Monday, June 18, 2012

Spring and Summer Blooms

It’s spring and everything is in bloom. But, the blooms that live in the ocean are not the ones that turn into beautiful flowers. They become oceanic dead zones, that create havoc around the world. Where every living creature in the seas are at risk. Phytoplankton is a living organism that creates dead zones. Dead zones kill fish, lobster, clams, crab, oysters, dolphins, whales and anything else that comes in contact with it.

So, what is a dead zone? A dead zone is nitrogen and phosphorus in excessive amounts that flows into our rivers and streams and enters into the ocean. It is fertilizer, human and animal waste, agricultural runoff and industrial waste. All of this makes algal blooms. The algal eats up all of the oxygen around it. Then, as it dies it begins to sink to the bottom floor. As the algal descends it kills everything in it’s path, as it eats away all of the oxygen yet again. By the time it has reached the ocean floor the beginning of a dead zone has been created.
        

                        
Every one of our coastlines is literally affected. Some dead zones stretch for hundreds of miles, turning into thousands. Robert Howarth at action bioscience.org states, “ Of 139 U.S. coastal areas assessed recently, 44 were identified as severely affected by high levels of these nutrients.” He also goes on to tell us that the scientists fear it will get worse as the decades pass. http://oceantoday.noaa.gov/happnowdeadzone/
The following short film is for your education as to what a dead zone really is and what it is doing to our oceans and our economy. Please watch it with us. And then think about what you can do to help clean up our oceans.


-Kelly Peters

Sources:
http://www.actionbioscience.org/environment/howarth.html

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Population Increases, Bad on Our Oceans


Population Increases, Bad on Our Oceans

It is currently estimated that three babies are born every second and because we are living longer the population is increasing at an incredible rate. Right now the population growth rate is approximately 1.3% per year. With a little over 7 billion people in the world that is an increase of around 90 million new lives every year. This massive increase each year is causing many problems for the world, one being our ability to manage the garbage and waste that is being used. With the amount of sewage being accumulated many people have turned to dumping it into our oceans because there is too much to be treated. This means not only are the dead zones going to increase in size but new dead zones are going to start appearing if this continues. Another problem we face is the increase in number of fish farms to keeps up with the demand. It sounds good, increasing the growth numbers of fish mean more food for people, but what isn't accounted for is the waste these fish are putting off and the uneaten food pellets. Both of these thing are starting to have a huge impact on the creation of algae blooms and therefore dead zones, and it's possible that if the trend continues this could become a bigger factor than the fertilizer runoff in many places.


 Image source: http://www.aratosuav.com/agriculture.html

Commercial Fish “En-danger”


Commercial Fish “En-danger”




Oxygen is a necessity for almost all life on our planet. When humans don't get enough we can get headaches, or feel weak and winded, or can't think straight, but when fish lack oxygen it isn't just their bodies that get effected but their survival as a species becomes endangered. Right now the oxygen levels in certain areas of the ocean are dropping causing the sea life that lives there to abandon it and go deeper into the ocean, but this isn't possible for all marine life. Aside from the fish in lakes, that have absolutely no where to go, certain fish are being forced out into areas of the ocean that can't sustain them. This makes it impossible for them to stay away from the areas they once populated so they travel back, staying at the edge of the hypoxic zones. These waters are still deprived of oxygen and this is causing fish to become stunted, and in some cases not be able to reproduce effectively, causing their numbers to become lower. It also means, for the fish we harvest, that fishermen are having to catch more fish to meet their quotas because they aren't big enough and don't weigh enough, which also lowers their numbers. Another effect of low oxygen levels is the fishes ability to swim. Studies have show that fish with less oxygen swim slower, and have lower reaction times. This makes them easy prey for the predators whose food chain they are on, again lowering numbers. The trend here is obvious and we are going to see commercial fish species become endangered, or worse completely die off, unless the awareness about these issues, among others, is raised and dealt with.

Five things you can do this summer to help the Earth and have fun!



1.            Grow a garden! It's prime time for growing gardens! I've already started mine and my onions are going crazy with this recent warm water! It's not that difficult and if you grow your food instead of buying it from the grocery story you are reducing gas consumption. It takes a good amount of fuel to ship all that produce to stores. Just think if everyone grew their own produce?

2.            Go to the beach with your friends and pick up trash! You know that Tsunami that Hit Japan? Well all that debris is now washing up on Oregon shores along with all the other bits and pieces that beach goers leave behind. Who knows, you might save a fishes life!                

