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Climate Shifts » Albert Norstrom http://www.climateshifts.org Science, climate change, coral reefs and the environment Sun, 05 Oct 2014 04:16:55 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8.24 Somali pirates and roving banditry http://www.climateshifts.org/?p=4242 http://www.climateshifts.org/?p=4242#comments Tue, 12 Jan 2010 20:03:49 +0000 http://www.climateshifts.org/?p=4242 Resilience Science just ran a post on a recent AP story that highlights the link between Somali pirates and recovering fish stocks in the region. Basically, increases in pirate activity has scared off the roving bandits –  fishing fleets from mainly from South Korea, Japan and EU - that have [...]]]> Resilience Science just ran a post on a recent AP story that highlights the link between Somali pirates and recovering fish stocks in the region. Basically, increases in pirate activity has scared off the roving bandits –  fishing fleets from mainly from South Korea, Japan and EU - that have previously been exploiting the rich fishing grounds in the region.

Fishermen and sportsmen say they’ve been catching more fish than ever. Howard Lawrence-Brown, who owns Kenya Deep Sea Fishing, said fishing stocks over the last year have been up “enormously — across all species.”

“We had the best marlin season ever last year,” said Lawrence-Brown, who owns Kenya Deep Sea Fishing. “The only explanation is that somebody is not targeting them somewhere. … There’s definitely no question about it, the lack of commercial fishing has made a difference.”

I’m personally not convinced that overexploited fish stocks can recover on such short time-scales, but this is an interesting hypothesis. The story reiterates another interesting facet of the Somali pirate problem: that this phenomenon actually began as a way to protect Somali fishing grounds from foreign fleets. From another, earlier story from Time magazine

Ever since a civil war brought down Somalia’s last functional government in 1991, the country’s 3,330 km (2,000 miles) of coastline — the longest in continental Africa — has been pillaged by foreign vessels. A United Nations report in 2006 said that, in the absence of the country’s at one time serviceable coastguard, Somali waters have become the site of an international “free for all,” with fishing fleets from around the world illegally plundering Somali stocks and freezing out the country’s own rudimentarily-equipped fishermen. According to another U.N. report, an estimated $300 million worth of seafood is stolen from the country’s coastline each year. “In any context,” says Gustavo Carvalho, a London-based researcher with Global Witness, an environmental NGO, “that is a staggering sum.”

In the face of this, impoverished Somalis living by the sea have been forced over the years to defend their own fishing expeditions out of ports such as Eyl, Kismayo and Harardhere — all now considered to be pirate dens. Somali fishermen, whose industry was always small-scale, lacked the advanced boats and technologies of their interloping competitors, and also complained of being shot at by foreign fishermen with water cannons and firearms. “The first pirate gangs emerged in the ’90s to protect against foreign trawlers,” says Peter Lehr, lecturer in terrorism studies at Scotland’s University of St. Andrews and editor of Violence at Sea: Piracy in the Age of Global Terrorism. The names of existing pirate fleets, such as the National Volunteer Coastguard of Somalia or Somali Marines, are testament to the pirates’ initial motivations.

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Marine Protected Areas (MPA's) gazetted in resource-poor areas of the seascape http://www.climateshifts.org/?p=3643 http://www.climateshifts.org/?p=3643#comments Tue, 01 Dec 2009 13:54:08 +0000 http://www.climateshifts.org/?p=3643

Theres a new paper out by Edgar et al in Ecological Applications that tracks the ecosystem effects of 14 MPA’s, and exploited companion sites, in southern Australia and Tanzania over a 16 year period.

The effects of the MPAs are interesting: biomass of large predators is on a steep increasing trend, while prey-species [...]]]> IndoReef500x333

Theres a new paper out by Edgar et al in Ecological Applications that tracks the ecosystem effects of 14 MPA’s, and exploited companion sites, in southern Australia and Tanzania over a 16 year period.

The effects of the MPAs are interesting: biomass of large predators is on a steep increasing trend, while prey-species such as grazing molluscs and urchins are on a downward slope. I wonder what this will lead in terms of macroalgal abundances?

