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Showing posts with label Planet and Environment. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Planet and Environment. Show all posts

Friday, 27 March 2020

As the ocean warms, marine species relocate toward the poles

Since pre-industrial times, the world's oceans have warmed by an average of one degree Celsius (1°C). Now researchers report in Current Biology on March 26th that those rising temperatures have led to widespread changes in the population sizes of marine species. The researchers found a general pattern of species having increasing numbers on their poleward sides and losses toward the equator.

"The main surprise is how pervasive the effects were," says senior author Martin Genner, an evolutionary ecologist at the University of Bristol. "We found the same trend across all groups of marine life we looked at, from plankton to marine invertebrates, and from fish to seabirds."

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The new study builds on earlier evidence for a prevailing effect of climate change on the distributions, abundance, and seasonality of marine species. Based on those findings, Genner's team reasoned that marine species should be doing well at the leading (poleward) edge of their ranges but poorly at their trailing (equatorward) side. They also realized that existing databases of global species distributions could be used to test this hypothesis.

Based on a thorough search of available data in the literature, the researchers now report on a global analysis of abundance trends for 304 widely distributed marine species over the last century. The results show that -- just as predicted -- abundance increases have been most prominent where sampling has taken place at the poleward side of species ranges, while abundance declines have been most prominent where sampling has taken place at the equatorward side of species ranges.

The findings show that large-scale changes in the abundance of species are well underway. They also suggest that marine species haven't managed to adapt to warmer conditions. The researchers therefore suggest that projected sea temperature increases of up to 1.5°C over pre-industrial levels by 2050 will continue to drive the latitudinal abundance shifts in marine species, including those of importance for coastal livelihoods.

"This matters because it means that climate change is not only leading to abundance changes, but intrinsically affecting the performance of species locally," Genner says. "We see species such as Emperor penguin becoming less abundant as water becomes too warm at their equatorward edge, and we see some fish such as European seabass thriving at their poleward edge where historically they were uncommon."

The findings show that climate change is affecting marine species in a highly consistent and non-trivial way. "While some marine life may benefit as the ocean warms, the findings point toward a future in which we will also see continued loss of marine life," Genner says.

The long-term data included in the study primarily represent the most well-studied regions of the world. The researchers say that more work is needed to understand how climate change has affected marine life in all regions of the world in greater detail.

"We aim to get a better understanding of precisely how marine climate change drives abundance shifts," Genner says. "Is this mainly related to the physiological limits of the species, or instead due to changes in the species with which they interact?"

The work was supported by the Natural Environment Research Council and the UK Government Office for Science.


Reuben A. Hastings, Louise A. Rutterford, Jennifer J. Freer, Rupert A. Collins, Stephen D. Simpson, Martin J. Genner.

Climate Change Drives Poleward Increases and Equatorward Declines in Marine Species. 

Current Biology, 2020;

DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2020.02.043

Friday, 20 March 2020

COVID-19: pandemic has reduced air pollution in several countries

As the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus continues to expand, the pandemic has begun to show positive trends worldwide. This is particularly the case of air pollution. According to the latest observation results from the ESA Copernicus satellite, the containment measures would have made it possible to reduce carbon dioxide and nitrogen dioxide pollution significantly. And according to researcher Mashall Burke, the number of lives indirectly saved by this reduction in pollution could far exceed the human losses due to the virus.

Back on March 8, Stanford University environmental resource economist Marshall Burke did some back-of-the-envelope calculations about the recent air pollution drop over parts of China and potential lives saved, posting it on a global food, environment and economic dynamics blog, G-FEED.

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The situation has continued to unfold since then, so those numbers won't stay current for long; but according to Burke, even conservatively, it's very likely that the lives saved locally from the reduction in pollution exceed COVID-19 deaths in China.

"Given the huge amount of evidence that breathing dirty air contributes heavily to premature mortality, a natural - if admittedly strange - question is whether the lives saved from this reduction in pollution caused by economic disruption from COVID-19 exceeds the death toll from the virus itself," Burke writes.

Pollution reduction in China: lives saved would exceed losses due to virus

The two months of pollution reduction, Burke calculates, has probably saved the lives of 4,000 children under 5 and 73,000 adults over 70 in China. That's significantly more than the current global death toll from the virus itself.

Although this might seem a little surprising, it's something we've known about for quite a long time. Earlier this month, research suggested that air pollution costs us three years, on average, off our global life expectancy.

