On The Radio- Decreasing fish populations


5321957538_f476d2560a_o.jpg
(flickr/nanarab)

Kasey Dresser| May 20, 2019

This weeks segment looks at how fish populations are decreasing as ocean temperatures continue to increase. 

Transcript: 

Overfishing is not the only factor decreasing fish populations.

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus.

A study published in the journal, Science, tracked the changes of 235 fish and shellfish populations from 1930 to 2010. Throughout that time, the Earth’s ocean temperatures have increased on average by half a degree Celcius.

Eight percent of the fish and shellfish in the study showed depleting populations. Four percent of the populations increased however, since fish like black sea bass thrive in warm water. As water temperatures continue to increase, those gains will not be sustained.

Christopher Free, a quantitative ecologist at the University of California Santa Barbara, referred to this trend as the fish and shellfish reaching their heat thresholds. Currently,124 species of fish and shellfish are on route to becoming an unstable food source.

3.2 billion people worldwide rely on seafood as their primary source of protein. These findings are meant to inform local fisheries of the changing populations so they can begin to take these findings into account.

For more information, visit Iowa environmental focus dot org.

From the UI Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research, I’m Sara E. Mason.

 

The financial cost of climate change


white polar bear on white snowy field near canal during daytime
Melting permafrost does more than threaten polar bears and arctic animals | Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Natalia Welzenbach-Marcu | April 24th, 2019

Melting permafrost and an arctic damaged from environmental changes could cost the world a pretty penny.

Permafrost–areas of rock or sediment that are frozen for at least two consecutive years–is thawing. And it’s not doing the environment any favors.

As permafrost thaws, the sediment released previously trapped methane gas and carbon. When released into the atmosphere, these elements will only accelerate our already rapidly rising global temperature by roughly 5%, costing humans a collective $70 trillion from the extra damage. The severity of consequences from this thaw has lead scientists to label melting permafrost a “tipping point”.

Tipping points are natural events that tip us even further into environmental ruin. Like dominoes, these events can stack and trigger each other, leading to a truly unfortunate series of events.

Research into this particular tipping point was conducted by a team at the UK’s Pentland Centre for Sustainability in Business in Lancaster. The report was published in Nature Communications. Scientists monitored the thaw rate of the permafrost zone and took samples of deep soil to determine the rate of carbon and methane release.

This new discovery seems dire, but if countries comply with their Paris agreements, the permafrost thaw can be slowed, reducing the additional climate damage from $70 trillion to roughly $25 trillion. Either way, it seems like we’re paying.

Plastic is damaging us–we must agree on a solution


garbage

Natalia Welzenbach-Marcu

There are countless essays, articles, and news flashes warning of the environmental cost of non-biodegradable plastic. Plenty of climate scientists have warned the public about plastic particles in the ocean and in our water supply, making clear the consequences of continuing forward on the path we’re currently walking.

But these warnings can often fall on deaf ears, as many nations are too focused on managing plastic waste and not on the overall reduction of plastic.

Minimizing our reliance on single-use plastic is a major way to keep the environmental cost of this inexpensive product down.

At a recent UN environmental assembly–held in Kenya–a disagreement emerged over the best way to deal with plastic as a threat. With the conversation on plastic production derailing into plastic waste management, a derailment mainly pushed by the US.

Because of this, calls to “phase out” single-use plastic by 2030 were changed after insistence to “greatly reduce” single-use plastic by the same rough date. This vague goal has lead to some scrutiny from environmentalists of the UN, as they fear that a nebulous solution with no legally binding documentation is no solution at all.

On The Radio- Microplastic pollution affecting aquatic organisms


4965073382_0127d787e7_o.jpg
Plastic washed up on a beach shore (Neil Brown/flickr)

Kasey Dresser| February 11, 2019

This weeks segment looks at developing research on the effects of microplastic pollution.

Transcript:

Scientists are still researching the dangerous effects of microplastic pollution. 

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus. 

A microplastic is defined as any piece of plastic measuring five millimeters in size or smaller. Every year 400 million tons of plastic are produced worldwide. A significant percentage of the plastic becomes litter and can take hundreds of years to decompose. Humans and other species can absorb plastic chemicals and aquatic organisms can absorb these small pieces of plastic into their skin.

Dr. Natalia Ivleva and her team from the Technical University of Munich Institute of Hydochemistry recently wrote a summary report of the technology they are using to test the effects of micro plastic on species. 

When scientists began to notice plastic entering the environment they used optical methods to observe damage. 

More recently scientists began utilizing heat analysis paired with gas chromatography. These methods helps determine the quantity and type of plastic but struggle to determine the size of the particles. 