3.            Go fishing for Pikeminnows in the Columbia river! The Oregon department of fish and wildlife pays a bounty of $4-$8 dollars per pikeminnow a person catches because of their negative effects on salmon and steelhead populations!  You're catching dinner and getting paid for it!

4.            Go camping and leave no trace behind! Campers can easily effect the wildlife surrounding them, even more so if they leave trash and food behind. Pick up after yourself when you are camping and be sure to not leave metals and plastics behind. They change the landscape and really do make a pretty forest look like trash.  

5.            Bike more, Drive less. There is nothing like the smell of hot pavement, gasoline, and tare in 90 degree weather. Instead of going for a cruise with your friends, go for a bike ride! You will save gas and get some good exercise. 

-Richard Jossy 

Friday, June 15, 2012

Dead Zones and Bio-fuel


Bio-fuel, a great alternative to petrol based fuels, is unfortunately contributing to the Gulf Deadzone. In an interesting article found on gulfhypoxia.net I learned that the incentives for ethanol (corn) based fuels and subsequent increase in farmland used for the corn is creating an influx of even more fertilizer to the Gulf.  Changes to the legislation must be considered if the fertilizer input is to decrease.

One proposed option is to forgo corn based fuel altogether instead opting for a cellulose ethonal.  This cellulose based ethanol has a more complex refining process however uses markedly less fertilizer and produces more net energy. 

Who knew that energy policies could have such an impact on Dead Zones?

Case Study- The Black Sea




The Black Sea is a historically important one when it comes to deadzones.  At its worse during the 1970’s-80’s the black sea ecosystem collapsed.  The collapse was due to several factors, the most major being massive amounts of nitrogen (in the form of fertilizer) being injected into the system, leading to the collapse.  From that collapse an estimated 60millon tons of organisms were lost, 5 million of which were fish.  Resulting economic impacts were huge, losses in the fishing and tourism industries totaling near 2.5 billon. 
Then came the collapse of the Soviet Union, and with it huge reduction in fertilizers.  Recently because of the complete turnaround in environmental strains the black sea deadzone is almost nonexistent.

The Black Sea’s history is a poignant one, highlighting the direct relation between farming practices, environmental degradation, and subsequent recovery.  Hopefully, with this historical example, places like the Gulf of Mexico, or the Mediterranean Sea, history will not repeat itself, and the environments/people will not have to go through such wrenching calamity.

Surviving

The Good News

Dead zones are a large scale global issue, coming up on the verge of catastrophe. There are no economically viable solutions currently in practice, knowledge concerning them is fairly limited and the long term impact is still under intense debate. There are a range of highly negative ecologic, economic, societal and political ramifications from these developing areas, and most accounts see the situation getting worse for the foreseeable future.

With all that said, there may just be a silver lining, the zones appear to be reversible almost totally. While there may be long term impacts that have not been accounted for, the success story in the Black Sea shows that the theory that the situation is reversible is not only a theory, but actually a (somewhat challenging) practice. That situation was somewhat unique as rather than being driven by economic stimulus, it was driven by economic decline, which completely removed the wide spread use of artificial fertilizer, rather than trying to find some solution, however this was caused by total economic collapse of the region.

From this we can see a real possibility of repairing the damage, something not always feasible with ecologic disasters, oftentimes "slowing down the pace of the damage" is all that is feasible. Several solutions have been provided concerning the methods of controlling notogen runoff, and with enough voices and enough economic and socio-political pressure, this problem could not only be stopped from spreading,  but actually cured.

We are not alone


I am delighted to share some of my findings with you.  While blogs and sites like this one do an excellent job of raising awareness it is heartening to see some tangible powers that be, made aware of the situation.  The team over at Ocean Champions are doing an awesome job as advocates for our earth’s oceans. They have been instrumental in getting a bill, directly related to the Dead Zones around the US, in front of the US Congress.  The bill addresses harmful algae blooms, or HAB’s which one of the main contributors to dead zones.

To read more or get involved, go to http://www.oceanchampions.org/index.php

It’s good to know we are not alone in this fight isn’t it?

Helping Out Around the House


Getting kids involved in around the house is a great way to show them their actions can make a difference.  You don’t have to live near a dead zone to help out, it is important to keep all of our water ways clean and healthy.  There are many things children and families can do to minimize the amount of pollutants that enter your local rivers and streams. 

In your yard

Go easy on the chemicals: always follow the directions on the label and never pour excess chemical down storm drains.  