Another interesting finding is that

recently declared MPAs across Australia have been systematically located in areas with few fishery resources. Stakeholders with fishing interests presumably lobbied successfully against the “locking up” of exploitable fish stocks in SZs

I’ve stumbled upon many ecologists who tend to think that MPA’s are almost always designated in pristine areas, thus confounding interpretations of whether they are effective, i.e “the protected sites are healthy, not because they’re protected, but because they were healthy in the first place”. Those with more insights into how local resource users think and work will probably disagree on this, and usually claim the contrary, i.e. “people are pretty darn good at maneuvering the MPA-creation process so as not to include their best fishing grounds”. This study provides compelling evidence of the latter:

The abstract summarizes things nicely:

Tasmanian reef communities within ‘‘no-take’’ marine protected areas (MPAs) exhibited direct and indirect ecological changes that increasingly manifested over 16 years, eventually transforming into communities not otherwise present in the regional seascape. Data from 14 temperate and subtropical Australian MPAs further demonstrated that ecological changes continue to develop in MPAs over at least two decades, probably much longer. The continent-scale study additionally showed recently established MPAs to be consistently located at sites with low resource value relative to adjacent fished reference areas. This outcome was presumably generated by sociopolitical pressures and planning processes that aim to systematically avoid locations with valuable resources, potentially compromising biodiversity conservation goals. Locations that were formerly highly fished are needed within MPA networks if the networks are to achieve conservation aims associated with (1) safeguarding all regional habitat types, (2) protecting threatened habitats and species, and (3) providing appropriate reference benchmarks for assessing impacts of fishing. Because of long time lags, the ubiquity of fishing impacts, and the relatively recent establishment of MPAs, the full impact of fishing on coastal reefs has yet to be empirically assessed.

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Chinese cut methane emissions through better rice farming http://www.climateshifts.org/?p=3106 http://www.climateshifts.org/?p=3106#comments Tue, 29 Sep 2009 07:28:39 +0000 http://www.climateshifts.org/?p=3106

Theres not much to smile about in the run up to Copenhagen. However, I snapped up this piece of good news in August but haven’t had the time to post it. Its well worth a read. Basically, draining the water out of rice paddies during the growing season has led to dramatic reductions [...]]]> rice_paddy

Theres not much to smile about in the run up to Copenhagen. However, I snapped up this piece of good news in August but haven’t had the time to post it. Its well worth a read. Basically, draining the water out of rice paddies during the growing season has led to dramatic reductions in methane emissions from Chinese rice-growing sector. Studies conducted by scientists from China and the United States estimate that methane emissions from rice paddies have fallen by a staggering 70% since 1980.

Farmers normally flood rice fields throughout the growing season, meaning that methane is produced by microbes underwater as they help to decay any flooded organic matter.

By studying experimental rice plots and real farmland, Chris Butenhoff and Aslam Khalil, physicists from Portland State University in Portland, Oregon, together with Xiong Zhenqin, an ecologist at Nanjing Agricultural University in China’s Jiangsu province, and their colleagues set out to identify the different factors that affect this process.

The team found that draining paddy fields in the middle of the rice-growing season — a practice that most Chinese farmers have adopted since the 1980s because it increases rice yields and saves water — stopped most of the methane release from the field. The team presented their results on 13 August at a meeting on climate science convened at a Beijing hotel by the US Department of Energy and China’s Ministry of Science and Technology.

Earlier this year, another team of scientists reported that global methane emissions from rice paddies could be cut by 30% if fields are drained at least once during the growing season. This is a great example of changes in farming practices that not only result in substantial improvements in local and regional yields, but could also have a significant effect in reducing global greenhouse gas emissions.

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Overfishing – now in a cineplex nearby http://www.climateshifts.org/?p=1815 http://www.climateshifts.org/?p=1815#comments Wed, 10 Jun 2009 20:52:40 +0000 http://www.climateshifts.org/?p=1815

Just thought I’d flag a movie thats just started doing the rounds in cinema theatres in the UK and the U.S (and I’m guessing the DVD-release should follow once its done the festival rounds). “The End of the Line” examines the imminent extinction of bluefin tuna, tackles the impact on marine life resulting [...]]]> 10021232140490fish-on-slab-550

Just thought I’d flag a movie thats just started doing the rounds in cinema theatres in the UK and the U.S (and I’m guessing the DVD-release should follow once its done the festival rounds). “The End of the Line” examines the imminent extinction of bluefin tuna, tackles the impact on marine life resulting in huge overpopulation of jellyfish and investigates the profound implications of a future world with no fish. It also aims to do for overfishing what the “Inconvenient Truth” did for climate change. Although in all fairness, Ted Danson is no Al Gore. Watching the trailer did get me excited (well that, and depressed in light of the HUGE problems facing global fish stocks) as many of the big name marine ecologists and fisheries biologists dealing with the problem of overexploited fish stocks seem to be involved: Daniel Pauly and Boris Worm to name a few.

Bablelgum has some short, related episodes (and some fun interviews and behind the scenes stuff) that you can watch for free.

