under scrutiny for their lead content but now the industry's efforts are geared towards further lowering volatile organic compound (VOC) levels, said industry players. VOC are chemical compounds that can affect human and environmental health. Water-based paints - now widely used - have far lower VOC levels than solvent-based paints.

Frost and Sullivan's report last year cited low VOCs, the shift to water-based paints and more eco-friendly coatings as key industry trends.

Also coming into the market in the past two years are exterior paints that reflect heat and lower the temperatures of building surfaces, resulting in less energy needed to cool building interiors.

Both Dulux and Nippon have launched such reflective paints that claim to keep buildings five degrees Celsius cooler.

According to AkzoNobel's tests for its Dulux WeatherShield Keep Cool paint, a 15-storey building could cut energy consumption by 10 per cent.

Going forward, consumers can look forward to paint doing much more than brightening the walls of their homes. Mr Rowe said technology is improving on paint with self-cleaning properties - that keep building exteriors cleaner for longer - and trials are being done in Europe on pollution-busting paints that could convert carbon-dioxide molecules to less harmful substances.

Read more!

New green standard for Singapore data centres

Rachel Kelly Channel NewsAsia 31 Mar 11;

SINGAPORE: Estimates are suggesting that the 10 largest data centre operators in Singapore consume energy equivalent to 130,000 households, which is more than 10 per cent of Singapore households.

Whether you are banking in the comfort of your home or checking your email from a cafe, such luxuries are powered with the aid of one of the fastest growing technology sectors globally - data centres.

It is not just banks and websites that require massive data centre services - as more businesses and governments head for the web. The commercial data centre space in Singapore is expected to grow by 50 per cent from 2010 to 2015 according to BroadGroup.

And while the industry is enjoying rapid growth, energy usage for the sector is one of the highest in the IT industry.

Data centre and network equipment accounts for 32 per cent of the entire ICT sectors energy and carbon footprint. The Infocomm Development Authority (IDA) said that IT equipment utilises only 30 per cent of the total energy consumed by a data centre. The remaining 70 per cent is taken up by cooling which leaves room for energy consumption reduction.

To encourage data centres to manage that cost, the IT Standards Committee (ITSC), together with the IDA and SPRING Singapore, launched the Singapore Standard for Green Data Centres - Energy and Environment Management Systems.

The IDA said that the standard is just a stepping stone and the it is looking to launch a pilot data centre building certification with the Building and Construction Authority of Singapore.

Ling Keok Tong, Deputy Director of Technology & Planning with the Infocomm Development Authority, said: "I think by the second half of the year, we would expect to do a pilot run of some of the data centres to see how green they are, and then from there we would launch green mark for data centres."

Singapore Infocomm solutions provider 1-Net is one of seven companies from both the public and private sectors to become the first to adopt the Singapore Standard for Green Data Centres.

They include the 1-Net, National Library Board, SingTel, Resorts World Sentosa, IBM and the High Performance Computing Centre at NTU.

Yow Tau Keon, Managing Director of 1-Net Singapore, said: "We actually started quite early, we were involved in the ITSC working committee and we also volunteered to be one of the first to be certified."

Some experts said that this standard is the first of its kind in Southeast Asia.

Ray Pfeifer, Co-Chair of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, said: "Singapore is the first in Southeast Asia - but at the same time this is important to Singapore because it is a very large hub for regional hub for regional data centres not only across southeast asia but really across all of Asia Pacific.

"Also the financial markets that are here also drive the requirements for a fairly strong data centre presence - so I think it's an important thing to do here."

The Singapore Standard specifies the need for management commitment, a green policy, as well as clearly defined roles and responsibilities within the organisation for implementing a green data centre.


Read more!

Saving Bats Could Prevent Huge U.S. Farming Losses

Kate Kelland PlanetArk 1 Apr 11;

America's bats are dying in their hundreds of thousands due to a mysterious illness called white-nose syndrome, and efforts to save them could prevent billions of dollars in agricultural losses, scientists say.

In a paper published in the journal Science, bat researchers estimated that a single colony of 150 brown bats in the U.S. state of Indiana eats around 1.3 million pest insects a year, and that the value of such bats to agriculture may be around $22.9 billion a year.

They criticized a lack of funds and efforts to save the bats and to find out more about what is causing their widespread population decline. The current "wait-and-see" approach is unacceptable, they said.

