The New Normal for Coral Scientists
As the Australian Coral Reef Society gathered in a remote part of Western Australia this week for its 91st annual conference, the focus was on climate change and the bleaching events that have devastated coral ecosystems – and what that means for the next generation of coral scientists.
“It continuously shocks me how long we’ve been talking about this. There is now no escaping extreme heat waves,” Tracy Ainsworth, an associate professor at the University of New South Wales, told delegates to the conference in Exmouth, near the Ningaloo Reef. “It’s not just in your careers that this is normal, it’s your lives. I find that shocking. We’re coming up on 40 years talking about temperature increase and corals.”
Ainsworth, who studies the impact of environmental change on corals and orals and their microbial symbionts, said that despite all the research on the effects of extreme heat on corals and reef ecosystem in recent years, “What we don’t know is vast. We don’t know coral bleaching as well as we think.”
She noted that about half the conference-goers were 32 years of age or younger and had never experienced a normal temperature month. “As career cohorts, you’re being handed a rapidly changing system,” Ainsworth said. “We have a system that is changing fast and we don’t know what’s coming next.”
North America’s Fisheries Shifting as Climate Warms
Warming oceans could wreak havoc on North American fisheries as hundreds of fish and invertebrate species move north, according to a new study.
The research, published in PLOS One, combined survey data taken from tens of thousands of bottom trawls of the continental shelf that revealed the temperature preferences of 686 fish and invertebrate species, such as cod, sea bass and Alaskan king crab. Scientists then analyzed how fish ranges would change under low emission and high greenhouse gas emission scenarios.
The authors found the majority of species would move poleward along the coasts. “I was really surprised at how large some of the shifts in habitat were – over 1,000 miles in some cases,” Rutgers University-New Brunswick ecologist Malin Pinsky told Oceans Deeply. On the United States West Coast, species would move either 200km (125 miles) or 1,125km (700 miles) north, on average, under the low- and high-emission futures respectively, for example.
“We’ve already seen substantial shifts in species locations over the past 50 years, especially for the last couple of decades. Some fishing boats are traveling farther, other fishermen are finding it harder to catch the species they’ve caught traditionally,” said Pinsky, whose research was funded by the National Marine Fisheries Service and the Pew Charitable Trusts.
Saildrone Set to Expand Global Ocean Coverage
Saildrone, the California-based company that makes autonomous ocean drones powered by the wind and sun, announced this week it had raised $60 million to scale up its operations.
The company’s technology is being increasingly used by marine scientists to gather ocean data that would otherwise be more expensive or time-consuming to collect. For example, researchers recently used a pair of Saildrones as part of an expedition to understand long-mysterious migrations of great white sharks. The company has also worked in close collaboration with the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and more recently teamed up with Australia’s government research organization. Saildrone says it will use the new funds to “scale up its global fleet” toward the goal of monitoring ocean health in real time.
According to Bloomberg’s recent profile, the company plans to build 200 vehicles by the end of 2018. It estimates that 1,000 autonomous vehicles would be enough to extensively cover the global ocean.