YOUR WEEKLY BRIEFING FROM PARLEY
Two weeks ago, we reported on the surreal floating carpet of freshly-erupted volcanic rock discovered by a couple sailing in the southwestern Pacific Ocean, and how it might benefit the Great Barrier Reef. Now, new research is revealing another surprising effect volcanic eruptions could have on our oceans.
The eruption of the Kīlauea volcano in Hawai’i last year produced the equivalent of 320,000 Olympic-size swimming pools of lava. Much of it ended up flowing into the Pacific Ocean, creating plumes of acidic, glassy steam in the process. Researchers found the eruption also unexpectedly coincided with an explosion in the population of phytoplankton, a diverse array of sea surface-dwelling, sunlight-drinking microscopic organisms. This massive bloom began just three days after lava from Kilauea first touched the sea. It expanded rapidly, stretching nearly 100 miles offshore in just two weeks.
Meanwhile, satellite data from the NOAA Coral Reef Watch program indicates coral reefs in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands are experiencing a major bleaching event. The National Coral Reef Monitoring Program surveyed the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument and found extensive bleaching. At Kure Atoll, the northernmost atoll in the archipelago, almost 100% of shallow-water corals are bleached. Severe coral bleaching is predicted to extend across the Hawaiian Archipelago, including the populated main Hawaiian Islands.
Worms fail to thrive in earth containing microplastics, new research has shown, adding to the growing body of evidence of impacts from the increasingly widespread contaminants on the natural world. Scientists found that worms placed in soil loaded with high density polyethylene (HDPE) – a common plastic used for bags and bottles – for 30 days lost about 3% of their body weight, compared with a control sample of similar worms placed in similar soil without HDPE. If the presence of microplastics inhibits earthworm growth, it could have implications for soil health and farming.
Japanese scientists have confirmed that a new whale species has been identified as 'Black Baird's beaked whale' after carrying out DNA testing. The new species has often been spotted by whalers in the north Pacific Ocean, but it has never before been officially recognised as it continued to elude researchers. The carcasses of several unidentified whales continued to wash up on the shores of Hokkaido.
Parley collaborator Ian Urbina’s The Outlaw Ocean recently made the New York Times Bestseller List, and this week The Guardian has an excerpt featuring the story of a deep sea fishing fleet and the conditions onboard. As he reports, “the vastness of the seas makes it difficult to chase down bad actors – finding the criminals in the first place is often impossible.”
Header image by Sebastien Gabriel