"Bats are among the most overlooked, yet economically important, non-domesticated animals in North America, and their conservation is important for the integrity of ecosystems and in the best interest of both national and international economies," the scientists, led by Justin Boyles of the University of Pretoria in South Africa, wrote in the journal.

"The life histories of these flying, nocturnal mammals -- characterized by long generation times and low reproductive rates -- mean that population recovery is unlikely for decades or even centuries, if at all."

The deadly white-nose infection is spreading quickly across the Northeastern United States and Canada, and a study published last year suggested the disease is likely to cause the regional extinction of the one species of bat known as little brown myotis bat.

The syndrome, linked to a fungus that spreads among bats as they hibernate, affects at least seven species, experts say. It was only identified in the United States 2006, in bats nesting in caves near Albany, New York, and since then more than a million of the flying mammals have died.

"This disease is burning through our bat populations like a five-alarm fire," said Mollie Matteson, a conservation advocate at the Center for Biological Diversity in Ohio.

In a telephone interview, Boyles said the researchers aim was to drive home the importance of protecting bats -- animals he said were often undervalued by the public and policymakers.

"A lot of people say 'why should we care about bats?," he explained. "So our goal is to try and emphasize how important they are ecologically and economically," he said.

The scientists said the rising number of wind turbines in the United States and Europe were another major threat to bats. Thousands of dead bats have been found near wind farms, and some scientists believe sudden changes in air pressure close to wind turbines can cause the lungs of the tiny creatures to collapse.

"Solutions that will reduce the population impacts of white-nose syndrome and reduce the mortality from wind-energy facilities are possible in the next few years," they wrote. "But identifying, substantiating, and applying solutions will only be increased and widespread awareness of the benefits of insectivorous bats among the public, policy-makers and scientists.

(Editing by Paul Casciato)

Bat deaths could cost US economy billions: study
Yahoo News 31 Mar 11;

WASHINGTON (AFP) – Call them creepy little creatures if you like, but insect-munching bats are so valuable to US agriculture that their deaths could cost the economy billions of dollars per year, experts said Thursday.

A fungal disease known as white nose syndrome, combined with the rise in wind turbines which can ensnare the dark fliers, have killed off more than a million of the bug predators in North America since 2006.

Their deaths mean the elimination of an important natural pesticide which is worth at least 3.7 billion dollars per year to farmers, said the study by US and South African researchers in the journal Science.

"Without bats, crop yields are affected. Pesticide applications go up," said Gary McCracken, head of the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

"Even if our estimates were quartered, they clearly show how bats have enormous potential to influence the economics of agriculture and forestry."

The analysis was based on "published estimates of the value of pest suppression services provided by bats," the study said.

The cost ranges "from about $12 to $173/acre (with a most likely scenario of $74/acre) in a cotton-dominated agricultural landscape in south-central Texas."

Extending those estimates across the United States as a whole, they found "the value of bats may be as low as $3.7 billion/year and as high as $53 billion/year."

McCracken's co-authors were Justin Boyles of the University of Pretoria in South Africa, Paul Cryan of the US Geological Survey and Thomas Kunz of Boston University.

The study says that more than a million bats in North America have died due to fungal diseases in the past five years, and that some projections show that "by 2020, wind turbines will have killed 33,000 to 111,000 annually in the Mid-Atlantic Highlands alone."

The cost analysis focused on the expense of pesticides but did not include the effects of pesticides on the environment or human and animal health.

"Not acting is not an option because the life histories of these flying, nocturnal mammals -- characterized by long generation times and low reproductive rates -- mean that population recovery is unlikely for decades or even centuries, if at all," said McCracken.

Bats Are Worth at Least $3 Billion Per Year
Brandon Keim Wired Science 1 Apr 11;

Insect-eating bats are worth at least $3 billion — perhaps as much as $54 billion — per year to U.S. agriculture alone, say biologists who evaluated their ecological contributions.

With bats threatened by careless wind-turbine development in major flyways and, more pressingly, by the new and dreadful White Nose Syndrome, protecting them isn’t just ethical. It makes bottom-line sense.

If bat mortality “continues unabated, we can expect noticeable economic losses to North American agriculture in the next four to five years,” wrote the researchers, whose study was published online March 31 by Science. “A wait-and-see approach to the issue of widespread declines of bat populations is not an option.”

The estimates are an informed, back-of-the-envelope calculation based on earlier research by study co-author Tom Kunz, a Boston University bat specialist who in 2006 published the most detailed look ever at the relationship of bats to insects and agriculture.

