Three cheers for biodiversity

Photo by Elias Levy, Flickr.

Photo by Elias Levy, Flickr.

Text by Daniel Pauly

Yes, the 6th Extinction is underway, and we are going to lose quite a bit of the Earth’s biodiversity, both terrestrial and marine, because of our agriculture, our fisheries, and because there are so many of us. But we should try to minimize the loss, using all the tools at our disposal.

One of these tools is slowing down, or even reversing, the rate at which we expand into and thus transform and ultimately destroy natural ecosystems and their biodiversity. On land, this consists of creating parks where the natural vegetative cover, notably forests, can maintain or reestablish itself, and provide habitats for animals that cannot live in landscapes shaped by agriculture.

Continue reading

Impacts of climate change on contaminants in fisheries

Dr. Elsie Sunderland (left). Photo: Valentina Ruiz Leotaud.

Dr. Elsie Sunderland (left). Photo: Valentina Ruiz Leotaud.

By: Valentina Ruiz Leotaud.

On November 17th, the Nereus Program hosted a talk with a VIP guest speaker: Dr. Elsie Sunderland, the Thomas D. Cabot Associate Professor of Environmental Science and Engineering at the John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Science at Harvard University.

In an hour-long presentation, which took place at UBC’s Green College, Dr. Sunderland summarized part of the work that her research group is undertaking on the biogeochemistry of global contaminants.

Many environmental contaminants biomagnify in marine food webs, reaching high concentrations in top predators, which means that they are posing health risks to humans and wildlife.

Sunderland started by saying that focusing just on carbon pollutants provides a very narrow view that ignores the vast array of substances affecting the environment. Even when policymakers think they are choosing the greenest options when it comes to energy generation, they might be doing quite the opposite.

Dr. Elsie Sunderland.

Dr. Elsie Sunderland.

Continue reading

Satellite Imagery Can Improve Ocean Data

MaleAtollHow much the oceans are protected?   How much of the globe is covered in coral reefs?  These are important questions that require decent data.  A new study led by Sea Around Us Project member Colette Wabnitz and just released online by the journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment reveals that the current data available are too poor for them to be used to evaluate progress toward conservation targets, such as international goals to set aside 20-30% of the oceans as marine protected areas.  Technological advances in satellite imagery, like this image of the North Male atoll in the  Maldives, can help us better determine the true size of coral reefs, mangroves, seagrass, spawning grounds, and other vulnerable marine habitats.  Read the full study here.