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A place at the negotiating table? http://www.climateshifts.org/?p=1806 http://www.climateshifts.org/?p=1806#comments Tue, 09 Jun 2009 18:09:37 +0000 http://www.climateshifts.org/?p=1806

Fisheries must be included in the ongoing discussions of how the world’s most vulnerable can adapt to climate change. The future consequences for global fisheries are uncertain, but what is certain is that there will be winners and losers, and we can bet the losers will be those who don’t have much already, says [...]]]> fisheries

Fisheries must be included in the ongoing discussions of how the world’s most vulnerable can adapt to climate change. The future consequences for global fisheries are uncertain, but what is certain is that there will be winners and losers, and we can bet the losers will be those who don’t have much already, says a recent policy article published in Nature by Nicholas Dulvy and Edward Allison.

Warmer and more acidic waters could result in decreased fish stocks, altered fish migration routes and loss of important fish spawning grounds. Dulvy and Allison highlight that it is the poorest coastal nations of the world that are most susceptible to climate change effects on aquatic ecosystems. People of these vulnerable countries are highly dependent on fisheries for income and food security, while having limited societal capacity to adapt to the ongoing changes:

African and southeast Asian countries are the most economically vulnerable to climate change impacts on their fisheries and aquaculture sectors. Of the 33 nations identified as being most vulnerable to climate impacts on their fisheries sectors, 19 are among the world’s least developed countries, whose inhabitants are twice as reliant on fish and fisheries for food as those of more developed nations.

The authors plea that aquatic resources, and the people dependent on them, are included in upcoming global climate treaties. More specifically, they offer some policy recommendations. For example, combined targets of emission reductions and sustainable fisheries management could be reached by reducing the overinflated global fishing fleet. Countries doing so could gain carbon credits as this action represents a legitimate mitigation activity. Furthermore, a more flexible and diversified fishing sector, which can adapt to changes in catch composition and stock abundances, should be promoted. Finally, fisheries policies should be integrated into a wider development process. For example, artisinal fishers can be provided with alternative livelihoods that lessen their dependence on fisheries, while the social-ecological resilience of vulnerable fishing communities can be promoted by improving their infrastructure, access to markets and social services.

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Caribbean fish decline in the wake of coral collapse? http://www.climateshifts.org/?p=1430 http://www.climateshifts.org/?p=1430#comments Sat, 25 Apr 2009 10:23:36 +0000 http://www.climateshifts.org/?p=1430 A new study in Current Biology (some really interesting coral related stuff being published there lately) by Michelle Paddack and colleagues (Paddack et al 2009) documents a region-wide decline in reef associated fish in the Caribbean. The authors conducted a meta-analysis on a substantial amount of fisheries-independent, time-series data on Caribbean fish densities. [...]]]> A new study in Current Biology (some really interesting coral related stuff being published there lately) by Michelle Paddack and colleagues (Paddack et al 2009) documents a region-wide decline in reef associated fish in the Caribbean. The authors conducted a meta-analysis on a substantial amount of fisheries-independent, time-series data on Caribbean fish densities. Fish densities seem to have been pretty stable from the mid-50s until the mid-90s, to then exhibit significant negative rates of change during the past 10 years. What is striking is the generality of the decline that has occured the past decade, across the whole region (see figure below)

paddack-fig-23

Recorded declines in fish densities across five Caribbean sub-regions 1996-2007

Differences in fished and non-fished species were non-significant. This leads the authors to speculate that fishing is not the main driver of these changes (although certainly it plays a part). Rather, as has been documented in the western Indian Ocean, these changes in fish communities could be a response to the substantial losses of coral cover which have occurred in the Caribbean the past decades. A wicked problem, primarily for managers and communities dependent on fisheries, is that changes in fish communities seem to manifest themselves as a form of “degradation debt” – that is, there is a substantial time-lag between changes in the underlying benthic community and the response of fish communities.

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Parrotfish in Swedish fishmarkets http://www.climateshifts.org/?p=1366 http://www.climateshifts.org/?p=1366#comments Thu, 09 Apr 2009 01:16:22 +0000 http://www.climateshifts.org/?p=1366 Svenska Dagbladet, Swedens second largest daily newspaper, recently ran a story on the appearance of parrotfish in Swedish fishmarkets. Parrotfish can be likened to lawnmowers of the reef, and keep algae from smothering coral reefs.

Parrotfish are not known to be an essential part of the Scandinavian kitchen, so one wonders what they [...]]]> Svenska Dagbladet, Swedens second largest daily newspaper, recently ran a story on the appearance of parrotfish in Swedish fishmarkets. Parrotfish can be likened to lawnmowers of the reef, and keep algae from smothering coral reefs.

