Mexico creates vast new ocean reserve to protect ‘Galapagos of North America’

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Mexico’s government has created the largest ocean reserve in North America around a Pacific archipelago regarded as its crown jewel. The measures will help ensure the conservation of marine creatures including whales, giant rays and turtles. The protection zone spans 57,000 sq miles (150,000 sq km) around the Revillagigedo islands, which lie 242 miles (390 km) south-west of the Baja California peninsula.

Mexico’s president, Enrique Peña Nieto, announced the decision in a decree that also bans mining and the construction of new hotels on the islands. He said on Saturday that the decree reaffirmed the country’s “commitment to the preservation of the heritage of Mexico and the world”.

The four volcanic islands that make up the Revillagigedo archipelago, called the Galapagos of North America, are part of a submerged volcanic mountain range. The surrounding waters, east of Hawaii, are home to hundreds of species of animals and plants, including rays, humpback whales, sea turtles, lizards and migratory birds. The local ecosystem is central to the lives of some 400 species of fish, sharks and ray that depend on the nutrients drawn up by the ocean. The area is a breeding ground for commercially fished species such as tuna and sierra. However, the various fish populations had suffered, unable to reproduce fast enough for the rate at which they were fished.

The creation of a marine reserve is expected to help them to recover, as all fishing activities will now be prohibited. This will be policed by the Mexican navy. The news has been praised by WWF, the conservation organisation. Mario Gómez, executive director of Beta Diversidad, a Mexican environment charity that has supported the reserve’s creation, also welcomed the move.

“We are proud of the protection we will provide to marine life in this area, and for the preservation of this important centre of connectivity of species migrating throughout the Pacific,” Gómez said.

Matt Rand, director of the Pew Bertarelli ocean legacy project, told HuffPost that the reserve was “biologically spectacular” and commended the Mexican government. “It wasn’t an easy decision because they had significant opposition from the commercial fishing industry, which I think is unfortunate,” Rand said. “I would love to see a commercial industry embrace this notion that certain areas should be protected.”

The United Nations convention on biological diversity aims to protect 10% of the world’s oceans by 2020.

However, some experts argue that protecting 30% of the world’s oceans from exploitation and harm would be a more appropriate goal in the drive for a more sustainable planet. Just 6% of the global ocean has been set aside as marine protected areas or been earmarked for future protection.

Sourcetheguardian.com

 

 

Fears for world’s rarest penguin as population plummets

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Almost half the breeding population of the world’s most endangered penguin species, the yellow-eyed penguin, has disappeared in one part of New Zealand and conservation groups believe commercial fishing is to blame. The yellow-eyed penguin is endemic to New Zealand’s South Island and sub-Antarctic islands, where there are just 1,600 to 1,800 left in the wild, down from nearly 7,000 in 2000. During a recent survey of the island sanctuary of Whenua Hou (Codfish Island), department of conservation staff made the alarming discovery that close to half the island’s breeding population of penguins had vanished. Elsewhere in New Zealand the bird’s population is at its lowest level in 27 years.

Forest & Bird’s chief executive Kevin Hague said because the island was predator-free the evidence pointed to the animals being caught and drowned in the nets of commercial fishing trawlers. Only 3% of commercial trawlers have independent observers on them to report bycatch deaths.

“Unlike previous years where disease and high temperatures caused deaths on land, this year birds have disappeared at sea,” said Hague.

“There is an active set net fishery within the penguins’ Whenua Hou foraging ground, and the indications are that nearly half the Whenua Hou hoiho population has been drowned in one or more of these nets.”

Last year 24 nests were recorded on Whenua Hou, but this year rangers only found 14. Penguin numbers are declining in other parts of the South Island as well, and researchers fear the beloved bird, which appears on the New Zealand $5 note, is heading ever closer to extinction.

Yellow-eyed Penguin Trust general manager Sue Murray said every effort was being made to save the birds by conservation groups, but the birds faced multi-pronged threats from disease to dogs and climate change.

“The trust has huge concerns for the future of hoiho [yellow-eyed penguins] on Whenua Hou given their rapid decline. Our focus must be the marine environment where hoiho spend at least half of their life as it is unlikely that terrestrial impacts are a major factor in the decline here”. The penguins – which are small and have yellow eyes – can be found from Banks Peninsula near Christchurch to as far south as the sub-Antarctic islands.

University of Otago’s Thomas Mattern, a penguin expert, told the Otago Daily Times he believed time was running out for the birds.

“Quite frankly, the yellow-eyed penguins, in my professional opinion, are on their way out,” Mattern said.

Source: theguardian.com

 

Designed to collect trash from ocean, the first ‘Seabin’ has just been installed in Canada

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An Australian company has brought a new and innovative device to Canada. It’s called a “Seabin” and the purpose is simple — to help clean up trash in the ocean.

