YOUR WEEKLY BRIEFING FROM PARLEY
Researchers announced this week the discovery of two new species of cold-water coral in undersea canyons off New England. The new corals were found about 150 miles southeast of Boston in the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument, a vast area of undersea mountains and valleys that was designated a monument by President Barack Obama in 2016 but is now under threat.
The canyons are much deeper than a human can dive, so the team (which included researchers from the University of Connecticut and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory) used underwater drones and a submersible vehicle. Cold-water corals are notoriously slow to grow. According to the researchers, one 4-foot tall coral they previously dated was over 4000 years old.
A conservation group has won a legal bid to end the killing of sharks caught on drum lines inside the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. The decision comes after Humane Society International earlier this year launched a challenge to the shark control program run by the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries. On Tuesday, an appeals tribunal ordered the department could no longer shoot dead 19 species in protected areas between central and north Queensland.
Parley SnotBot uses drones to study whales, AirShepherd employs them for conservation work in Africa, and now the government in Ireland is taking to the sky to survey and identify people who are dumping garbage illegally. A government programme has removed some 5,000 tonnes of illegal waste from some of the country's worst blackspots. People can avoid CCTV systems because they are stationary, but drones will be able to fly at unexpected times and catch people who are unaware of their presence.
Supermarkets in Thailand and Vietnam are experimenting with banana-leaf packaging to replace plastic. A representative from the Lotte Mart chain in Vietnam says that although they are still in the testing phase, customer response has been good and that they plan to replace plastic with leaves nationwide. "When I see vegetables wrapped in these beautiful banana leaves I’m more willing to buy in larger quantities,” said one customer. “This initiative will help locals be more aware of protecting the environment."
It has long been thought that today's greenhouse gas levels are no greater than those of 800,000 years ago – but a new analysis of ice cores and ocean sediments in the coldest place on Earth has now revealed that 400 ppm was last surpassed three million years ago during the Late Pliocene, when temperatures were several degrees Celsius higher, oceans at least 15 metres deeper, Greenland was ice-free and trees grew at the edge of Antarctica. Eeeeeeeeeek.