In the eight-county Winter Garden region of south central Texas, Kunz’s group calculated that Mexican free-tailed bats annually saved about $740,000 in pesticide costs, or roughly $74 per acre. (The savings held steady for cotton genetically engineered to produce its own pesticides.)

The new study extrapolates those values, adjusted for local levels of agricultural productivity, to the United States at large. It’s necessarily a rough extrapolation: Some regions have more bats than Texas, or fewer. And they might eat fewer insects, or more. But even as precise values vary, the underlying truth is invariable: Bats eat bugs, lots of them.

Their taxonomic order Chiroptera contains more species than any order except rodents, and eating insects is what they’ve evolved to do. What’s more, there are many “downstream” costs to increased pesticide use — health problems in people, accelerated development of resistance in bugs — omitted from the study.

“Our estimate is very conservative,” said Kunz. “The devil is in the details, and the devil is that this is an extrapolation of one study over the entire U.S.. But that’s the only data we have, and we need to define this information.”

Kunz’s emphasis reflects two critical threats to bats’ future. One is the installation near bat caves and flight routes of wind turbines, which suck bats into their blades. By 2020, wind turbines will kill about 60,000 bats each year in the mid-Atlantic states alone.

The other, more immediate threat is White Nose Syndrome, an extraordinarily virulent disease that emerged in upstate New York in 2006. It had spread to 14 states and two Canadian provinces by 2010, killing well over a million bats. Those death rates are unprecedented in known mammalian history, and threaten to eliminate bats from much of North America.

Spring is the season for identifying newly infected caves, and new reports came in March from Indiana, Ohio, North Carolina, Maryland, Tennessee and New Brunswick. More are expected. Yet even as researchers dread the continued spread of White Nose, only a trickle of funding exists to investigate the disease.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the front-line federal protector of bats, spent about $2.4 million in 2010 on WNS. Spread across dozens of states and research teams, that money runs out fast.

Another $1.9 million specially allotted by Congress in 2010 was stripped, along with other so-called “earmarks,” from the stopgap funding resolutions that keep the U.S. government running in the absence of an official Fiscal Year 2011 budget, which should have been passed last October.

When that budget finally passes, White Nose Syndrome research probably won’t be part of it, and agencies that support research will likely have their budgets cut. Meanwhile, whether because money is tight and competition fierce, or because of an institutional failure to appreciate the threat — or both — the National Science Foundation has barely funded WNS research.

“We get drops of water following the bucket, compared to what we need,” said Kunz. “And it’s a dry bucket now.”

One potentially promising development is the proposed Wildlife Disease Emergency Act, which would provide, at least in theory, quick-turnaround funding for research on White Nose Syndrome and other animal outbreaks. However, according to Bat Conservation International policy specialist Jocelyn Ziemian, the legislation could produce an “unfunded mandate” — creating a purse, but not putting money into it.

If bats really are worth $3 billion each year in pesticides alone, short-term frugality may ultimately prove expensive. “In terms of budget, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” said Ziemian.

Read more!

Potentially catastrophic climate impacts on food production over the long-term

Food security merits greater space in the climate change agenda
FAO 31 Mar 11;

31 March 2011, Rome - "Potentially catastrophic" impacts on food production from slow-onset climate changes are expected to increasingly hit the developing world in the future and action is needed now to prepare for those anticipated impacts, FAO warned today in a submission to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

"Currently the world is focused on dealing with shorter-term climate impacts caused mainly by extreme weather events," said Alexander Müller, FAO Assistant-Director General for Natural Resources.

"This is absolutely necessary," he continued. "But 'slow-onset' impacts are expected to bring deeper changes that challenge the ecosystem services needed for agriculture, with potentially disastrous impacts on food security during the period from 2050 to 2100. Coping with long-term changes after the fact doesn't make much sense. We must already today support agriculture in the developing world to become more resilient," he said.

"While these changes occur gradually and take time to manifest themselves, we can't simply ignore them," said Müller, adding: "We need to move beyond our usual tendency to take a short-term perspective and instead invest in the long-term."

In its submission, FAO outlines steps that governments could consider in climate change negotiations to ensure that food security is not threatened.

Food insecurity as an indicator of vulnerability to climate change

FAO recommends that food security be used as an indicator of vulnerability to climate change.

