YOUR WEEKLY BRIEFING FROM PARLEY

Photo by Alex Jinich. Header photo by Nick Hobgood.

Photo by Alex Jinich. Header photo by Nick Hobgood.

 

CORAL REEFS

For nearly two centuries, scientists have wrestled with “Darwin’s Paradox” – the enduring mystery of why coral reefs thrive in tropical waters, which are woefully short on nutrients. Reefs are teeming oases in aquatic wastelands, and researchers have puzzled endlessly over how they flourish. Now, science may have the answer at last.

Thousands of species of tiny fish, rarely longer than an inch, serve themselves up as a never-ending feast for bigger fish. They’re called “cryptobenthic” fishes because they live on the seabed floor and often hide in crevices in coral reefs — “crypto” coming from the Greek word for “hidden.” They reproduce quickly and die young, gobbled up like candy during their first few weeks of life. Thanks to them, coral reefs can florish.

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INNOVATION

Few marine species are as close to the brink as the North Atlantic right whale. Only about 400 of these whales exist today, and at their current rate of decline, they could become extinct within our lifetimes. 72% of diagnosed mortalities between 2010-2018 occurred due to entanglements in fishing gear, so researchers are working on new high-tech fishing gear to avoid right whale injuries, which one veterinarian described as the worst injuries he had ever seen. Transitioning to ropeless technology, however, will require a sea change in some of North America’s most valuable fisheries. 

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CLIMATE CHANGE

Students can sway how their parents view climate change, according to research that adds to the momentum behind the growing youth climate movement. Adults may dismiss messages about climate change or other topics that they associate with political groups they disagree with – but most 10- to 14-year olds don’t yet link themselves to the beliefs and ideas of particular political groups. Youth are a key part of the Parley movement, and this year’s Run for the Oceans aims to raise US$1.5million for ocean education and a new youth activist platform.

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PLASTIC POLLUTION

A cargo ship carrying tonnes of garbage marked as ‘recyclable’ dumped in the Philippines by Canada more than five years ago has left the Southeast Asian country to return the containers, as nations in the region increasingly reject being dumpsites for wealthier states. Meanwhile, Sweden is so good at recycling that, for several years, it has imported garbage from other countries to keep its recycling plants going. Less than 1% of Swedish household waste was sent to landfill last year – or any year since 2011. A national campaign also calls for repairing, sharing and reusing. 

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EXPLORATION

For the first time, deep sea tube worms have been discovered near the U.S. East Coast. Vestimentiferan tube worms are found in the Gulf of Mexico, the Caribbean, and other places associated with hydrothermal vents – but they have never been spotted along the mid-Atlantic Ridge. As the worms undergo metamorphosis, their digestive tract disappears and chemosynthesis becomes the only way they obtain nutrients. The process is similar to photosynthesis, but instead of sunlight, the worms use a symbiotic relationship with bacteria to create sustenance from hydrogen sulfide. 

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