Don’t over water: too much water can carry chemicals or nutrients into ground water or storm drains.
 Try using compost instead of chemical fertilizer.  A worm bin can speed up the process plus children can help build the bin.  

photo from watershedactivities.com
Cars

Go to the car wash: washing your car at home might save a few bucks but the water flows into the storm drain.  Unlike the pluming in your house, storm drain water is not treated and flows directly into water ways.  Going through the car wash is also pretty fun.  If you are going to wash at home be sure to us biodegradable soap. 

Fix leaks as soon as you notice them: anything leaked onto the pavement will end up getting washed away by rain and end up in river and streams.

Pets

Pick it up: left outside rain carries bacteria and excess nutrients and possible parasites into water ways.  Yuck!  Make you always bring a bag when you take your dog for a walk.

Looking for more ways to help?

Volunteer to help clean up rivers, plant a vegetable garden or help out on a local organic farm.

Economics

The economic impact of dead zones

The fishing industry is a major food source, particularly in certain regions. Food in general, as one of the necessities of human survival, tends to be a fairly large business. In the case of the dead zone of the southern coast of the US, there is a shrimping industry that has an annual income of in excess of half a billion dollars. This has formed some economic incentive to start researching the issue, however other regions where either the fishing hasn't been affected yet, or are not attached to a first world country do not seem to be under extensive research. 

In the case of the US the situation has conistently appeared to be run off as the cause of the dead zones, however the solution to this and other possible causes are still relatively poorly understood. Without funding the global fish population could suffer, which would have a negative impact starting with the fishing industry, and rippling throughout the entire food industry potentially. This is one of the reasons why some groups are trying to push forward solutions to farmers that are economically viable, but the long term impact of these solutions is still poorly understood.

The bottom line is that there is still too little research to adequately understand the full long term ramifications of the dead zones in the world. While work is being done to remedy that, the economic impact is looking increasingly gloomy, particularly when the positive impact of the disappearance of the dead zone in the Black Sea is factored in. If you consider the fact that the industry should have been there all along and wasn't, it's reasonable to assume the tough times may be ahead for certain groups in the US.

More on Artificial Fertilizers


Money money money(and life...)

So why is it so difficult to ban artificial fertilizers? The simple answer to that is population. The more complex answer is population and economics. Currently the human population is heavily sustained by the use of artificial fertilizers, in fact it is estimated that 40-60% of the current crop yields are due to artificial fertilizers and that is expected to increase. That means that a large portion of the human population is sustained via the use of these additives. From this it can be seen that without some replacement, or a massive depopulation(unlikely and unethical) artificial fertilizers are here to stay.

As for replacement, there aren't many options that are feasible. Artificial fertilizers rely heavily on fossil fuels in their production in the form of natural gas (which is non-renewable, but that's yet another issue to be dealt with), and there aren't many other substances that can offer that level of potential energy. Manure based fertilizers, such as chicken litter are sold at a premium for several reasons, not the least of which is that it's more effective, but also because it's more rare. There is a similar situation with other forms of manure.

This gets even more tricky when the issue is brought to light that organic fertilizer doesn't solve the problem. In some senses, even "organic" fertilizer is still artificial...it is still trucked in, it is still added to the dirt, it is still an artificial runoff. It is also effective and has some unusual properties, most notably controlled release, which makes it more desirable than synthetic fertilizer for certain applications. However it will still runoff into waterways where it will facilitate the growth of plants, leading to dead zones. Any additive to the earth that can run off will face this problem which is why the situation gets so complicated.

The primary solution proposed for this is to control runoff. This is, however, expensive...and corporations that control the food supply dislike seeing cuts in their profits. Without a clear economic incentive to control waste water runoff it is unlikely to be possible to reduce the outflow into the rivers, and therefore control the algal growth.

Artificial Fertilizers


What are artificial fertilizers and what are they good for

Dead zones are caused by a variety of factors, but one of the most common is the use of artificial fertilizers. One of the most successful cleanups in the Black Sea was actually caused by stopping the usage of artificial fertilizers(this was actually not intentional, an economic collapse in the region led to the inability to use these farming techniques, but that's another story). So one question that immediately follows is "why not stop using artificial fertilizers full stop? The answer to that is somewhat complex, and the short of it is that it's almost certainly impractical to do so.

So what is artificial fertilizer anyways?

