Best of our wild blogs: 12 Apr 12

Tsunami in Singapore?
from wild shores of singapore

Shark! At Terumbu Hantu
from wild shores of singapore

Magpie Robin Nesting in Style
from Flying Fish Friends

Jungle Lou Hei - Made in Singapore
from Macro Photography in Singapore

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Tremors from Indonesia's quake felt in Singapore

Vimita Mohandas, Dylan Loh, Hetty Musfirah Channel NewsAsia 11 Apr 12;

SINGAPORE: Tremors from Indonesia's 8.6-magnitude quake were felt in several parts of Singapore on Wednesday.

Two Singapore flights to Phuket, Thailand, were affected by the closure of the Phuket International Airport, due to tsunami warnings.

SilkAir flight MI 756 departed Singapore at 4.45pm but had to turn back. Another SilkAir flight, MI 758, was supposed to have left at 6.35pm, but had been delayed.

Several callers to the MediaCorp hotline said they felt the tremors over at Marine Parade, Beach Road, Bukit Panjang, Bendemeer Road, Farrer Road and Whampoa Road.

They added that the tremors were not as bad as those experienced in previous years.

Devi Singh, a Bukit Panjang resident, said: "It was about 4.50pm. I was on the computer at home with my mum-in-law and husband when suddenly I felt giddy while at the computer. My husband went to lie down, he thought he was also feeling giddy.

"But when I looked up, I saw the light swaying from left to right. And this (lasted) about 60 seconds. There were two other tremors that lasted for about 20 seconds.

"We did not leave the building because we'd felt similar tremors before - the other time (when) there were earthquakes and tsunami. So we stayed put in the building."

A Whampoa resident, Tan Chi Ming, also said she felt the "shakes". She said she rushed to her dad's room and saw the chandelier on his ceiling shaking violently. "We just felt a bit of shaking, then it stopped in about three to five minutes," she added.

Office workers at a nine-storey building along Beach Road were also among those who felt the tremors.

Those on higher floors were apparently more affected and rushed down for safety.

"Most of us on the seventh floor could actually feel the tremors. I felt very giddy initially, sort of like a rocking boat. We were all quite alarmed," said office worker Janet Patt.

"I saw that everything was just shaking... the hanging lights were shaking. So we just evacuated, all of us," said another office worker.

Staff eventually returned to their offices about 20 to 30 minutes later, after receiving the green light from a building maintenance personnel.

"He also mentioned that he did check the surroundings of the building to make sure there were no cracks... so that was his assurance to us that we can actually go back to the office," said office worker Tan Chou Yen.

The Singapore Red Cross said it is in contact with counterparts in Indonesia and is monitoring the situation.

It has also offered assistance and is on standby to mobilise resources, if necessary.

- CNA/al/cc

Police and SCDF receive 38 calls about tremors
S Ramesh Channel NewsAsia 11 Apr 12;

SINGAPORE: The Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) and the police on Wednesday said they received 38 calls from the public about the tremors caused by the strong earthquake off Sumatra, Indonesia.

In a joint statement, they said earth tremors were reported in certain parts of Singapore at about 4.43pm.

The Meteorological Services confirmed that an earthquake occurred at about 4.38pm in Northern Sumatra, approximately 1,242 kilometres from Singapore.

The US Geological Survey (USGS) had initially reported it as an 8.9-magnitude quake, but later revised it to 8.6.

Police said some of the areas where the tremors were felt included the Central Business District (CBD), Beach Road, Temasek Boulevard, Selegie, Toa Payoh, Ang Mo Kio, Serangoon North, Punggol, Woodlands, Geylang Bahru, Geylang and Siglap.

There were no reports of injury or law and order incident.

The Building & Construction Authority (BCA) and the Housing & Development Board (HDB) have also completed inspections of 30 buildings in the affected areas, and they have been found to be structurally safe.

No new reports of tremors have been received following the latest aftershock in Sumatra.

Police and SCDF said there was no cause for alarm.

The SCDF also advised the public to remain calm, should they experience any tremors.

If they are inside a building, they should take cover under a table, keep away from items made of glass or any hanging object.

