5/28/2015

Unprecedented Mass Die Offs as Pacific Ocean “Turning Into a Desert” Off California Coast


It was the dying cry of Charlton Heston in the creepy 1973 film Soylent Green… and it could resemble our desperate near future.

The ocean is dying, by all accounts – and if so, the food supply along with it. The causes are numerous, and overlapping. And massive numbers of wild animal populations are dying as a result of it.

Natural causes in the environment are partly to blame; so too are the corporations of man; the effects of Fukushima, unleashing untold levels of radiation into the ocean and onto Pacific shores; the cumulative effect of modern chemicals and agricultural waste tainting the water and disrupting reproduction.

A startling new report says in no uncertain terms that the Pacific Ocean off the California coast is turning into a desert. Once full of life, it is now becoming barren, and marine mammals, seabirds and fish are starving as a result. According to Ocean Health:

The waters of the Pacific off the coast of California are a clear, shimmering blue today, so transparent it’s possible to see the sandy bottom below […] clear water is a sign that the ocean is turning into a desert, and the chain reaction that causes that bitter clarity is perhaps most obvious on the beaches of the Golden State, where thousands of emaciated sea lion pups are stranded.

[…]

Over the last three years, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has noticed a growing number of strandings on the beaches of California and up into the Pacific north-west. In 2013, 1,171 sea lions were stranded, and 2,700 have already stranded in 2015 – a sign that something is seriously wrong, as pups don’t normally wind up on their own until later in the spring and early summe

“[An unusually large number of sea lions stranding in 2013 was a red flag] there was a food availability problem even before the ocean got warm.” Johnson: This has never happened before… It’s incredible. It’s so unusual, and there’s no really good explanation for it. There’s also a good chance that the problem will continue, said a NOAA research scientist in climatology, Nate Mantua.

Experts blame a lack of food due to unusually warm ocean waters. NOAA declared an El Nino, the weather pattern that warms the Pacific, a few weeks ago. The water is three and a half to six degrees warmer than the average, according to Mantua, because of a lack of north wind on the West Coast. Ordinarily, the north wind drives the current, creating upwelling that brings forth the nutrients that feed the sardines, anchovies and other fish that adult sea lions feed on.
Fox News added:
The warm water is likely pushing prime sea lion foods — market squid, sardines and anchovies — further north, forcing the mothers to abandon their pups for up to eight days at a time in search of sustenance.
The pups, scientists believe, are weaning themselves early out of desperation and setting out on their own despite being underweight and ill-prepared to hunt.
[…]
“These animals are coming in really desperate. They’re at the end of life. They’re in a crisis … and not all animals are going to make it,” said Keith A. Matassa, executive director at the Pacific Marine Mammal Center, which is currently rehabilitating 115 sea lion pups.
 The same is true of seabirds on the Washington State coast:

In the storm debris littering a Washington State shoreline, Bonnie Wood saw something grisly: the mangled bodies of dozens of scraggly young seabirds. Walking half a mile along the beach at Twin Harbors State Park on Wednesday, Wood spotted more than 130 carcasses of juvenile Cassin’s auklets—the blue-footed, palm-size victims of what is becoming one of the largest mass die-offs of seabirds ever recorded. “It was so distressing,” recalled Wood, a volunteer who patrols Pacific Northwest beaches looking for dead or stranded birds. “They were just everywhere. Every ten yards we’d find another ten bodies of these sweet little things.”
“This is just massive, massive, unprecedented,” said Julia Parrish, a University of Washington seabird ecologist who oversees the Coastal Observation and Seabird Survey Team (COASST), a program that has tracked West Coast seabird deaths for almost 20 years. “We may be talking about 50,000 to 100,000 deaths. So far.” (source)
100,000 doesn’t necessarily sound large, statistically speaking, but precedent in the history of recorded animal deaths suggests that it is, in fact massive. Even National Geographic is noting that these die off events are “unprecedented.” Warmer water is indicated for much of the starvation faced by many of the dead animals.

Last year, scientists sounded the alarm over the death of millions of star fish, blamed on warmer waters and ‘mystery virus':
Starfish are dying by the millions up and down the West Coast, leading scientists to warn of the possibility of localized extinction of some species. As the disease spreads, researchers may be zeroing in on a link between warming waters and the rising starfish body count. (source)
[…]





The epidemic, which threatens to reshape the coastal food web and change the makeup of tide pools for years to come, appears to be driven by a previously unidentified virus, a team of more than a dozen researchers from Cornell University, UC Santa Cruz, the Monterey Bay Aquarium and other institutions reported Monday. (source)
Changing temperatures in the Pacific Ocean, driven by the natural cycle of gyres over decades, shifts wildlife populations, decimating the populations of species throughout the food chain, proving how fragile the balance of life in the ocean really is.