Artificial fertilizer is soil with a variety of additives designed to make it yield a better crop. The biggest and most notable(and most infamous) of these is nitrogen, which also happens to be what we are interested in. In the 1800's a process for extracting nitrogen was developed and leveraged to insert this nitrogen into the soil. This nitrogen has a lot of potential energy, which is good for fueling things such as plant growth or explosions (hence fertilizer bombs, in fact a good deal of the original research for extracting nitrogen was from military developments). Today a more modern process known as the Haber-Bosch process is used, but the idea remains the same, take dirt, add macronutrients for plants to eat, add nitrogen and voila, good fertilizer. These ingredients are found naturally in several places, most notably in manure, however not in quite as ideal quantities as in artificial fertilizers.

Only a small portion of the nitrogen actually goes into the plants, so the rest is runoff, which is where it goes into the ocean. In the ocean it has exactly the same effect that it does on land, it causes plants to grow really well. If these plants happen to be certain types of algae, then the air is consumed in water and dead zones occur. There is a certain irony that an excess of life causes death, but this an example of natures delicate balance, if one plant gets too greedy or successful, the whole system suffers.

Artificial fertilizer is one of the major achievements of the industrial revolution, and to this day is one of the most influential inventions ever made. This is also only a brief overview of the whole details, for example there are both organic and inorganic fertilizers, there are a variety of styles and recipes for making and a variety of ways they are used, however the fundamental goal of these fertilizers is to make stuff grow, and when they are turned into runoff, they are still active, and succeed in the ocean as well as they did on land, disrupting a delicate ecosystem.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Solutions to Dead Zones

From Youtube user: LawerenceStillYou


Been searching high and low and all over the internet for an amusing video that can provide another way of explaining what dead zones are - and I found one! I discovered this short stop motion animation clip on Youtube and not only is it entertaining, but it explicitly explains what a dead zone is without any fancy scientific jargon! 

However, what the video doesn’t provide is a solution to dead zones. The simplest solution (although it’s been the most difficult to implement) is keeping our waters clean.

Some solutions might be:
- Reducing/Eliminating the run-off of fertilizer sediment from nearby farms. This solution is arguable the most difficult to attain because farmers rely heavily on fertilizer for their farms. But by reducing the amount of fertilizer used and only using what the soil can absorb can make a big difference in what is poured into the oceans.
- Better handling of chemical releases from factories and farms. The chemicals end up getting washed away into the nearby waters, creating more harm for the marine life.
- Take care of the environment. This can look like many things whether it’s spreading more awareness of the issue, donating or volunteering with an organization, by taking action we can continue saving the marine life in our oceans as well as build for a cleaner environment in the future.

Source: http://switchboard.nrdc.org/blogs/dbeckman/solutions_for_shrinking_the_de.html

- Luann Algoso



Dead Pigs Used to Investigate Dead Zones

I, for one, am a huge fan of pigs. Porky pig, Babe, Wilbur from Charlotte’s Web and so forth. Especially when they’re dead because who doesn’t love bacon? Apologies to all of the vegans and vegetarians out there! But this interesting use of dead pigs in order to further research dead zones is one that is unique and perhaps, never graced a scientist’s mind until now.

Pigs anatomy is quite similar to us humans as we “share their relatively hairless skin, are similar in size, and our flesh has a similar make-up” according to an article from BBC NEWS. A group of scientists from Canada collaborated on the idea of using dead pigs to study the effects of what happens to them when put in these dead zone areas. What then happened is Dr. Verena Tunnicliffe, professor of marine biology at the University of Victoria in Canada, and her team set out to find out "how low marine scavengers would go, in terms of oxygen, for a free lunch.”

Three pigs were lowered into different depths of sea levels, the first at the shallowest and the third at the deepest in order to see how far the sea creatures would make the trek, in low oxygen waters, in order to get the food. What results is a free-for-all buffet, guests ranging from crabs, shrimp, octopus and sea stars. Later in the research six-gill sharks were found devouring the pigs.

The purpose of the study, according to Tunnicliffe, is to recognize that "These scavengers get the carbon cycle back. We have to get the nutrients back in the system and start this restoration process." She says that this provides insight into how marine ecosystems can recover from hypoxia - and that it gives scientists some hope.

Source: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/8545155.stm

- Luann Algoso

Is drinking water pure enough?



Drinking water is taken mainly from the lakes and rivers that are supposedly pure water. Water -full of nitrogen and phosphorous- comes out the farms to these sources contaminating them with threatening nutrients. When the water is taken to be treated for drinking, it’s not really cleaned out of nitrate and phosphorus that are toxic to the living being. Nitrate could cause blue baby syndrome to infants and affect the thyroid gland in adults.

Cleaning water from these toxics is neither easy nor cheap! It costs more than $4.8 billion annually to remove nitrate by itself, and $12-$56 million for to treat water in a town of 100,000 people from cyanobacterial blooms and cyanotoxins caused by phosphorus (USDA).

