Category Archives: Ocean

Picture perfect office - © Dr. Michael White

Tongareva Atoll: Living at the forefront of climate change

Picture perfect office – © Dr. Michael WhiteKia Orana Everyone!Firstly, my apologies for being offline for a while.I’ve been extremely busy researching the rapid impacts of ocean warming on my atoll (9 South; 158 West).These include coral bleaching and death of our giant clams (Tridacna maxima).Also many of our trees have suffered badly and have either collapsed or are very sick.I’d like to thank my friends and research colleagues: Papa Ru Taime & John Beasley. Meitaki Poria.I’ll try and use this post as a form of blog and will deal with each aspect over the coming weeks.In particular I am now seeing secondary impacts, such as algal growth on the bleached corals ~ so in time this may cause a shift in fish populations or marine invertebrates.So this is truly the living, shifting face of climate change.Welcome to our new world!

Dead small giant clam (Tridacna maxima)

Dead small giant clam (Tridacna maxima)

Some coral species are badly impacted, others are more resilient

Yellow & white - upload

Deeper corals suffered more than many surface ones, probably because deeper species have a narrower thermal range

DJI_0025_Picture perfect office - Copy

A beautiful picture of ‘my office’ ~ but the story is different when we look closely underwater.Climate change is real!

El Nino heat map - AFP / Getty images

El Nino has, apparently, arrived.

: El Nino heat map - AFP / Getty images

This cyclical weather phenomenon has apparently finally arrived. NOAA said it started in March 2015, although few of the physical signs appeared. The link below shows Australia, Japan and NOAA all agreeing … we’ll soon find out. What the article does not say is that the 1997-98 ENSO saw roughly half of the world’s corals die. In the face of global warming the corals and seagrass beds absorb a huge amount of CO2 during their photsynthesis. We’re talking similar levels of carbon-fixing to tropical rain forests; so if we get more major coral bleaching events then we are likely to be in a mess.

Pitcairn Island declares marine reserve

This news came via a friend, but I’ve yet to see the offical guidelines for it. The MCS article below notes it will be off-limits to all extractive and damaging activities. Quite how that will work and be enforced remains to be seen; the Pacific Ocean is the focus of major industrial fisheries, being one of the few places globally where fish remain.

Notwithstanding that: Oceania and its Large Ocean States are way ahead in the global effort to protect our oceans. Kiribati declared the world’s largest marine reserve in the Phoenix Islands (2008); New Caledonia created the world’s largest marine reserve in 2014; Palau will ban commercial fishing in its EEZ (2014). Cook Islands declared the world’s largest marine park in 2012 ::: this one has yet to be implemented and seems likely to allow continued industrial fishing, tourism and the new threat of deep-sea mining ~ so the exact nature of its ‘protection’ remains to be seen. Australia and New Zealand have large marine protected areas scattered around their coastlines. French Polynesia is now looking to protect the Marquesas and Austral archipelagos; the USA has hopped onboard with some of their geostrategic Remote Island Territories, and had previously closed sea areas around Hawai’i to fisheries during a sea turtle migration period. So we can seriously applaud the race to create the next ‘biggest protected marine area’ ::: while we thoughtfully consider the question of ‘”exactly where are the commercial fishing nations going to operate?” Good effort to all, Mike 🙂



Water World and the impact of climate change

Image: Image from MacMillan New Zealand World Atlas, p. 48

People in the industrialised world often don’t understand why climate change might be of any concern. Too often they frame their viewpoint in terms of how it affects their wage packet, or maintaining their daily lifestyle; that is understandable. It’s the only reality they might know.

But people on the other side of our planet have a very different understanding of reality. This is something we would like to share with you. Climate change is real, our weather patterns have changed; sea levels are creeping up, sometimes substantially. The salt affects what will grow in our already-poor soil; and may well kill the food crops that are already producing fruit. Now you might not care: you just go to the supermarket and shop … we often have no shops. Even if there is a small store the food has to come from very far away, adding further to greenhouse gas emissions. It doesn’t work.

The consumer world’s activities may well cause us to lose our homelands and the burial grounds of our ancestors. Please wake up. Thanks. 🙂

The Guardian: Losing paradise – now by Climate Change

More data on oceanic plastic pollution

Speaks for itself. I will add that the global ocean comprises 99% of the Volume of the Biosphere. Also that the best way to reduce this impact is simply produce less plastic ::: I imagine we are only seeing the very tip of this problem, and perhaps there is a considerable time lag too. For instance: how long does it take for a piece of plastic entering the ocean to sink to the bottom, perhaps go into the sediment, then to re-emerge and eventually wash onshore, or converge with one of the ‘garbage patches’? To my mind landfills are not a good solution either: dis-assembling the molecules might be better? Mike