They are also urged not to use an elevator and not to use any naked light in case there is a gas leak.

If they are out in the open, they should minimise their movements and stay away from buildings, street lights and utility wires.

After vibrations have stopped, they should stay away from any exposed electrical cables and report on any gas leakage.

- CNA/al/cc

Tremors from Sumatra quake felt in many parts of Singapore
Ng Jing Yng Today Online 12 Apr 12;

SINGAPORE - The impact of the earthquake in the waters off Aceh was felt here, some 1,240km away, as residents in many parts of Singapore experienced tremors.

At Beach Road, some office workers rushed out of their workplaces as a precaution. Said Ms Koh Siew Kiang, 45, an executive who was working on the eighth floor of a nine-storey building: "My colleagues and I felt some movement which lasted for about a minute. We decided that it will not be safe to stay in the office anymore ... A lot of other people in the building also started streaming down and everyone waited for a while before returning to work."

Mr Nicolas Chemin, 29, stayed put in his 15th floor office at Shaw Tower. Said the senior manager: "As I was working on my computer ... the frames on the wall were moving slightly and you could also see water in the dispenser spinning a little."

Ms Devi Singh, 55, was at home in Bukit Panjang when she saw her ceiling lights "swaying from left to right". She added: "It lasted for roughly around 60 seconds."

According to the Meteorological Services, the tremors were reported about five minutes after the earthquake occurred at about 4.38pm (Singapore time) in Northern Sumatra.

The police and the Singapore Civil Defence Force said they received 38 calls from the public reporting the tremors. "There were no reports of injury or law and order incidents," the authorities said in a statement.

The Building and Construction Authority and the Housing and Development Board conducted checks on 30 buildings in the affected areas and they were found to be structurally safe.

Some flights to Phuket from Changi Airport were cancelled or re-scheduled after the Thai authorities temporarily shut down its Phuket international airport.

The National Environment Agency (NEA) reiterated that given Singapore's location, the Republic and its surrounding islands were unlikely to be affected by any tsunami generated by yesterday's earthquake. Advising the public not to be alarmed, the NEA added that it has a tsunami early warning system in place and a public advisory will be issued if there was any risk of Singapore being affected.

Singapore Red Cross (SRC) secretary-general Benjamin William said the SRC has offered immediate assistance to its Indonesian counterparts. While there is no confirmed report of casualty and damages, the SRC remains on standby to mobilise resources if necessary, he added.

Tremors felt in various parts of Singapore
Elizabeth Soh Straits Times 12 Apr 12;

SINGAPOREANS felt the floor move beneath their feet yesterday as aftershocks from an 8.6-magnitude earthquake off Indonesia shook high-rise buildings and homes near the coast.

Tremors lasting two to three minutes each were reported at around 5pm by people across the island, from residents in Ang Mo Kio, Toa Payoh, Serangoon North and Geylang Bahru to office workers in the Central Business District.

The Meteorological Service yesterday confirmed that an earthquake struck Northern Sumatra at 4.38pm, about 1,240km away from Singapore.

Mr Bernie Chew evacuated his employees on the 10th floor of Capitol Building in North Bridge Road when he felt the floor move.

'It started with a swaying and then stopped and started again, like the feeling you get when you feel dizzy,' the businessman, who is in his 30s, said. 'I've experienced earthquakes before but I didn't believe that I would feel it in Singapore.'

About 30 people evacuated The Bencoolen building in Bugis Street after feeling the tremors. 'At first we were wondering what was happening,' said auditor Hemavathi Panneerselvam, 24, who works on the ninth floor.

He added: 'It's my first time experiencing tremors. I could feel myself moving, but it wasn't so scary because they were light.'

The management of the 16-storey Capital Square building in Telok Ayer Street broadcast a message telling tenants not to worry.

Marine Parade residents felt the strongest tremors, but most did not get too anxious as it was not the first time they had experienced them.

'I was on the computer working when I saw my curtains swaying and felt the tremors,' said home tutor Susan Lim, 53, who lives on the 24th floor of a condominium near East Coast beach. 'I was not scared as I have experienced this a few times before.'