As you can see, cleaning up all these pollutants is not easy; the more practical and satisfying solution is preventing this and looking up the source. Farms and the fertilizers they use is the cause. Congress should reward farmers who try to save drinking water. It all comes from their farms and would get better if they tried to make it better. We should all unify against theses pollutions and take action. We could contact the Congress and ask for strict regulations to prevent this. We could also volunteer or donate to some agencies to check the purity of our near source for drinking water –could be your tap water-. Some of these agencies are Clean Water Action, and Clean water Network. Last but not least, a little thing that each individual could do to protect their own drinking water is using filters.


Agencies:
Clean Water Action:
Clean Water Network:

Explaining Dead Zones to children


     Teaching and educating ourselves about Dead Zone is an important role, as well as teaching the new generation about it. It would provide them with a better sense and care to the environment they live in. Educating the young is the  weapon to find better solutions and make stronger impact, because if they got into it, they will try to do something about it even if it was later in their lives.
A simple experiment that could be applied to middle school age class taken from Teach ocean sience website. This experiment is as follow:

     Take three bottles, add tab water to the first, lake or river water to the second, and lake or river water to third. Add fertilizer to the last one and expose them all to the sunlight for few days. Let the students observe and record the changes to the color and smell that occur to each one of them. You could use Vernier lab probe to measure the oxygen readings as well. Keep all bottles in the dark afterwards and let the students observe them after few days again. That could teach them about Dead Zone and how they occur.


  

You don’t have to be a teacher to do this experiment; you can conduct it with your kids, siblings, or relatives. It’s very easy to perform and explain.

Source of the experiment: http://www.teachoceanscience.net/teaching_resources/education_modules/dead_zones/access_classroom_resources/

What does corn have to do with Dead zone?




Corn is the foremost source of nitrogen and also phosphorous related to dead zone of the Gulf of Mexico. The corn contributes 52% of nitrogen and 25% of phosphorous that are the major pollution components of the dead zones. The urge of growing corn aroused from it being a very good source for ethanol that’s used as a biofuel. The problem is not in the increasing growing of corn, but it’s in the corn farming. Corn receives 40% of the total fertilizers given to croplands in the US even though it is planted in less than 23% of the cropland. As a result for that, so many amounts of nitrogen and phosphorous are being washed away by the rain and melting ice and getting into the ground and to water surfaces.



Now what could be done to decrease the risks of growing corn? Stop planting it?

Maybe yes, but it wouldn’t be reasonable solution! The U.S. department of Agriculture states that most farmlands need to plant a winter cover crop that would benefit in preventing erosion and providing fertilizers for the next year’s crop. Another solution would be stop feeding the remainings of the corn after processing it into ethanol (proteins and nutrients) to animals. The material remaining is concentrated of phosphorous and if the animals’ waste is used as a fertilizer, it would increase phosphorus contamination in surface waters. So, be careful what you give to your livestock. A final solution would be using other sources for biofuels to make the urge of planting corn much less. These sources could be perennial grass and wood waste.

Some solutions offered for decreasing the Gulf Dead Zone threat


Here is an interesting video that talks about phytoplankton and its impacts on the Gulf dead zone. Phytoplankton are small organisms that provide us with almost half the oxygen we breathe. They live in the ocean and they provide other living creatures with oxygen. Since most of the Mississippi’s river areas are farmlands, and it happens every spring that these lands get fertilized with substances that it’s major components are nitrogen and phosphorous –the main nutrients polluting the ocean-. When it rains, these nutrients get rinsed into the river and eventually to the Gulf of Mexico. Phytoplankton lives on these nutrients, however, dead zone occurs there too. It’s true that Phytoplankton is an oxygen supplier, but it’s get eaten by the living creatures under water surfaces that leaves waste behind. The waste then settles into the bottom where some bacteria compose them using oxygen in the process, which result in low oxygen concentration and eventually disappearing of most of the marine animals.


A solution to that problem would be resolving the excess wash outs of fertilizers that get into the ocean. Farmers should start using winter cover crop that prevents erosion. Another solution could be using fertilizers that are friendly to the environment and lowering the amounts of the fertilizers used.



http://www.blogger.com/blogger.g?blogID=1516268549653363373#editor/target=post;postID=5228216103719439857

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Restoring the Chesapeake Bay

UD plant and soil science professor Deb Jaisi is examining how phosphorous contributes to Chesapeake Bay dead zone.
(Photo courtesy: University of Delaware/Kathy F. Atkinson)

Legislation and economic factors can present as an obstacle that might occur when attempting to preserve the vibrant and clean nature of our waters. In an article written in the Delaware First Media News by Noelle Swan, we see how the lack of funding and support from government agencies can ultimately halt the progress of restoring the Chesapeake Bay. University of Delaware associate professor of plant and soil science, Deb Jaisi, talks about the severe conditions of the Chesapeake Bay that have been accumulating over the last few decades.

