YOUR WEEKLY BRIEFING FROM PARLEY
Mangrove forests, seagrass meadows and saltmarshes support rich biodiversity, underpin the livelihoods of more than a billion people worldwide, store carbon, and protect us from extreme weather events – making them among the most vital of ocean habitats. Now, researching are learning more about some of the larger species that could benefit from mangrove protection and restoration projects.
Until now, say researchers, we’ve underestimated how important mangroves are for large, charismatic and ecologically important marine animals like dolphins, manatees, sharks, rays and other larger creatures. More than half of all coastal wetlands have been lost globally and the rest are at risk from a range of serious threats, including deforestation.
Scientists have uncovered yet another potential consequence of the plastic pollution crisis. The toxins plastic leaches into seawater inhibit the growth and photosynthetic efficiency of the bacteria Prochlorococcus, which is responsible for producing an estimated 20 percent of the oxygen we breathe. At fault could be any number of things in plastics, like flame retardants or Zinc, which could have an outsized effect on the bacteria. The researchers caution that the results were obtained in a lab, and that the process may not happen in nature.
Something happened to the population of North Atlantic right whales in the last decade, as their numbers shrank and fewer calves were born. Now, scientists might have pinned down the cause. A paper published this month links warming in the Gulf of Maine with the life cycle of the copepod Calanus finmarchicus, a tiny shrimplike creature that forms the foundation of the right whale diet. Beyond having fewer calves, the shortage of food caused the endangered whales to change feeding grounds, bringing them into contact with fishing nets and marine traffic.
Bangladesh has banned fishing in coastal areas for 65 days in a bid to protect and boost its marine populations. It comes a month after Sierra Leone declared its own moratorium in the face of massive exploitation by Chinese and illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) vessels, which can catch up to 100 tonnes of fish in a single day by dragging a net along the ocean floor to harvest bottom-dwelling species of fish and shellfish. Small-scale artisanal fishing fleets, in comparison, which fish to feed local communities, catch around just 17 tonnes a year.
THE DEEP SEA
In the same week that saw unprecedented levels of marine debris on the Mediterranean seabed, a scientist has warned that potential medicines and discoveries will be lost in the rush to exploit the deep sea’s metal and mineral resources. Mat Upton, a medical microbiologist at the University of Plymouth, is among many scientists urging a halt to deep-sea mining, asking for time to weigh up the pros and cons. It follows his discovery of a microbe from a deep-sea sponge that can kill pathogenic bugs, which could be a breakthrough in the fight against antibiotic resistant superbugs.