Others in Woodlands, Bendemeer, Punggol and Hougang also described swaying floors and furniture. Executive Iris Yee, 55, who works in the Whampoa area, said the tremors were so bad she felt like throwing up. 'I felt like I was spinning,' she said.

Housewife Geraldine Yap, 32, was taking a nap in her 14th-floor flat in Punggol when the tremors hit. 'I thought that I was suffering from a vertigo attack as I was lying down but the room seemed to be swaying from left to right. My kids were really scared and started crying.'

Earth Observatory of Singapore director Kerry Sieh said that although the quake could turn out to be one of the biggest in 40 years, Singaporeans had no cause for worry as the distance between Sumatra and Singapore is too great for the quake to have any impact on structures here.

'It is highly unlikely that there will be any damage here,' he said.

The National Environment Agency has a tsunami early warning system and it said it will issue a public advisory if there is a risk of Singapore being affected.

'Given our location, Singapore and its surrounding islands are unlikely to be affected by any tsunami generated by this earthquake,' said a spokesman.

The police and Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) received 38 calls reporting the tremors.

They advised the public to stay calm and take cover. There were no reports of injury.

The Building and Construction Authority and the Housing Board inspected 30 buildings in the affected areas, and found them to be structurally safe.

In 2007, a 6.7-magnitude earthquake hit Sumatra, causing tremors that were felt in the East Coast area, Toa Payoh and the Central Business District.

Additional reporting by Peter Wong, Justin Lee and Jose Hong

Early warning system around Indian Ocean comes up to scratch
Straits Times 12 Apr 12;

WHEN the Indian Ocean tsunami struck in 2004, the only warning most people in the region had was the sight of a giant wave heading towards them.

This time, however, most of the 27 nations bordering the ocean were better prepared.

An early warning system put in place in most countries in the region was quick to transmit information to alert the authorities to a possible tsunami, its duration and its magnitude.

Within minutes of yesterday's 8.6-magnitude earthquake off Indonesia's Banda Aceh in Sumatra, most of the nations had issued warnings urging people to move to safety away from coastlines, before later cancelling them.

Thailand's National Disaster Warning Centre, India's Tsunami Warning Centre and Malaysia's Meteorological Department were quick to take action after Indonesia issued the first warning.

Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Reunion Islands, Kenya, Madagascar and Tanzania soon followed suit.

'The early warning system is working well' and there were no reports of casualties or damage in Aceh and elsewhere, Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said in Jakarta.

Besides commencing evacuations along the coasts, the authorities in some countries closed ports, suspended train services and cordoned off beaches. Emergency services such as rescue teams and hospitals were put on high alert while constant monitoring of the situation carried on for the next two hours.

Loudspeakers, sirens, SMSes and radio and TV announcements were used to warn residents to remain alert and move to higher ground.

The warnings evoked painful memories of the Dec 26, 2004 tsunami, also caused by an undersea earthquake off Indonesia that killed around 230,000 people along coastal regions.

But they also brought into focus the usefulness of early warning systems which were put in place within two to three years of that Boxing Day tsunami by most countries scarred by the tragedy.

Most systems have pressure sensors in place on the sea floor which measure the weight of the water above it. The weight varies according to wave height - and the findings are sent to a buoy on the surface, seismologist Kerry Sieh, director of the Earth Observatory of Singapore, told The Straits Times.

These buoys then transmit data to satellites which in turn send the information to official laboratories. 'The whole pro-cess takes 20 minutes at the most,' Professor Sieh said.

A number of buoys already in place in the Indian Ocean sent data to various laboratories after yesterday's quake.

The World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) said communication systems set up after the 2004 tsunami appeared to have worked well.

'Our records indicate that all the national meteorological services in the countries at risk by this tsunami have received the warnings in under five minutes,' said Dr Maryam Golnaraghi, the head of WMO's disaster risk reduction programme, Associated Press reported.

Such systems can be very useful in averting major disasters in future, said Dr Mohammad Ismail H, who runs a voluntary Integrated Tsunami Watcher Service site in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu.

Yesterday, his volunteers received hundreds of text messages and phone calls inquiring about the tsunami.