“Restoration efforts in recent decades have helped improved water quality and ecological conditions in the Chesapeake Bay. However, the extent and severity of [the dead zone] has not improved as expected,” said Deb Jaisi associate professor of plant and soil science at the University of Delaware.

This past summer, in 2011, the Chesapeake received its worst report card yet from EcoCheck, a partnership between NOAA and the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, despite concerted efforts to reduce the amount of nutrients released into the bay through human activities.”

The reason for the dead zone in the Chesapeake Bay is the high amount of phosphorous found in the water.

“Jaisi believes that a hidden record of phosphorous concentrations lies buried in the Bay floor. By decoding that record, he hopes to learn how concentrations have changed over time, and potentially pinpoint when and how a nutrient found in the bay for centuries became a pollutant capable of threatening the health of the entire bay.”

The problem is prevalent for Jaisi as well as the rest of the community of which it affects, however the budget to continue funding the restoration of the bay dwindles, as states try to balance the budget each year to accommodate.

“Doing more to reduce pollution in Chesapeake Bay will require significant financial investments, at a time when states are struggling to balance their budgets. The economic climate is tough, but efforts to clean up the Chesapeake Bay have been taking place for 20 to 30 years. We can’t delay implementation of additional pollution control measures because of costs,” said Nicholas DiPasquale, director of the Chesapeake Bay Program at the Environmental Protection Agency. “We must also consider the economic and non-economic benefits that will result from these efforts.”

Although funding is still being debated, there has been slow progress from the work that has already been implemented to the bay. “Numbers of striped bass, or rockfish, an important commercial and recreational sp that lives in the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries dwindled in the 1980s, but since then the fish has recovered.”

The more information of the status of these dead zones and how much of an impact they make on our environment, can hopefully lead to more policy and legislation changes, making way for more funding to support these restoration projects.

Source:
http://www.delawarefirst.org/27307-research-chesapeake-bay-dead-zone

- Luann Algoso

Simple Way of Understanding Dead Zones


The nature of dead zones is an area of public interest that lacks, well, the interest. Unless you’re an aspiring biologist or future scientist of a related-area, you might not have a clue as to what a dead zone actually is. Like me for example! Prior to taking this course, I didn’t have the slightest clue as to what a dead zone consisted of. But in simple layman’s terms a dead zone “is an area in a river or bay that doesn't have enough oxygen in the water to sustain the presence of fish, crabs, and shrimp” as stated by Allison Quantz from the Virginia Foundation for Humanities. If you are like me and you need a simple demonstration as to what dead zones consist of, why it happens and what you can do to eliminate them, then watch this video from Assignment Earth.

If more people become aware of the current state of our oceanic environments, we can establish a better and cleaner ocean, the animals that live there and provide a better future for future generations.






Source:
http://wamu.org/news/12/05/17/dead_zones_reversible_virginia_biologist_says

- Luann Algoso

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Dead Zones trigger sex changes study says


From earlier blog post we come to the understanding of what deadzones are and what happens in them and why are the caused. I would like to discuss something I found out to be very interesting that I found while looking up information on deadzones. I came across this news article that discussed deadzones, but also what happens to some of the fish that are in those dead zones. 

What mainly that is discussed is that of the findings of Rudolf Wu PH.D at City University of Hong Kong. What he finds is that the fish he studied have changed some of there sex characteristics. Overall there were 75percent of fish that have male characteristics. While in a normal ratio it should be 60% male and 40% female. I will post a link to the news article so everyone could look at it.

I find out interesting that this happens in deadzones and that it is not more well known around the world. I feel that we as society should be more informed about this kind of stuff because at the end of the day if this keeps happening with having more male fish then female fish then mating for the fish well go down. Then that will make the fish population go down as well. With that being said we already have a problem with it as it is.