Recently, the collapse of the sardine population has created a crisis for fisheries and marine wildlife alike on the West Coast:
Commercial fishing for sardines off of Canada’s West Coast is worth an estimated $32 million – but now they are suddenly gone. Back in October, fisherman reported that they came back empty-handed without a single fish after 12 hours of trolling and some $1000 spent on fuel.
Sandy Mazza, for the Daily Breeze, reported a similar phenomenon in central California: “[T]he fickle sardines have been so abundant for so many years – sometimes holding court as the most plentiful fish in coastal waters – that it was a shock when he couldn’t find one of the shiny silver-blue coastal fish all summer, even though this isn’t the first time they’ve vanished.” [emphasis added]
[…]
“Is it El Nino? Pacific Decadal Oscillation? [La] Nina? Long-term climate change? More marine mammals eating sardines? Did they all go to Mexico or farther offshore? We don’t know. We’re pretty sure the overall population has declined. We manage them pretty conservatively because we don’t want to end up with another Cannery Row so, as the population declines, we curb fishing.” said National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) official Kerry Griffin. (source)
According to a report in the Daily Mail, the worst events have wiped out 90% of animal populations, falling short of extinction, but creating a rupture in food chains and ecosystems.

And environmental factors are known to contribute, with pollution from chemicals dumped by factories clearly tied to at least 20% of the mass die off events of wildlife populations that have been investigated, and many die-offs implicated by a number of overlapping factors. The Daily Mail reported:
Mass die-offs of certain animals has increased in frequency every year for seven decades, according to a new study.
Researchers found that such events, which can kill more than 90 per cent of a population, are increasing among birds, fish and marine invertebrates.
The reasons for the die-offs are diverse, with effects tied to humans such as environmental contamination accounting for about a fifth of them.
Farm runoff from Big Agra introduces high levels of fertilizers and pesticides which create oxygen-starved dead zones which fish and aquatic live is killed off. Also present in agriculture waste are gender-bending chemicals like those found in Atrazine, used in staple crop production, and antibiotics and hormones, used in livestock production, which creates hazardous runoff for fish populations:
Livestock excrete natural hormones – estrogens and testosterones – as well as synthetic ones used to bolster their growth. Depending on concentrations and fish sensitivity, these hormones and hormone mimics might impair wild fish reproduction or skew their sex ratios. (source)
 Pharmaceutical contaminants are also to blame for changing the sex of fish and disrupting population numbers, while a study found that the chemicals in Prozac changed the behavior of marine life, and made shrimp many times more likely to “commit suicide” and swim towards the light where they became easy prey.

Fish farms also introduce a large volume of antibiotic and chemical pollution into oceans and waterways:

The close quarters where farmed fish are raised (combined with their unnatural diets) means disease occurs often and can spread quickly. On fish farms, which are basically “CAFOs of the sea,” antibiotics are dispersed into the water, and sometimes injected directly into the fish.
Unfortunately, farmed fish are often raised in pens in the ocean, which means not only that pathogens can spread like wildfire and contaminate any wild fish swimming past – but the antibiotics can also spread to wild fish (via aquaculture and wastewater runoff) – and that’s exactly what recent research revealed. (source)
Mass die-offs of fish on the Brazilian coastline have linked to pollution from the dumping of raw sewage and garbage.

In the last few days it was reported that a massive die-off of bottlenose dolphins in the Gulf of Mexico was connected by researchers to BP’s Deep Water Horizon oil spill. Evidence was found in a third of the cases of lesions in the adrenal gland, an otherwise rare condition linked with petroleum exposure. More than a fifth of the dolphins also suffered bacterial pneumonia, causing deadly lung infection that is likewise rarely seen in dolphin populations.

You can read more from Mac Slavo at his site SHTFplan.com, where this article first appeared.

This article may be re-posted in full with attribution.
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5/01/2015

Antarctica's eerie 'Blood Falls' leads to lakes teeming with life

A glacier nestled in the white expanse of Antarctica has been 'bleeding' for years. 
Known as Blood Falls, the shocking red colour pours into Lake Bonney in the southernmost of the three largest McMurdo Dry Valleys.
And now scientists have discovered it not only leads to a network of salty lakes, but these lakes are full of microbial life - some of which gives the waterfall its scarlet hue.   