'This is one of the most important services for the future,' he said.


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Why Today's Indonesia Quake Didn't Make a Monster Tsunami

Andrea Mustain | Yahoo News 11 Apr 12;

The magnitude 8.6 earthquake that struck in the Indian Ocean off the western coast of Sumatra today resurrected fears of a repeat of the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami that proved one of the most devastating natural disasters in modern memory.

However, this earthquake, which struck at 2:38 p.m. local time (4:38 a.m. ET), about 270 miles (435 kilometers) off the coast of the Indonesian island was a different animal altogether than the 2004 earthquake and tsunami, which killed more than 230,000 people and left millions homeless.

"It was quite a bit smaller," said Julie Dutton, a geophysicist with the U.S. Geological Survey. The 2004 quake was a magnitude 9.1 — the third most powerful earthquake ever recorded.

Perhaps more significantly, today's earthquake was a different kind of quake all together. Instead of occurring at a plate boundary along an area called a subduction zone, where one tectonic plate is diving beneath another, this earthquake occurred in the middle of an oceanic plate, where the faults in the crust essentially moved from side to side instead of up and down. These sorts of events are called strike-slip earthquakes.

"With a strike-slip event you don't have the same potential hazard for a tsunami as you do with a subduction event because the plates are moving adjacent to each other," Dutton told OurAmazingPlanet.

Although they are sometimes produced by landslides on the seafloor, significant tsunamis are typically created by subduction earthquakes, when one massive oceanic plate suddenly lurches deeper beneath another plate, shoving up a huge section of the seafloor. That displacement of the ocean floor also displaces ocean water. Essentially, the more ocean floor you move, and the more dramatically you move it, the more water you move, and the bigger the tsunami you get.

Just minutes after the earthquake struck today, the U.S. Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Hawaii issued a tsunami watch for the entire Indian Ocean region.

A little more than an hour after the first and largest quake hit, the watch was still in effect, and tsunami wave heights of 1 foot were recorded in Sabang, in Indonesia's Banda Aceh province, the region that was most affected by the 2004 disaster.

The largest tsunami produced was about 3 feet (1 meter) high, according to the tsunami warning center, which has now cancelled all watches for the area.

Dutton said that it is unusual to see such a powerful earthquake in the region where today's quake struck, "but it's not unheard of," she added.

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Malaysia, Johor: Even when it doesn’t rain, it floods

Mohd Fahmi Mohd Yusof New Straits Times 12 Apr 12;

Several areas in Kota Tinggi are often flooded during high tide at Sungai Johor and residents are worried the situation will get worse

AN inefficient drainage system and the public’s littering habit have caused several areas here to be easily flooded during high tide, even though there is no rain.

A recent check at the intersection of Jalan Tun Sri Lanang revealed that water began to flood the area at about 12.30pm and the condition continued until 3.30pm, with the water coming from the underground drains, believed to be backflow from Sungai Johor during high tide.

Shazlan Karim, 28, said the phenomenon often occurred during high tide.

“Besides the poorly maintained drainage system, I blame members of the public who throw rubbish all over the place, causing the drains to be clogged.

“The authorities should also play their parts by maintaining the drains properly so that this problem does not recur. This time, it may not be serious but what if it rains heavily,” said Shazlan.

He said the public should also not throw rubbish into drains to prevent them from being clogged up.

Trader Hashim Masood, 36, urged the authorities to act on the problems immediately before the situation gets worse, like the floods that hit the district several years ago.

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Citizen journalism triumphs at China environmental press awards

Winner highlights growing pressure for greater public awareness and information transparency as a way of dealing with environmental woes
Jonathan Watts 11 Apr 12;

When Liu Futang left the confines of Chinese government service and opened his first microblog last April, the retired forestry official could not have imagined that a year later, he would be celebrated as a shining light of citizen journalism.

Yet that is what happened on Tuesday when the 65-year-old's exposé of illegal forest clearance joined mainstream media stories on oil spills, hazardous smog and toxic water pollution as a winner at the Chinese environmental press awards.

