News and Research Stories

April 30, 2012

From Gulf spill, path to better disaster response

Christopher Reddy

Chris Reddy (2006) reflects on his experiences dealing with the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and finds gaps in approach toward the disaster among responders from media, government, and academe. He feels that, despite keen interest to help the situation, the stakeholders involved had no common language, timeframe, set of values, or pre-existing relationships. "We can take a lesson from Deepwater Horizon and start opening new lines of communication before the next disaster," he says.

April 29, 2012

Getting serious about valuing the ocean

Rashid Sumaila

photo: Daderot

Rashid Sumaila (2009) and his colleagues estimate that damage to the world's oceans from human activity will cost the global economy over 400 billion dollar per year in the next 40 years. They looked at impacts to fishing, tourism, and other economic activity from the top six threats to the ocean: acidification, warming, oxygen depletion, sea level rise, pollution, and the overuse of ocean resources. By putting a dollar value on services that the ocean provides to human, the authors hope to help people understand the risks and spur policy makers to take action to protect the ocean's irreplaceable resources.


April 27, 2012

Global warming: surprising find on long-term effects on plants

Bruce Hungate

A mixed conifer meadow, one of the study
sites (photo credit: Michael Allwright)

According to decade-long research by Bruce Hungate (2004) and his colleagues, plants may thrive in the early stages of a warming environment, but then begin to deteriorate quickly. The results of the study, done in four grassland ecosystems, were the opposite of predictions by other models that warming would cause a sustained increase in plant productivity. Having a long-term perspective is key to understanding how plant communities respond to warmer temperatures, the team says.

April 17, 2012

The value of small fish

P. Dee Boersma, David Conover , Selina Heppell

A group of scientists including Dee Boersma (2000), David Conover (2005), and Selina Heppell (2006) is urging significant reductions in global catches of small ocean fish such as anchovies and sardines. These "forage fish" are prey for a wide range of bigger fish, sea birds, and marine animals that depend on them for survival. They are also more than twice as valuable to commercial fishers if they remain in the ocean and are eaten by higher-value fish than if they are caught directly. Forage fish make up 37% of the world’s marine fish catch and are mainly used to feed farmed fish and livestock. The group recommends cutting forage fishing by half in many parts to prevent their populations from collapsing.

April 11, 2012

Some good news for coral reefs

Simon Donner

photo: Linda Wade

Simon Donner (2009) and his colleagues have discovered that corals that have survived heat stress in the past may be more likely survive climate change in the future. Until recently, it was widely assumed that coral would die off worldwide as the oceans warm. The study suggests a roadmap on the impacts of ocean warming and will help communities identify locations where coral reefs are likely to adapt to climate change, the team says.