The devices are installed in specific problem areas at marinas, yacht clubs, ports or other calm bodies of water. Because of their positioning, the wind and the currents are able to bring the debris to collect in the Seabin.

“A Seabin is basically a floating trash bin that we put in the marinas and it just sits there on the floating docks and it collects all the plastics, the debris, some surface oils,” said Peter Ceglinski, the CEO and co-founder of The Seabin Project. Ceglinski and his team have been working on the Seabin idea for six years. It’s estimated that one Seabin can catch an estimated 1.5 kilograms of floating debris per day.

Halifax’s Royal Nova Scotia Yacht Squadron is the first location in Canada to have a Seabin installed. “The constitution of the Royal Nova Scotia Yacht Squadron is all about seamanship, and part of seamanship is taking care of our environment,” said Commodore David Stanfield.

The Clean Nova Scotia Foundation, a group dedicated to creating a cleaner climate, is excited to see the new technology in action.

“This Seabin is to me, amazing, because it’s a tool that can be used by a lot of different people because we are a province that’s surrounded by water so we have lots of fishing harbours. I think we have 165 here in Nova Scotia alone,” said Sonia Smith, director of the foundation’s ship-to-shore program.

Smith says they often see a lot of different debris along the shores of the province.

“A lot of debris that we find washing up on shore are pieces of rope, plastic bags, your lunch, your typical lunch packaging, you know, your coffee cups, your plastic forks and knives, the strapping that would be around different bait boxes and different materials like that,” said Smith.

Despite the new and impressive technology, Ceglinski says the device won’t end water pollution, alone.

“I think the most important thing to remember is that technology is never gonna be the solution to ocean plastics or littering. It’s education and I guess it’s changing our culture,” he said.

“Recycle, reduce, reuse — that’s the real solution”.

Sourceglobalnews.ca

 

New NASA tool can tell you which glacier may flood your city as the planet warms

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Sea level rise is one of the most recognizable consequences of climate change and is likely to be one of the most destructive as well. Projecting when destructive coastal inundation could occur in your city just became easier, thanks to a new tool developed by NASA scientists.

By pinpointing which specific glaciers and ice sheets are contributing to local sea level rise for individual coastal cities, scientists can paint a more complete and accurate picture of what global warming will mean for rising ocean levels.

“This study allows one person to understand which icy areas of the world will contribute most significantly to sea level change (rise or decrease) in their specific city,” Eric Larour, one of the study’s authors, told CNN.

Researchers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory have developed a tool that takes into account the rotation of the Earth and gravitational effects, which help to determine how specific melting points will impact certain cities. The research has been published in the journal Science Advances and is available online. The online tool can be a bit technical to use and understand.

In the study, the researchers “looked at 293 major port cities to allow coastal planners to readily calculate local seal level change“, as well as know which locations of the Earth’s polar ice cap melts present the biggest danger to them in particular.

For example, comparing the impact that Greenland melting will have for New York City to that of London reveals some interesting insight. While all quadrants of the Greenland ice sheet are melting and contribute to sea level rise all over the world, this study shows that both NYC and London are vulnerable to melt almost exclusively from the northern most parts of the ice sheet, with New York showing contributions from both the northwest and northeast quadrants of Greenland.

While melting land ice anywhere should concern coastal residents as the planet warms, this tool can help focus those concerns and make specific city projections more accurate.

“This tool is very useful to understand risk from specific glaciers, and to form a complete picture of how much risk the city is under,” Larour said. He said that city officials can follow observations for the glaciers and polar regions likely to have the most impact on their city and use that data to map projected sea level rise. Knowing more precisely how much the ocean will rise by certain dates will help city planners prepare mitigation techniques to deal with coastal inundation.

Sourceedition.cnn.com

 

 

 

Trees Are Good For Your Health, And This Tool Shows Exactly Where Cities Should Plant Them

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When cities plant trees, they help reduce pollution levels and improve people’s health. Studies show that America’s trees save thousands of lives a year, mainly by preventing breathing-related problems (they also make you feel like you have more money, if you’re into that sort of thing).

Ideally we’d have trees on every street in the country because trees are good for people, but the reality, of course, is nothing like that. Cities tend to have spotty canopies, with richer residential areas generally enjoying more cover and poorer industrial areas seeing less.

You can see how trees cover the landscape of 13 cities using a nice tool developed by researchers at Portland State University. From Sacramento to Pittsburgh, it shows how urban environments are served with trees down to a micro level, and how they cover vulnerable groups like the young and the old.

“We created an online platform that says where are the dirtiest, hottest, and most vulnerable people in each of these cities. Cities can then evaluate where they might plant trees spatially at a neighborhood level,” says Vivek Shandas, one of the academics behind the maps.