Link to Article
http://www.underwatertimes.com/news.php?article_id=23608179104

Don’t Hate the Algae



With all the talk of dead zones caused by phytoplankton, it is important to understand that this menace is not always so devastating.  Under normal conditions phytoplankton is provides a much needed element in local ecosystems, also directly effecting us as these little guys produce about half the oxygen that we breath.  What causes issues is that; if they hit a nutrient rich area (caused by nitrogen ritch fertilizer for example) they will overfeed, creating what’s known as an algae bloom.  As the massive amount of plankton begin to die this process uses oxygen this is normally mitigated by ocean currents churning the waters and dispersing the less originated waters.  When the water is stagnating due to location or a higher temperature that’s what creates a dead zone and when the real damage is caused. 

So don’t get it twisted, phytoplankton are friends, we just need to make sure to keep them a little hungry by keeping our fertilizer out of the oceans.

Source-

Monday, June 11, 2012

The Issue of Poaching


This past week I was going through the channels and I came apron a show called "Wild Justice" that was on the national geographic channel. I watched the show and I came away with a lot of useful information. The people on the show is talking about poaching. Which is illegally taking of wild plants and or animals. There is many different types of poaching like killing a dear that isn't legal and or when it's not in season to kill. The people who are in charged of helping protect them are California game wardens. I would highly recommend everyone watch the show if you are interested learning more.



Now the issue of poaching is not just hurting one type of wildlife it's hurting many different types of wildlife. It hurts the deer. Then also it hurts the crab's when they are hunted or captured during mating season. Some animals are killed illegally so that parts of them can be sold for cash on the black market. The thing that gets me the most is that more poaching id done to endanger species that those that are not endangered. Like for example with Rhinos that's becoming more and more popular. Now this staticts are from Africa but still poaching is poaching.  


Sunday, June 10, 2012

Red Tide in La Jolla Beach and the Afflicted Sea Lions




Surfrider Foundation National Office http://www.beachapedia.org/Domoic_Acid_and_Sea_Lions
Wikipedia

You are looking at red tides in Southern California near the Surfrider Foundation National Office. The red tides can be beautiful to look at, however, they are dangerous to the ocean, as well as to marine life. The subtle brown, purple, and red hue, can be seen in this part of the ocean during the summer, and as late as October in the fall; they have been proven to be harmful to the sea lion population, as well as other marine life. When the water becomes discolored it is because the algal has become dense. The red tide is on the surface and the algal blooms very rapidly come together to form the discoloration of the water. You can see these colors in a vibrant blue at night. You can also put the water in a jar and take it into a dark room and see the blue color. (which exhibits algal)
 

Domoic acid which is a naturally-occurring neurotoxin found in plankton when it blooms, has been the cause of hundreds of sea lions falling to an early death. The sea lions naturally eat sardines, mussels, clams and anchovies, which have injested the plankton. When the toxin begins to affect the hippocampus, (part of the brain) the marine mammal begins to deteriorate. What you will see the sea lion exhibiting when they have been infected with this domoic acid is, bobbing, mucus coming from the mouth, bulging of the eyes, head weaving, disorientation and sometimes even seizures. The ailing sea lions are almost always female and they are usually pregnant. Not much can be done unfortunately, for the afflicted sea lions. There have been times when Dr.s have given vitamin B12 mixed with 4 liters of an electrolyte solution to flush out the poison . They also receive medication to help control the seizures. However, the survival rate is only 25-50%. That is a very low percentage The suffering of these animals should not be happening. The deterioration is not fast. Look again at the pictures of the expired sea lions.

So, what can you do to help? How can you help save our marine animals and our oceans? Please click on the url provided and consider joining this wonderful cause.

-Kelly Peters

Sources:

http://www.beachapedia.org/Domoic_Acid_and_Sea_Lions
http://www.beachapedia.org/Red_Tides_and_Harmful_Algal_Blooms#Human_Illness_Associated_with_


Harmful_Algae

Gulf of Mexico: Paradise or Zone of Death?


     The Gulf of Mexico...we think of the beach, spring vacation and fun in the sun. But while taking a dip next time, consider the fact that you may be in the midst of a dead zone!

     The Gulf of Mexico is a large salt water basin enclosed by southern United States, Mexico, and the Island of Cuba. While often warm, inviting waters, a large 6 to 7 square miles of this basin makes up one of the largest dead zones in the world.


     Extending from the Mississippi River Delta to the upper Texas Coast, the dead zone can be seen even by satellite images showing millions of tons of nutrients being washed from land in to the ocean. Overloads of nitrogen and phosphorus caused by run off from all the major farming states of Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois, Wisconsin, Missouri, Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Louisiana. Many tons of fertilizers, soil erosion, animal wastes, and sewage are dumped into the ocean. The large input of nitrogen and phosphorus sparks a boom in algae, then a chain reaction of major oxygen depletion.