In particular, the deep red is caused by the discharge of iron-rich, brine liquid.
Its chemistry is changed by bacteria, which transforms sulphur and iron compounds in order to survive, and when the liquid oxidises at the surface, it creates the blood-red colour.

The aquifer network of lakes extends to a depth of up to 1,148ft (350 metres) below the Dry Valleys - the coldest and driest desert on Earth.
The find could help to shed light on how the icy region is coping with climate change, and could even hint at how life could survive on Mars.

The aquifer network extends to a depth of up to 1,148ft (350 metres) below the McMurdo Dry Valleys, the coldest and driest desert on Earth. The map above shows the major glaciers and the areas surveyed by the plane in yellow, with the terrain studied marked in red
The map above shows the major glaciers and the areas surveyed by the plane in yellow, with the terrain studied marked in red


A hoop-like electromagnetic sensor suspended beneath a helicopter was used to map the hidden subsurface.
Measurements of electrical resistivity revealed extensive connected bodies of liquid salty water deep beneath the region's glaciers and lakes.
It’s the first time the frozen lakes populating the Dry Valleys’ surface have been found to be connected by a subterranean groundwater network. 
But further evidence is needed to be certain of its existence.

ICE CRYSTALS AND ALGAE CAN CAUSE SNOW TO LOOK RED AND BLUE

Cold-loving, fresh-water algae known as Chlamydomonas nivalis that contain a bright red pigment can cause snow to appear red
Cold-loving, fresh-water algae known as Chlamydomonas nivalis that contain a bright red pigment can cause snow to appear red
Snow appears white because it reflects most visible light that strikes it. Anything that does this means you see the whole spectrum of visible light, which looks white. 
Other objects appear different colours because they absorb certain wavelengths of visible light but reflect others - a green apple, for instance, reflects only mostly the green wavelength.
But, as reported by JSTOR, when snow is deep enough it can actually appear blue. The reason for this is due to ice crystals in the snow, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Centre (NSIDC)
‘As light waves travel into the snow or ice, the ice grains scatter a large amount of light,’ the NSIDC explains.
While most of the light is reflected, there is a very small tendency towards more red light being absorbed than blue.
When you see just the surface of a pack of snow, the scattering of the blue light is almost completely impossible to notice.
But if you look into a significant amount of snow, about 3.3ft (one metre) or so, more photons emerge towards the blue end of the spectrum than the red end.
When snow appears red, though, it is for an entirely different reason. This effect is due to cold-loving, fresh-water algae known as Chlamydomonas nivalis that contain a bright red pigment.
Also known as ‘watermelon snow’, it is ‘most common during the summertime in high alpine areas as well as along coastal polar regions’.
Researcher Dr Jill Mikucki said the findings 'may change the way people think about the coastal margins of Antarctica.‘ The equipment used to map the area is shown above
Researcher Dr Jill Mikucki said the findings 'may change the way people think about the coastal margins of Antarctica.‘ The equipment used to map the area is shown above
The network stretches from the coast for a distance of at least 7.5 miles (12 km) inland.
US lead researcher Dr Jill Mikucki, from the University of Tennessee, said: ‘It may change the way people think about the coastal margins of Antarctica.
‘We know there is significant saturated sediment below the surface that is likely seeping into the ocean and affecting the productivity of things that feed ocean food webs.
‘It lends to the understanding of the flow of nutrients and how that might affect ecosystem health.’ 
The findings, which are published in the journal Nature Communications, may shed light on how Antarctica has responded to climate change, the researchers say. This image shows a portion of Taylor Glacier including Blood Falls, which is coloured orange because of the oxidisation of subglacial brine
The findings, which are published in the journal Nature Communications, may shed light on how Antarctica has responded to climate change, the researchers say. This image shows a portion of Taylor Glacier including Blood Falls, which is coloured orange because of the oxidisation of subglacial brine
This image shows the extent of the underground network beneath Taylor Glacier in the Dry Valleys, which represents the nearest thing on Earth to a Martian environment. This gives experts hope the find may help them understand whether similar conditions could exist elsewhere in the solar system, especially on Mars
This image shows the extent of the underground network beneath Taylor Glacier in the Dry Valleys, which represents the nearest thing on Earth to a Martian environment. This gives experts hope the find may help them understand whether similar conditions could exist elsewhere in the solar system, especially on Mars