At first sight, it is hard to imagine anyone less like the typical Chinese blogger than Liu. But the quiet, former bureaucrat is an example of the growing pressure from journalists, bloggers and activists for greater public awareness and information transparency as a way of dealing with the country's environmental woes.

Liu stirred up an online fury last year when he revealed that developers had destroyed one of the world's last groves of water coconut trees to make space for a yacht marina.

"The degradation is terrible," said Liu. "The local media hasn't written a single word, but I've posted 40 articles that have been followed up by newspapers and TV from across the country."

The citizen journalist prize is a new category in the awards, which are jointly organised by the Guardian, chinadialogue and Sina, the leading Chinese web portal, with funding from the Guardian Foundation and SEE, a Chinese charitable body.

Now in its third year, the awards highlighted the gains – and continued challenges – faced by Chinese journalists. The past 12 months have showed significant progress in the efforts to improve transparency, but also major obstacles.

Internationally, the highest profile success was a campaign by journalist-turned-environmental activist Ma Jun to make Apple provide more details about pollution and labour standards violations in its supply chain.

Domestically, the biggest breakthrough is probably on air pollution. Most of China's cities have been plagued by smog for more than a decade, but until now the authorities have provided scant information about the pollution that caused the haze and threatens the health of millions. This changed dramatically after Chinese bloggers and journalists picked up on tweets issued from the US embassy monitoring station and other sources, with environmental authorities in Beijing starting to release more detailed pollution data earlier this year.

Feng Jie, who was named environmental journalist of the year, wrote a darkly humorous piece on the efforts of Beijing citizens to set up their own monitoring stations. In another in-depth report, she revealed how a massive oil leak into the Bohai Sea was withheld from the public by the State Oceanic Administration and drilling platform operators, CNOOC and ConocoPhillips. Reporters in the state media were ordered to keep quiet but the problem emerged via microblogs and was then confirmed by local government and corporate sources.

Such cases illustrate why Feng believes China has made little progress in information disclosure since she started her career six years ago.

"When I started out, I was optimistic that things would improve. But now I realise that if you want to tell your readers real information rather than bullshit, then you have to spend a lot of time building up connections with insiders. If you simply call up the press office, you get nothing," she said.

Newspapers and websites also have to race to get stories out before censors issue blocking orders. The best breaking news story of the year was a report on the cancer risks posed by 5,000 tonnes of cadmium tailings that contaminated water systems near the source of the Pearl River. The article was put out by the Yunnan Information Daily, but its partner in the investigation, the Southern Metropolis Daily, was ordered not to run the story when it tried to do so one day later.

While many participants cited censorship as the biggest problem facing Chinese journalists, the spread of microblogs has made it far more difficult for the authorities to control the flow of information, which is now coming from so many different and unexpected directions.

"There is more transparency, but it's not yet at a fundamental level. That is the biggest difficulty in China's environmental journalism," said Gong Jing, who picked up an award for revealing how cadmium pollution through the soil is contaminating rice stocks. "A lot of information should be public, but journalists have to work very hard to get it."

That hard grind is paying dividends. Media analysts and environmental NGOs said journalists, bloggers and civil society groups are opening up new information territory.

"There has been an improvement from the bottom up," said Li Yan of Greenpeace. "But there are still too many environmental issues that have not gained sufficient attention from the government."

Liu Ruisheng of the China Academy of Social Science said public demands for transparency have increased. "This has pushed the government to open more information. Even if it is under pressure, the government cannot do things as it did in the past," he said.

These topics were raised in a debate that followed the award ceremony. Among the 100 or so audience members, fewer than one-fifth believed that China's environmental problems have peaked, but the majority were optimistic of improvement within the next 10 years.

A more cautious note, was struck by the most senior government participant, Sun Zhen, deputy counsel at the National Development and Reform Commission. "I don't think we will see the peak that soon," he said. "The improvements can't keep pace with the speed of destruction."

Winners list for the China environmental press awards

Journalist of the year: Feng Jie, Southern Weekend

Recognised for Bohai oil spill special report, north China cities facing water supply crisis and monitoring air quality for my country.

Citizen journalist of the year: Liu Futang

Recognised for an exposé on the destruction of water coconut forest.