The tool grew out of work by P.S.U. in Portland (which we covered last year). Based on data from 144 sensors placed around the city, it showed the effect of tree planting and the impact on people’s health, for example in reducing the rate of asthma. The tool uses public data for 12 other cities, plotting the “heat island” effect, nitrogen dioxide levels, and demographic hotspots.

Because of the way they developed, cities like Atlanta and Houston have the most opportunity for planting trees to improve health. “Houston and Atlanta sprawled quite a bit with low-density housing and connected those places with freeways. They tend to have more places for plantings than places like Albuquerque, for instance,” Shandas says.

By switching to the “plan” tab in the tool, planners can begin to understand how many trees would be needed to reach certain canopy goals, though the tool isn’t meant to be the last word. Shandas describes it as an quick reference guide so cities can get a sense of where trees are most needed.

The tool, called the Trees and Health APP, was funded the U.S. Forest Service as part of a the larger research project. The Forest Service has its own tree mapping tools, as we wrote here, and there are many tree-mapping initiatives happening at a city level (see here). Cities really are beginning to take trees seriously.

Sourcefastcompany.com

Cities Should Think About Trees As Public Health Infrastructure

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Think of a tree-lined street in the midst of a busy city. It feels like something of a treasure: hushed, cool, and sheltered from noise and sidewalk glare. These leafy streets cannot afford to be seen as a luxury, argues a new report from The Nature Conservancy. Trees are sustainability power tools: They clean and cool the air, regulate temperatures, counteract the urban “heat island” effect, and support water quality and manage flow. Yes, they look pretty, but they also deliver measurable mental and physical health benefits to concrete-fatigued city dwellers.

So with evidence to back up all the benefits of urban greenery, TNC set out to answer, in this report, the question of how cities can develop innovative financial structures and policies to plant more trees.

It’s a particularly pressing question now, because despite overwhelming evidence testifying to the environmental and health benefits of urban trees, their presence is declining in cities across the U.S. Around 4 million urban trees die or disappear each year, and replanting efforts have failed to keep pace, even though a 2016 study on California from the U.S. Forest Service found that every $1 spent on planting trees delivers about $5.82 in public benefits.

Because urban trees are often slotted into the “luxury” or “nice to have” category in city budgeting decisions–certainly less prioritized than public safety and infrastructure maintenance–funding is often inadequate, and fails to treat trees as a long-term investment, and certainly not one that can deliver health benefits. The standard rate of investment in trees is around one-third of a percent of a city’s budget, says Rob McDonald, TNC cities scientist and lead author on the report. “It’s not enough to just talk about why trees are important for health,” McDonald says. “We have to start talking about the systemic reasons why it’s so difficult for these sectors to interact–how the urban forestry sector can start talking to the health sector, and how we can create financial linkages between the two”.

TNC estimates that coming up with the capital necessary to maintain our current urban canopy, and expand it to the point where it creates consistent health benefits, would require an annual investment, on average, of $8 per person–a sum that would just about double current municipal tree-planting budgets. That figure is hypothetical and meant to suggest not that funding for trees should actually come from U.S. residents, but that the project is well within the scope of affordability.

Sourcefastcompany.com

Invest in forests and indigenous people to fight climate change – experts

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Efforts to protect carbon-absorbing forests, which could have a massive impact on reducing global warming, only attract a tiny fraction of the billions of dollars spent on cutting emissions, experts said, as they called for greater investment.

Almost 40 times more money has been spent on promoting agriculture and land development – which have led to large-scale deforestation – than on forest protection, they said in a study.

Forests hold so much potential in the effort to limit climate change, and yet there’s a seemingly endless supply of money to help tear them down,” said Charlotte Streck, director of environmental group Climate Focus.

Under the Paris deal, countries pledged to keep the rise in average global temperatures below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to strive for a lower 1.5 degree limit, to stave off the worst effects of climate change.

Experts say forests could absorb enough carbon to meet about a third of the efforts needed to stick to those goals. But just 2 per cent of the $167 billion spent on reducing planet-warming carbon emissions since 2010 was invested in forests, according to the study by Climate Focus and other environmental groups.

Research has shown at least a quarter of the world’s carbon stored above the ground in tropical forests is found in territories managed by indigenous people and local communities. But even though deforestation rates are lower in areas where indigenous people manage forests, much of their knowledge is not taken into account when international decisions about climate change are made, experts say.

“Us indigenous peoples are sad and worried that billions of dollars are being invested in corporations that drive agro-business and cause deforestation,” Candido Mezua, an indigenous leader from Panama, told an event on forests at the Royal Society in London. “But very little is invested in what works: indigenous peoples and our forests, which are the best guarantee for a stable climate.”

At least 200 people were killed in 2016 while defending their homes, lands and forests from mining, dams and agricultural projects, according to advocacy group Global Witness.

Follow the link to learn more: http://www.eco-business.com/news/invest-in-forests-and-indigenous-people-to-fight-climate-change-experts/