Food production systems, and the ecosystems they depend on, are highly sensitive to climate variability and climate change. Changes in temperature, precipitation and related outbreaks of pest and diseases can reduce production. Poor people in countries that depend on food imports are particularly vulnerable to such effects.

"If we're looking to assess vulnerability to climate change, it makes very good sense to look at food security as one important indicator," said Müller.

Managing the long-term risks of climate change is important

FAO suggests that within the global adaptation architecture greater space be given to the risks linked to slow-onset impacts of climate change, particularly food security risks. These have so far received little attention within the climate change agenda.

One key measure highlighted in the FAO submission is the need to develop staple food varieties that are better adapted to expected future climatic conditions.

Plant genetic material stored in gene banks should be screened with future requirements in mind. Additional plant genetic resources -- including those from wild relatives of food crops - must be collected and studied because of the risk that they may disappear.

Climate-adapted crops - for example varieties of major cereals that are resistant to heat, drought, submergence and salty water - can be bred. FAO stressed however that this should be done in ways that respect breeders' and farmers' rights, in accordance with the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources.

Food security consequences of climate change mitigation efforts

FAO suggests that countries consider food security as a socio-economic safeguard for mitigation measures. Meeting increasing demand for fuel, food and carbon storage will challenge national policy-makers to capture synergies and manage trade-offs between competing land-uses. Already biofuel production (a mitigation response measure) has been associated with spiking food prices in 2007-2008. Also, there are signs that the success of REDD+ (an initiative to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation and increase the carbon stock in forests) will depend on how successfully the linkages with agriculture are managed.

Read more!

2,000-year-old coral found near BP Gulf well

Cain Burdeau Associated Press Yahoo News 31 Mar 11;

NEW ORLEANS – Federal scientists say they have dated coral living near the site of the busted BP oil well in the Gulf of Mexico at 2,000 years old.

The U.S. Geological Survey said Wednesday it had determined the age of the black coral in the Gulf for the first time. Scientists had been studying the ancient slow-growing corals before BP's well blew out on April 20, 2010. The corals were found about 21 miles northeast of the BP well living 1,000 feet below the surface of the Gulf.

"They're extremely old and extremely slow-growing," said Nancy Prouty, a USGS scientist. "And there are big questions about their vulnerability and their ability for recovery."

Black corals feed on organic matter sinking to the sea floor and it could take decades, or even centuries, to recover from "a disturbance to these ecosystems," Prouty said.

She said scientists were looking at whether the ancient coral had been damaged by the BP oil spill, but the damage assessment had not been completed.

The location of the black coral is important because computer models and research cruises have mapped much of the deepwater oil moving to the southwest of the BP well, away from the black coral colony. Scientists have found dead coral southwest of the well.

However, Prouty said the surface oil slick was over the black coral colony during the spill.

BP's well leaked more than 200 million gallons of oil after the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig exploded April 20, killing 11 workers.

Black corals, which resemble deep-sea bushes or trees, are found throughout the world and are an important marine habitat for fish and other forms of marine life. They grow very slowly — a human fingernail grows 2,000 times faster than black coral, USGS said.

Most of the Gulf's bottom is muddy and the coral colonies that pop up every once in a while are vital oases for marine life in the chilly ocean depths.

The USGS study was part of a larger federal survey of fragile reef ecosystems.

Read more!

Marine Ecosystems of Antarctica Under Threat from Human Activity

ScienceDaily 31 Mar 11;

A team of scientists in the United Kingdom and the United States has warned that the native fauna and unique ecology of the Southern Ocean, the vast body of water that surrounds the Antarctic continent, is under threat from human activity.

Their study is published this week in the peer-reviewed journal Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences.

"Although Antarctica is still the most pristine environment on Earth, its marine ecosystems are being degraded through the introduction of alien species, pollution, overfishing, and a mix of other human activities," said team member Dr Sven Thatje of the University of Southampton's School of Ocean and Earth Science (SOES) based at the UK's National Oceanography Centre.

Biodiversity can be conceptualised in terms of its information content: the greater the diversity of species and interactions between them, the more 'information' the ecosystem has. "By damaging the ecological fabric of Antarctica, we are effectively dumbing it down -- decreasing its information content -- and endangering its uniqueness and resilience," said lead author Professor Richard Aronson, a paleoecologist at the Florida Institute of Technology, USA.

The team's conclusions are based on an extensive review of the impacts of a wide range of human activities on the ecosystems of Antarctica. The Antarctic Treaty system, which includes environmental and fisheries management, provides an effective framework for the management and protection of the continent, but some of the threats are not currently being fully addressed.