Most influential report: Cadmium rice murder

By Gong Jing of Caixin

Best breaking news story: Here comes 5,000 tons of chromium

By Feng Wei, Liu Wei of Yunnan Information Daily

Best in-depth report: Drought destiny facing rivers and lakes

By Zhao Shilong, He Guangwei, Guo Liping, Zhou Huan, Long Jing of Time Weekly

Best nature report: Everest expedition: wildlife on the Qinghai-Tibet plateau

By Yang Xiaohong, Fang Qianhua of Southern Metropolis Daily

Honourable mentions:

Cui Zheng of New Century for Environmental hormone ambush

Zhang Ke, First Financial Daily for Rodeo at the Bird's Nest in Beijing

Lu Zongshu, Zhang Qing, Zhu Yang, Shen Nianzu of Southern Weekend for Growing vegetables

Yang Chuanmin of Southern Metropolis Daily for Concerns for the South China Sea

Xie Liangbing and Tian Peng of Economic Observer for Yangtze River fish emergency

Yuan Yue of Sanlian Life Weekly for The Death of the Earth – report from the Durban climate conference

Wang Yan of China News Week for The terrifying Yajiang River

Ma Jinhui of Xiaoxiang Morning Daily for Guanyin Mountain

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Fungus threat escalates for food, wildlife: scientists

AFP Yahoo News 11 Apr 12;

Species of fungus, driven by trade, travel and climate change, pose a mounting threat to food supplies and biodiversity, scientists said on Wednesday.

Widely unknown to the general public, seven fungal epidemics are under way, striking bees, bats, frogs, soft corals and sea turtles as well as rice and wheat, they said.

Human health and livelihoods are at stake, for fungus costs $60 billion a year in losses to corn, wheat and rice alone, according to their assessment, published by the science journal Nature.

"In both animals and plants, an unprecedented number of fungal and fungal-like species have recently caused some of the most severe die-offs and extinctions ever witnessed in wild species, and are jeopardising food security," it warned.

The paper said a lethal skin fungus called Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, discovered in 1997, has infected 500 species of frogs and toads in 54 countries, on all continents where amphibians are found.

Some areas of Central America have lost more than 40 percent of their amphibian species.

Bats in North America and Canada are being decimated by "white nose syndrome," a pathogen called Geomyces destructans, which causes a white fungal patch to grow on their muzzles. The fungus is believed to have a natural home in cave soil.

Species of the Microsporidia family of fungus are being blamed in part for for so-called colony collapse disorder among honeybees.

In tropical climates, the fungus Fusarium solani is causing eggs laid by the loggerhead turtle to fail to hatch, while a soft coral, the sea fan, is in decline, its immune system depressed by a soil fungus.

A pathogen called Magnaporthe oryzae, causing a disease called rice blast, has led to losses of 10-35 percent in the rice harvest in 85 countries.

Another fast-emerging concern for farmers is wheat rust, caused by Puccinia graminis. A strain called Ug99 can cause 100-percent crop loss, helped by farmers' over-dependence on a single wheat type.

Fungal destruction of these crops, and also of corn, potatoes and soybeans, currently amounts to 125 million tonnes a year, according to the study. Tackling this problem would be enough to feed one in 12 of the world's population.

Fungus is spread by tough, virulent and long-living spores that can be borne by wind or water.

But human intervention, through trade, transport and global warming, is accelerating its spread, the study said.

For instance, the amphibian fungus B. dendrobatidis has gained a foothold in some ecoystems by the introduction of the North American bullfrog, which is resistant to the disease.

In the mid-19th century, a fungus called Phytophthora infestans triggered a catastrophic disease in potatoes known as late blight, causing millions of deaths from famine and an exodus to America.

The fungus originated in the Andes but hitched a ride in tubers to Mexico, and from there to the United States and finally to Ireland, according one theory.

"Crop losses due to fungal attack challenge food security and threaten biodiversity, yet we are woefully inadequate at controlling their emergence and proliferation," said Sarah Gurr, a professor of molecular plant pathology at Oxford University.