    As we saw with the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the Gulf of Mexico is a huge supplier of most of North Americas seafood industry. 72% of U.S. harvested shrimp, 66% of harvested oysters, and 16% of commercial fish (Potash and Phosphate Institutes of the U.S. and Canada, 1999) directly come from the gulf. These dead zones are potential killers for all sea life and directly limit the seafood industry. If we are not mindful of our interaction with the planet, the fishing industry might very well become a subject for the history books.


-Justin Buley




Saturday, June 9, 2012

Teacher Resources

After teaching children about dead zones use this word find, cross word puzzle, and maze as a way to keep them engaged in the topic.  The word puzzles help to improve vocabulary and test comprehension.
 

Northwest Fishing



Oregonians such as myself have grown up in a part of the world full of life and nature. With thick forest, beautiful beaches, and hundreds of rivers a streams, it's almost impossible to see all what Oregon has to offer in its own backyard. We are very much spoiled with the amount of things we can do outdoors. One pass time that puts Oregon on the map is it's Fishing. I grew up fishing alongside my father, fishing for just about anything and just about anywhere. When I was young I mostly fished for smaller breeds such as bass and bluegill. But these days I've become very fond of fishing for larger species such as Salmon and Steelhead (A steelhead is a trout that has gone out into the ocean and gotten much bigger). It takes a lot of preparation, patience and skill, but if you have all three than you might just be able to land a fish.
The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife maintains strict rules and regulations regarding almost all fish species in Oregon, along with the waters they live in. More prized fish like Salmon and Steelhead, trout, sturgeon and habit, carry more rules and regulations  compared to smaller breeds such as bass, bluegill, croppy, and catfish. In order to catch and keep these more sought after fish, a fisherman must first buy a yearlong fishing license, along with a harvest tag. This puts you back about 70 dollars (8 more bucks will get you a shellfish license if you enjoy clamming). Once you have your tags you are ready to go. But before you go, you must know the rules and regulations for both the fish you are fishing for and the water you are fishing in. For example, there are times when you cannot fish for salmon. And some lakes don't allow you to use live bait for trout. Other common rules range from hook size to the size of fish you can keep.
Great strides have been made to preserve fish populations while allowing fishermen to keep doing what they love. Fisherman CANNOT keep a salmon or steelhead that has grown up in the wild. They can only keep salmon and steelhead that were raised in a hatchery. Oregon has many hatchery plants that grow salmon, steelhead, as well as trout. Fish are grown in these hatchery's and Before the salmon and steelhead are let into the wild their adipose fin is clipped off. Located between the dorsal and tail fin, it is small and offers nothing for the fish. When a salmon or steelhead is caught it's easy to tell if it's a hatchery fish, because it will be missing said fin. This fin clipping system, along with daily/yearly catching limits, is what keep salmon and steelhead populations level. Trout are also grown in these hatchery's and hundreds of thousands are released into lakes and rivers each year.
Of course there are many things that disrupt and hurt salmon and steelhead. The most threatening is dams. When they first started putting in damns into Oregon they did not think much about how they would affect the fish, people just wanted more power. Majors advances have been made to save fish, but dams still remain a threat to salmon and steelhead, along with other species. A 2nd threat is sea lions. Animal lovers might love them but if you're a salmon it's your worst nightmare. Sea lion populations have been on the rise for many years. They are towards the top of the food chain (besides sharks) and because of the little to no natural predators the sea lions have started to impact salmon and steelhead population levels. Shooting sea lions has been an option but it has encountered much resistance. Illegal fishing is another small problem. Heavy fines are set in place for those who do but it can be hard for rangers to monitor all bodies of water. As a fisherman myself, I respect the rules that are set in place. Anyone who puts the effort into going out and trying to catch a salmon illegally faces the same challenge legal fisherman do. Many times you might not catch anything. And when you do catch  a salmon it's not uncommon for it to take 3 to 4 hours. It really depends on how you are fishing and where but not matter what, it is always as challenge to catch salmon and steelhead. To be honest, it's cheaper to go buy one as the store, but that's no challenge at all.  

to conclude, fishing is fun, and I encourage everyone to try it. Start small and go find a pond and catch some bass, but once you are ready I suggest you buy the right tags and licensees and go catch a salmon or steelhead. Many dedicated people are in place to keep fish populations level and productive, so your legal fishing trip won't even make a dent. You'll find Fishermen to be some of the most active wildlife preservation experts in Oregon, and I urge you to learn more about the many advances and setbacks actively occurring in Oregon's waters. 

-Richard Jossy