Loss of average life expectancy according to different causes of death for the year 2015. Air pollution arrives at the top of the podium with approximately 3 years of life expectancy lost, before smoking. Credits: Jos Lelieveld et al. 2020

"It is remarkable that both the number of deaths and the loss in life expectancy from air pollution rival the effect of tobacco smoking and are much higher than other causes of death," physicist Jos Lelieveld from the Cyprus Institute in Nicosia stated at the time.

"Air pollution exceeds malaria as a global cause of premature death by a factor of 19; it exceeds violence by a factor of 16, HIV/AIDS by a factor of 9, alcohol by a factor of 45, and drug abuse by a factor of 60."

But Burke's analysis was just using data from China, and was completed before there was more information about how COVID-19 has affected the rest of the world.

With the second largest number of cases occurring in Italy, and the country putting in place strict quarantine measures, satellite data over northern Italy have now shown a large drop in air pollution - specifically nitrogen dioxide, a gas mainly emitted by cars, trucks, power plants and some industrial plants.

A net reduction in nitrogen dioxide pollution in Italy

"The decline in nitrogen dioxide emissions over the Po Valley in northern Italy is particularly evident," explains Claus Zehner, ESA's Copernicus Sentinel-5P mission manager.

"Although there could be slight variations in the data due to cloud cover and changing weather, we are very confident that the reduction in emissions that we can see, coincides with the lock-down in Italy causing less traffic and industrial activities."

For now, we don't have peer-reviewed studies measuring the true health impact reduced emissions will bring, but given what we know about the dangers of widespread air pollution, it's likely that there will be a direct benefit in the shape of fewer pollution-related deaths.

Even such a tiny silver lining can hardly make up for the devastation of the COVID-19 pandemic. But these preliminary numbers demonstrate that this global health disaster is an opportunity to assess - which aspects of modern life are absolutely necessary, and what positive changes might be possible if we change our habits on a global scale.

This ESA video shows the reduction of nitrogen dioxide emissions in Italy:

Source Source 2

Wednesday, 11 March 2020

Air pollution will reduce life expectancy by 3 years on average for every person in the world

Among the many public health problems of global scope, pollution, although greatly underestimated, nevertheless rises to the top of the podium of the causes of mortality. Fine particles and other harmful aerosols cause long-term pulmonary and cardiovascular disease, which causes millions of deaths worldwide; far beyond other factors like HIV or smoking. Recently, a team of researchers has shown that on average, around the world, air pollution reduces life expectancy per capita by around 3 years.

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Polluted air is a public health hazard that cannot be evaded. It is widely known that long-term exposure to air pollution enhances the risks of cardiovascular and respiratory diseases.

Scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry and the University Medical Center Mainz now calculated in a new study that the global, public loss of life expectancy caused by air pollution is higher than many other risk factors such as smoking, infectious diseases or violence.

Pollution: it reduces life expectancy per capita by around 3 years on average worldwide

Air pollution caused 8.8 million premature deaths worldwide in 2015. This corresponds to an average reduction in life expectancy per capita of 2.9 years. In comparison, tobacco smoking reduces the life expectancy by an average of 2.2 years (7.2 million deaths), HIV / AIDS by 0.7 years (1 million deaths), parasitic and vector-borne diseases such as malaria -- by 0.6 years (600,000 deaths).

"Air pollution exceeds malaria as a cause of premature death by a factor of 19; it exceeds violence by a factor of 17 and HIV / AIDS by a factor of 9. Given the huge impact on public health and the global population, one could say that our results indicate an air pollution pandemic," said Jos Lelieveld, director at Max Planck Institute for Chemistry and first author of the study.

Loss of average life expectancy according to different causes of death for the year 2015. Air pollution reaches the top of the podium with approximately 3 years of life expectancy lost. Credits: Jos Lelieveld et al. 2020

This study is the first to examine the global impact of air pollution on human health compared to other risk factors worldwide. "Our comparison of different global risk factors shows that ambient air pollution is a leading cause of premature mortality and loss of life expectancy, in particular through cardiovascular diseases," says Thomas Münzel, director of the Cardiology Center at the University Medical Center in Mainz and co-author of the paper.

The links between pollution and "pulmonary and cardiovascular" diseases

The scientists examined the connection between exposure to pollutants and the occurrence of diseases. In order to calculate the worldwide exposure to pollutants, which primarily include fine particles and ozone, the researchers used an atmospheric chemical mode. They then combined the exposure data with the Global Exposure -- Mortality Model that derives from many epidemiological cohort studies.

Using these tools and data, scientists investigated the effects of different pollution sources, distinguishing between natural (wildfires, aeolian dust) and anthropogenic emissions, including fossil fuel use. Based on their results they could estimate the disease-specific excess mortality and loss of life expectancy in all countries world-wide.