Addressing fungal epidemics starts at the bottom, with better understanding of how the pathogen interacts with hosts and the environment. In terms of action, "effective prevention and timely control" are best, as these stop an early outbreak in its tracks, according to the study.

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Ocean Acidification Linked to Larval Oyster Failure

ScienceDaily 11 Apr 12;

Researchers at Oregon State University have definitively linked an increase in ocean acidification to the collapse of oyster seed production at a commercial oyster hatchery in Oregon, where larval growth had declined to a level considered by the owners to be "non-economically viable."

A study by the researchers found that elevated seawater carbon dioxide (CO2) levels, resulting in more corrosive ocean water, inhibited the larval oysters from developing their shells and growing at a pace that would make commercial production cost-effective. As atmospheric CO2 levels continue to rise, this may serve as the proverbial canary in the coal mine for other ocean acidification impacts on shellfish, the scientists say.

Results of the research have just been published in the journal, Limnology and Oceanography.

"This is one of the first times that we have been able to show how ocean acidification affects oyster larval development at a critical life stage," said Burke Hales, an OSU chemical oceanographer and co-author on the study. "The predicted rise of atmospheric CO2 in the next two to three decades may push oyster larval growth past the break-even point in terms of production."

The owners of Whiskey Creek Shellfish Hatchery at Oregon's Netarts Bay began experiencing a decline in oyster seed production several years ago, and looked at potential causes including low oxygen and pathogenic bacteria. Alan Barton, who works at the hatchery and is an author on the journal article, was able to eliminate those potential causes and shifted his focus to acidification.

Barton sent samples to OSU and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory for analysis. Their ensuing study clearly linked the production failures to the CO2 levels in the water in which the larval oysters are spawned and spend the first 24 hours of their lives, the critical time when they develop from fertilized eggs to swimming larvae, and build their initial shells.

"The early growth stage for oysters is particularly sensitive to the carbonate chemistry of the water," said George Waldbusser, a benthic ecologist in OSU's College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences. "As the water becomes more acidified, it affects the formation of calcium carbonate, the mineral of which the shell material consists. As the CO2 goes up, the mineral stability goes down, ultimately leading to reduced growth or mortality."

Commercial oyster production on the West Coast of North America generates more than $100 million in gross sales annually, generating economic activity of some $273 million. The industry has depended since the 1970s on oyster hatcheries for a steady supply of the seed used by growers. From 2007 to 2010, major hatcheries supplying the seed for West Coast oyster growers suffered persistent production failures.

The wild stocks of non-hatchery oysters simultaneously showed low recruitment, putting additional strain on limited seed supply.

Hales said Netarts Bay, where the Whiskey Creek hatchery is located, experiences a wide range of chemistry fluctuations. The OSU researchers say hatchery operators may be able to adapt their operations to take advantage of periods when water quality is at its highest.

"In addition to the impact of seasonal upwelling, the water chemistry changes with the tidal cycle, and with the time of day," Hales said. "Afternoon sunlight, for example, promotes photosynthesis in the bay and that production can absorb some of the carbon dioxide and lower the corrosiveness of the water."

A previous study co-authored by Hales found the water that is being upwelled in the Pacific Ocean off the Oregon coast has been kept at depth away from the surface for about 50 years -- meaning it was last exposed to the atmosphere a half-century ago, when carbon dioxide levels were much lower. "Since atmospheric CO2 levels have risen significantly in the past half-century, it means that the water that will be upwelled in the future will become increasingly be more corrosive," Hales said.

The OSU researchers also found that larval oysters showed delayed response to the water chemistry, which may cast new light on other experiments looking at the impacts of acidification on shellfish. In their study, they found that larval oysters raised in water that was acidic, but non-lethal, had significantly less growth in later stages of their life.

"The takeaway message here is that the response to poor water quality isn't always immediate," said Waldbusser. "In some cases, it took until three weeks after fertilization for the impact from the acidic water to become apparent. Short-term experiments of just a few days may not detect the damage."

The research has been funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation, and supported by NOAA and the Pacific Coast Shellfish Growers Association. Other authors on the journal article include Chris Langdon, of OSU's Hatfield Marine Science Center, and Richard Feely, of NOAA's Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratories.

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