The findings, which are published in the journal Nature Communications, may shed light on how Antarctica has responded to climate change.
They may even help scientists understand whether similar conditions could exist elsewhere in the solar system, especially beneath the surface of Mars.
Cold and vegetation free, the Dry Valleys represent the nearest thing on Earth to a Martian environment.
Evidence suggests that the salty groundwater exists at below-freezing temperatures, within the range tolerated by microbial life.
A strange feature in the region, called Blood Falls, which is salty, slushy, red ooze that emerges from the boundary between Taylor Glacier and Lake Bonney, has previously been shown to contain a diverse microbial community.
This hinted to experts that a deeper brine ecosystem could lie beneath the ice.
The McMurdo Dry Valleys, situated along the Ross Sea coastline and discovered by polar explorer Robert Scott in 1903, is the largest region in Antarctica not covered by an ice sheet.
It consists of an arid expanse of mostly dirt, small rocks and large boulders, dotted with a few frozen lakes.
Co-author of the study, Professor Ross Virginia, from Dartmouth College in New Hampshire, said: ‘This fantastic new view beneath the surface will help us sort out competing ideas about how the McMurdo Dry Valleys have changed with time and how this history influences what we see today.’
The McMurdo Dry Valleys (marked on the map) - the largest ice-free region in Antarctica - is a rather alien landscape, populated by glaciers, isolated lakes and frozen soils
The McMurdo Dry Valleys (marked on the map) - the largest ice-free region in Antarctica - is a rather alien landscape, populated by glaciers, isolated lakes and frozen soils
One particularly strange feature of the cold region is Blood Falls - a salty, slushy, red ooze that emerges from the boundary between Taylor Glacier and Lake Bonney
An image of the survey is shown right
One particularly strange feature of the cold region is Blood Falls - a salty, slushy, red ooze that emerges from the boundary between Taylor Glacier and Lake Bonney (pictured left) which gave scientists the idea that a briney network lay beneath the ice. An image of the survey is shown right

Daily Mail 

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4/25/2015

Shocking Aerial Footage of the Amazon Forest in Peru


This aerial footage of the Amazon forest throughout the region of Marde de Dios, Peru, will likely leave you speechless. It shows the expansiveness and the devastation caused by deforestation and mining, much of which has occurred in this particular region since 2010. Please share and show your support for efforts such as Community Carbon Trees in Costa Rica that protect and plant trees in regions close to the equator. Sponsor a tree today.


 Waking Times
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4/23/2015

Billions Of Bizarre Blue Animals Wash Ashore On The West Coast





Beaches along the west coast of America have been swamped with transparent blue creatures resembling jellyfish, known as “purple sails” or “by the wind sailors.” The phenomenon is a result of the wind's direction and probably not an indicator of environmental destruction. The sheer scale of this event is breathtaking, with estimates of a billion specimens washed ashore.
Velella velella are not true jellyfish but a smaller, less deadly relative of the Portuguese man-of-war. They are siphonophores, colonies of zooids that operate together as if they are one animal.


Credit: Jennifer Nicole Buchanan via Shutterstock. Individual Velella colonies are small, but in their millions they can dominate a beach.
Velella float in the open ocean and use poisonous tentacles to catch prey such as plankton. Balloon-like bubbles stick above the water's surface and catch the wind in such a way that they sail at an angle to it. Every few years, however, prevailing winds in the wrong direction wash large quantities onto beaches where they die. This spring has proven particularly disastrous for the northern Pacific population as winds were sustained long enough to wash huge numbers onto the coast.
As usual, the beaches are not hit at the same time, with the wave of blue starting in Washington and sweeping south over a period of several weeks. Coincidentally, there have also been major strandings in Italy at the same time.
Despite their numbers, permits are required to collect them. Kevin Raskoff of Monterey Peninsula College told National Geographic that touching them is unwise. Unlike both the man-of-war and many true jellyfish, their toxins will do little damage to the skin, but can rub off. If you rub your eyes after receiving some of the venom on your fingers, “you're going to feel it,” Raskoff said.
Last year's American Velella stranding was unusually late, leading to reports such as this one.

It is also rare to have such large strandings on the same coastline in successive years.

Credit: Bettina Walter, "Velella velella," via Flickr. CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

 
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