Using new methods researchers at the Munich Institute were able to confirm plastic in the digestive tracts of water fleas and that mussels digest small particles of plastic under their shells.

Over the next several decades, plastic pollution is predicted to increase. At the end of her report Dr Ivelva emphasized the importance of plastic recycling in the new year. 

For more information, visit iowa-environmental-focus dot org.

From the UI Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research, I’m Sara E. Mason. 

Climate Assessment predicts water stress on multiple levels for U.S.


Screen Shot 2018-11-29 at 10.04.30 AM
This graphic from the Fourth National Climate Assessment shows groundwater depletion in U.S. aquifers a decade ago. Today, these underground water supplies are even more depleted. 

Julia Poska| November 30, 2018

We already know climate change is having major impacts on rainfall. The 2018 Iowa Climate Statement said the strongest rainfall events of the year may double in intensity by 2025.  Climate change will alter the hydrologic cycle in other ways as well, majorly changing society’s relationship with water.

The Fourth National Climate Assessment, controversially released Black Friday, details the forecasted changes to water supplies in the U.S.. It compiles the findings of over 300 experts and has been reviewed by 13 federal agencies, in an effort to inform top decision-makers and common citizens.

More intense rainfall will be met with more intense drought and reduced snowpack, which is bad news for communities that rely on glacial melt for their water supply. These changes are exacerbating water availability issues caused primarily by overuse of groundwater aquifers in much of the U.S..

As higher temperatures create even higher demand for water for drinking and irrigation, this problem will only get worse and worse, which will have major implications for both the food supply and the industrial sector.

The altered hydrologic cycle will impact the quality of our limited quantity of water as well. Rising water temperatures will impact the health of ecosystems, and changes  runoff patterns of pollutants into water will impact human health and pose challenges for water treatment facilities. Sea level rise could also threaten coastal drinking water supplies with the potential intrusion of saltwater flooding.

The report says the biggest water issues for the Midwest are adapting stormwater management systems and managing harmful algae blooms. Iowa is already familiar with floods produced by intense rainfall.  Algae blooms, fueled by nutrient-runoff from farm fields, will be further increased by rising temperatures.

Other water-related challenges detailed in the assessment include the deterioration of water infrastructure and managing water more strategically in the future.

 

Social inequality and coping with climate change


7838028244_50a63cd343_z.jpg
Coastal communities are among the most vulnerable as climate change alters global conditions (flickr)

Julia Poska| November 1, 2018

As climate changes around the world, certain areas will become inhospitable to human life; coasts will flood, city water supplies will face crises, and islands will disappear. Unfortunately, people living in such areas cannot always cope with the change, according to a new study published in Annual Review of Environment and Resources. 

“Many of the people most at risk from environmental changes have the fewest freedoms and therefore the least ability to adapt in the face of such difficulties,” said lead author Jon Barnett in a media release.

Worldwide evidence compiled by Barnett and other researchers from the Universities of Melbourne and Exeter suggests that protecting human rights and freedoms is key  to reducing the impacts of climate change for the vulnerable. Freedom of movement is especially important, as it  provides those facing environmental threats the option to leave.

The Australian researchers highlighted the perils threatening Pacific Islanders in their report. The tiniest islands of Micronesia and Melanesia could be underwater in a matter of decades as sea levels rise. Policies in Australia and New Zealand that welcome islanders to move to mainland create security for those people, who typically have minimal economic and political resources.

 

 

On The Radio- Climate change affecting the moss in Antartica


2211669380_dabb7e5a6f_o.jpg
Red lichens, moss, hair grass, and pearlwort make up the fauna of Antarctic (Karen Chase/ flickr)

Kasey Dresser | October 15, 2018

This weeks segment highlights the affect of climate change on plant life in East Antartica.

Transcript:

There is evidence of climate change affecting moss beds in East Antarctica.

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus.

In East Antarctica, green moss beds emerge after the snow melts for 6 weeks. West Antarctica and the Antarctic Peninsula have experienced significant climate changes, but East Antarctica was yet to experience anything major.

Professor Sharon Robinson from the University of Wollongon in Australia was surprised to see abrupt changes in the moss. In 2003 the monitoring system was first set up and the moss beds were lush and bright green. When her team returned in 2008 the majority of the plants were red. The dark red color indicates the plant is stressed.

The red pigment is meant to act as sunscreen. On the team’s most recent trip to East Antarctica, there were also patches of grey moss indicating the plant is starting to die. This behavior is caused by a drying climate in the region. It is now too cold and windy for the moss beds to live primarily under water. The drier climate is a result of climate change and ozone depletion.

For more information, visit iowa-environmental-focus-dog-org.

From the UI Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research, I’m Sara E. Mason.