Percentage loss of life expectancy due to air pollution by different types of diseases: CEV = cerebrovascular disease, COPD = chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, IHD = ischemic heart disease, LC = lung cancer, LRI: infection lower respiratory tract, NCD = other diseases. Credits: Jos Lelieveld et al. 2020

The study results show that the mortality caused by ambient air pollution is highest in East Asia (35 percent) and South Asia (32 percent), followed by Africa (11 percent), Europe (9 percent) and North- and South America (6 percent). Lowest mortality rates are found in Australia (1,5 percent) associated with the strictest air quality standards of all countries.

"We understand more and more that fine particles primarily favor vascular damage and thus diseases such as heart attack, stroke, cardiac arrhythmia and heart failure. It is of outmost importance that air pollution is adopted as a cardiovascular risk factor and that it is distinctly mentioned in the ESC/AHA guidelines of prevention, acute and coronary syndromes and heart failure," continued Münzel.

Reducing the use of fossil fuels to reduce pollution-related deaths

According to the findings of the study, almost two thirds of the deaths caused by air pollution, namely around 5.5 million a year are avoidable, and the majority of polluted air comes from the use of fossil fuels. The researchers estimate that the average life expectancy world-wide would increase by more than a year if the emissions from the use of fossil fuels were eliminated.

The team from the University Medical Center Mainz and Max Planck Institute for Chemistry published a similar paper last year focusing on the consequences of air pollution in Europe. According to the earlier study, nearly 800,000 Europeans die prematurely every year due to illnesses caused by air pollution. Polluted air shortens the lifespan of Europeans by more than two years.


Loss of life expectancy from air pollution compared to other risk factors: a worldwide perspective.

Thomas Münzel, Andy Haines, Mohammed Fnais, Ulrich Pöschl, Andrea Pozzer, Jos Lelieveld.

Cardiovascular Research, 2020;

DOI: 10.1093/cvr/cvaa025

Friday, 21 February 2020

Scientists Study on 'Flammable Ice' Offers Clues To Life On Other Planets

Mineral aggregates recovered from dissociated hydrate are relatively pure dolomite. (a) Light microscopy of single-grained dolomites showing dark inclusions (UTCW J25R, 53.9 mbsf, Mg/Ca = 0.91). (b) Single and paired “dumbbell” grains, showing layering in the internal dark portions (UTCW J22R, 28.7 mbsf, Mg:Ca = 0.92. (c) Shallow dumbbell grain (UTCW J21R, 12.2 mbsf, Mg:Ca = 0.74). Shallow grains (<20mbsf) show rough surfaces comprised of ~5 μm dolomite rhombs and low Mg/Ca ratios. (d) Deeper grains consist of smooth intergrown dolomite plates ~15 μm. The overall size of the deep grains ranges from 20 μm to > 150 μm and Mg:Ca ratios approaching 1 (UTCW J25R, 57 mbsf, Mg:Ca = 0.97). (e) Broken chain structure (UTCW J25R, 67.4 mbsf) shows smooth intergrowth of dolomite rhombs on the outer surface. (f) Close-up of previous grain showing concentric porous rings on the inside of the broken surface, possibly consisting of organic matter or residual fluid.

British and Japanese scientists, who were studying the so-called " flammable ice " in the Sea of ​​Japan, made a surprising discovery: There is life in the microscopic bubbles of frozen combustible material, researchers has found bacterial communities within microscopic spheroidal aggregates of dolomite, oil and water found in sheets of frozen methane and ice, known as ‘flammable ice,’ in Joetsu Basin, Japan Sea.

“We’re melting hydrate to study methane gas when we noticed an unusual powder consisting of microscopic spheroids with mysterious dark cores,” said Dr. Glen T. Snyder, a researcher at the Meiji University Global Front, Japan.

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“In combination with the other evidence collected by my colleagues, my results showed that even under near-freezing temperatures, at extremely high pressures, with only heavy oil and saltwater for food-sources, life was flourishing and leaving its mark,” said Dr. Stephen Bowden, a researcher at the University of Aberdeen.

“But what we never expected to find was microbes continuing to grow and produce these spheroids, all of the time while isolated in tiny cold dark pockets of saltwater and oil,” Dr. Snyder continued.

“It certainly gives a positive spin to cold dark places, and opens up a tantalising clue as to the existence of life on other planets.” said Bowden.

(a) Flammable ice, as collected from the seabed. (b) Detail of one of the test pieces. (c) Methane hydrate after heating and centrifuged for analysis, showing oil on top and granules containing micro-habitats on the bottom.