Some of these impacts, such as pollution, can be relatively localised. However, global climate change caused by human emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases has the potential to affect the entire Antarctic region for decades to come.

The researchers point out that rising sea temperatures are already affecting marine creatures adapted to living within a particular temperature range.

A second major consequence of carbon dioxide emission from human activities -- ocean acidification -- is also likely to take its toll. "The Southern Ocean is the canary in the coal mine with respect to ocean acidification. This vulnerability is caused by a combination of ocean mixing patterns and low temperature enhancing the solubility of carbon dioxide," noted co-author Dr. James McClintock of the University of Alabama at Birmingham, USA.

"Simultaneous action at local, regional and global scales is needed if we are to halt the damage being done to the marine ecosystems of the Southern Ocean," urged Dr Aronson.

The researchers have identified a range of historical and ongoing human activities that have damaged or restructured food webs in the Southern Ocean over recent decades. At the local to regional scale, these include -

The hunting of top predators such as whales and seals.
Overexploitation of some fish species, leading to stock collapses.
Air and water pollution from shipping traffic, wrecks, and the transport of invasive alien species on hulls and in ballast tanks.
Tourism, including potential disturbance to breeding bird and seal colonies, as well as being responsible for chemical and noise pollution, and littering.
Chemical and sewage pollution from research stations and ships, the legacy of historical waste dumping, and pollution from scientific experiments, including lost or unrecovered equipment.

Antarctica has great, untapped natural resources. The Antarctic Treaty currently prohibits the extraction of oil and other mineral resources from Antarctica. The researchers note, however, that many major areas of the Southern Ocean fall outside the Antarctic Treaty region and could be claimed by nations as valuable 'real estate' for the future.

Although the Antarctic Treaty and other conventions have measures aimed at reducing the local- and regional-scale impacts of human activity on Antarctica and the Southern Ocean, they cannot address global-scale threats. Among these threats, the researchers highlight the following -

Depletion of atmospheric ozone (O3). The 'ozone hole' was discovered by BAS scientists in 1985 and is caused by the accumulation of atmospheric chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) used as refrigerants and spray propellants.
Introduced species. The researchers are concerned that the warming conditions in Antarctica could facilitate colonisation of species previously unreported from the region, with consequences for the structure of its marine food webs. Alien species accidentally introduced by humans are also a major concern.
The vulnerability of cold-adapted species to observed rising sea temperatures caused by global warming. The researchers argue that the extinction of some species is likely, and that changes in the geographical distribution of others are to be expected. They warn that the further spread and establishment of predatory king crabs on the continental slope of the western Antarctic Peninsula could wreak havoc among its unique seafloor animal communities. The possible invasion by bottom-feeding fishes, rays and sharks with crushing jaws could be equally damaging. They also expect increasing dominance of salps over Antarctic krill, with consequences for animals such as whales, penguins and seals that depend either directly or indirectly on krill.
Ocean acidification. The researchers note that organisms living in polar regions are uniquely vulnerable to the effects of ocean acidification because of low concentrations of dissolved calcium carbonate in the water column. They cite evidence that declining seawater pH will particularly affect organisms with calcified shells and skeletal elements, such as molluscs, seastars, sea urchins, coralline algae and cold-water corals, They also highlight evidence suggesting that ocean acidification could profoundly alter the structure and functioning of the planktonic food web, with unknown consequences for animals further up the food chain, including commercially exploited fish. They therefore advocate continued and expanded baseline monitoring of ocean chemistry as well as further field and laboratory studies of the impacts of acidification on physiology, growth, and calcification.

"It is clear that multiple causal factors are damaging the health of marine systems in Antarctica; we need to understand the relative importance of these factors and how they interact." concluded Dr Thatje.

The researchers are Richard Aronson (Florida Institute of Technology), Sven Thatje (SOES), James McClintock (University of Alabama at Birmingham) and Kevin Hughes (British Antarctic Survey).

The research was supported by the US National Science Foundation, the Total Foundation (Abyss2100) and the Royal Society.

Journal Reference:

Richard B. Aronson, Sven Thatje, James B. McClintock, Kevin A. Hughes. Anthropogenic impacts on marine ecosystems in Antarctica. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 2011; 1223 (1): 82 DOI: 10.1111/j.1749-6632.2010.05926.x

Read more!