Parrotfish sold for 269 SEK/kg at a Swedish fishmarket. Photo courtesy of Jerker Lokrantz/Azote

Parrotfish sold for 269 SEK/kg at a Swedish fishmarket. Photo courtesy of Jerker Lokrantz/Azote

Parrotfish are not known to be an essential part of the Scandinavian kitchen, so one wonders what they are doing being flown halfway across the world to a country that has enough tasty seafood to satisfy its needs? When contacted by reporters store managers claimed that distributors would recomend parrotfish as a colourful species that would certainly attract buyers. They also explained that they did have policies regarding the sale of red-listed species, but that parrotfish do not appear on any such lists (WWF and IUCN). This is problematic, as models and observation suggest that the levels of parrotfish biomass required to safeguard reefs against algal domination, are probably much higher than those that would classify them as being red-listed.

And this doesn’t seem to be a one-off incident. Two PhD-students from Stockholm University, Jerker Lokrantz and Matilda Thyresson, are currently following up reports of large (several tons) shipments of parrotfish from Vietnam arriving to Sweden via the Netherlands. This whole story really illustrates the challenges facing marine resource management in the face of rapid exploitation driven by a globalized market, as highlighted by Berkes et al in the 2006 Science article “Globalization, Roving Bandits, and Marine Resources“.

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Using the internet as an early warning of ecological change http://www.climateshifts.org/?p=1312 http://www.climateshifts.org/?p=1312#comments Sat, 04 Apr 2009 12:38:03 +0000 http://www.climateshifts.org/?p=1312 A recent paper out in Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment  (Galaz et al 2009) identifies novel and fascinating ways on how to capture looming ecological crises.

The basic problem addressed by the authors is this: The six billion people on Earth are changing the biosphere at unprecedented rates. Ecosystems [...]]]> A recent paper out in Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment  (Galaz et al 2009) identifies novel and fascinating ways on how to capture looming ecological crises.

The basic problem addressed by the authors is this: The six billion people on Earth are changing the biosphere at unprecedented rates. Ecosystems tend to respond to such change in unpredictable ways; collapsing fisheries and sudden phase shifts observed in freshwater ecosystems and coral reefs are good examples of such phenomena. The challenge is that existing ecological monitoring systems are not in tune with the speed of social, economical and ecological change and early warnings of pending ecological crisis are to a large extent limited by insufficient data, and geographical gaps in official monitoring systems.

So how do we deal with this situation? Look to the internet for guidance! Not quite so simple, but the researchers from the Stockholm Resilience Centre and the University of east Anglia, explore the possibilities of using information posted on the Internet to detect ecosystems on the brink of change.

Much of the pioneering work in this type of Internet surveillance has come in the public health field, where software programs that search the Internet in methodical and automated manners, web crawlers, are used to track disease.

The potential of web crawlers is illustrated by the success of the Global Public Health Intelligence Network (GPHIN), an early disease detection system developed by Health Canada for the World Health Organization (WHO). GPHIN gathers information about unusual disease events by monitoring internet-based global media sources, such as news wires, web sites, local online newspapers, and public health e-mail information services, in eight languages, with non-English articles filtered through a translation engine. The system retrieves approximately 2000–3000 news items per day; roughly 30% are rejected as duplicative or irrelevant, but the remainder are sorted by GPHIN analysts and posted on GPHIN’s secure website.  

Web crawlers could be designed to complement conventional ecological monitoring. The authors use coral reef ecosystems to illustrate how such a process could progress. Data-mining the internet for information on potential drivers of coral ecosystem change (e.g. heavy investment in fish gear that can precede heavy exploitation of key reef organisms) and ecosystem responses (changes in coral cover, fish community composition) can be the basis for early warning assessments of ecological change.

galaz-et-al-fig13

Fig. 1 Examples of drivers and impact signals regarding a coral reef social-ecological system, that in principle could be detected by a web-crawler

Addtionally, by searching the internet for reports of local scale coral reef degradation can provide early indicators of large scale systemic collapses of reef systems. The success of such web-crawlers will be highly dependent on information becoming rapidly accessible online via”web 2.o” applications such as blogs, wikis and other networking tools such as electronic mailing lists (Coral-List is highlighted as an example).

galaz-et-al-fig2b

Fig. 2 Ecological shifts at smaller scales can provide warnings of impending changes to large-scale systems

I guess that a problem, and one highlighted by the authors, is that fragmented and insufficient data from several sources, could lead to information junkyards instead of robust ecological monitoring systems. Any web crawler based monitoring system would therefore need to be plugged into a coupled knowledge management and expert judgement system. Would that slow the process down to the extent of nullyfying any gains made through the rapid information sweeps generated by the web crawler?  In any case, its a refreshing approach and a fascinating read.

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