"Alien" Life on Earth

The tiny bubbles are scattered inside large hydrate plates, known as "flammable ice" - or methane hydrate - that are formed when ice retains methane in its molecular structure.

There has been great interest in the exploration of this material as a fuel, with Japan and China leading this research.

Glen Snyder and colleagues from several Japanese and UK universities were melting hydrates to study methane gas when they noticed an unusual powder made up of microscopic spheroids with very peculiar dark nuclei.

Analytical techniques allowed to verify that the dark nuclei consist of oil that was being degraded in the microenvironments formed inside the bubbles of the methane hydrate.

"It is known that methane [present] in methane hydrate forms as microbes degrade organic matter on the seabed. But what we never expected to discover was that microbes would continue to grow and produce these spheroids during all the time they were isolated in small dark and cold bags of salt water and oil. That certainly changes everything about dark and cold places, and reveals a tantalizing clue about the existence of life on other planets," said Snyder.

"It certainly changes the way I think about things. As long as they have ice and a little heat, all those cold, frozen planets at the edge of the entire planetary system could host tiny microhabitats with microbes building their own 'death stars. 'and creating its tiny atmospheres and ecosystems, as we found out here," said Professor Stephen Bowden, a member of the team.


Article: Evidence in the Japan Sea of ​​microdolomite mineralization within gas hydrate microbiomes

Authors: Glen T. Snyder, Ryo Matsumoto, Yohey Suzuki, Mariko Kouduka, Yoshihiro Kakizaki, Naizhong Zhang, Hitoshi Tomaru, Yuji Sano, Naoto Takahata, Kentaro Tanaka, Kentaro Tanaka Stephen A. Bowden, Takumi Imajo

Magazine: Nature Scientific Reports

Vol .: 10, Article number: 1876

DOI: 10.1038 / s41598-020-58723-y

Wednesday, 19 February 2020

One of the largest glaciers in Antarctica has lost a piece twice the size of Washington DC

As global temperatures rise due to global warming, the Antarctic ice is becoming brittle and undergoing accelerated melting in recent years. And recently, one of the largest glaciers in Antarctica, the Pine Island Glacier, was an example: a piece the size of Malta (or twice that of Washington DC) has come off in the sea. The other giant glacier nearby, that of Thwaites, could soon suffer the same fate.

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The Pine Island Glacier, one of the fastest melting glaciers in Antarctica, has just lost another huge chunk of ice in the sea, continuing a trend of rapid melting that has become an almost annual occurrence over the past decade. Scientists at Copernicus, the European Union's Earth observation program, have been closely monitoring the glacier since large cracks appeared near its edge in October 2019.

Yesterday, these cracks finally cut a piece of the glacier (a process called calving glacier), releasing giant pieces of fresh icebergs into the nearby Amundsen Sea. In total, the largest piece is approximately twice the size of Washington (DC) in surface area (over 350 square kilometers), which is equivalent to the area of ​​Malta.

Increasingly frequent calving events

The recent calving alone is not so surprising or particularly threatening to the global sea level; calving is a normal part of the life of ice formations with sections floating on the water. Because the ice at the edge of the glacier was already floating, this ice does not directly contribute to the rise in sea level when it inevitably melts.

However, over the past two decades, calving events have occurred much more frequently at the Pine Island Glacier and the nearby Thwaites Glacier (also known as the “Doomsday Glacier”) as the surrounding ocean warms. due to global warming.

While large calving events occurred at the Pine Island Glacier every four to six years, they have now become near-annual events, according to NASA.

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Evidence of accelerated melting of Antarctic glaciers

Over the past decade, huge chunks of the glacier have come off in 2011, 2013, 2015, 2017, 2018 and now in 2020. As a result, the ice shelves of Pine Island and Thwaites are retreating inside. land faster than new ice can form.

Scientists fear that this persistent retreat is a sign that an accelerated melting cycle is underway: as relatively warm seawater flows over the newly exposed edges of an ice shelf, the melt accelerates, the ice shelf stretches and thins, and calving becomes more and more likely.

The large cracks running along the edge of the Pine Island Glacier are the result of the gradual rise in temperatures. These cracks weaken glaciers, resulting in more frequent glacier calving. Credits: ESA

According to NASA, the region around the two glaciers contains enough vulnerable ice to raise the ocean by 1.2 meters. The new Pine Island icebergs calved just days after scientists reported the hottest temperature on record in Antarctica. On Thursday, February 6, temperatures near a research base on the northern edge of the continent reached 18.3 ° C, reported the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). The previous record was 17.5 ° C, established in March 2015.


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