Tag: ocean

How Can YOU Help Stop Climate Change and Save Our Seas?

Melting Ice

Climate change and pollution are real threats that are damaging the world we live in, particularly our oceans. These environmental problems and our own unsustainable practices are creating problems such as sea sparkle (which isn’t as lovely as it sounds) and the devastating bleaching of the Great Barrier Reef.

There are lots of things you (as an everyday, average person) can do to help put a stop to global warming, however. There are big moves, like driving an electric or hybrid car, or powering your house with solar energy – but there are also solutions that are attainable by everyone. If we work together, we can all make a difference just by changing small habits in our everyday lives.

Here’s a short list we’ve put together of ways you can help:

  1. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle! You might be tired of hearing this, but the difference changing just a few of your habits can make is phenomenal! For example, did you know that Americans buy about 25 billion plastic water bottles each year – which requires more than 1.5 million barrels of oil to manufacture. That’s enough to fuel 100,000 U.S. cars for a year! Imagine how much energy we could save if everyone bought reusable water bottles instead? Consider buying paper products such as paper towels, tissues, and toilet paper from recycled sources. Saving trees means more oxygen in the air and less carbon dioxide, which is a huge contributor to global warming. When shopping for household products, choose items with less packaging and bring your own bags with you when you shop. In the United States alone, we throw away about 100 billion plastic bags a year.
  2. Use energy efficient appliances. Just by switching the lighting in your home to LED lights, you use around 80% less energy – helping the enviroment AND reducing your electric bill! Next time you need to replace one of your home appliances, look for the Energy Star label. They are the most energy efficient models. You can also make a difference by turning things off and unplugging them when you’re done using them. 10% of your energy bill comes from phantom loads. That means wasted energy from your home appliances, cell phone chargers and more being plugged in while they are not in use.
  3. Keep your car well maintained. No matter what kind of vehicle you drive, routine tune-ups and basic maintenance can make a big difference in your fuel economy. So, replace your air filter regularly, keep your tires properly inflated (that really does make a difference!) and stop putting off that tune-up you know your car needs. In addition to this, turn your car off when you’re stuck in traffic. It’s a myth that turning your car on and off uses more fuel than idling! Of course, you can also take advantage of car-pooling, public transit, your trusty bicycle or the shoelace express to save on emissions as well.
  4. Buy local – especially your food! Buying food from local farmers not only supports your local economy, but it helps the environment by reducing the amount of travel your food products have to go through to make it to your plate. Worldwatch Institute estimates that the ingredients for the average American meal travel more than 1,500 miles before they’re finally consumed. Try to purchase organic food whenever possible as well. Run-off from pesticides is a contributor to damaging our ecosystems both on land and aquatic.



Sources:

http://life.gaiam.com/article/climate-change-25-things-you-can-do
https://www.nrdc.org/stories/how-you-can-stop-global-warming
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21939044

 


Sea Sparkle

Sea Sparkle: Pretty, or pretty bad?

You probably aren’t too familiar with Noctiluca Scintillans, the alluring not-quite-algae responsible for the beautiful displays of light in the oceans surrounding Hong Kong. 

This unusual single-celled sea life, also known as “sea sparkle” gives off a bioluminescent glow when agitated, either by the movement of the waves or by a passing ship or fish. The breathtaking light shows are visible in many parts of the world, but become more prevalent in areas where increased nitrogen and phosphorous runoff from agriculture upset the delicate balance of the local ocean ecology.

Sea Sparkle

Noctiluca scintillans is an organism that functions both as a plant and an animal. While the organism in itself is not toxic, it tends to feed on phytoplanktons, and because noctiluca scintillans does not move from place to place, the buildup of excretions from its feeding results in high levels of ammonia in the surrounding water. This can lead to problems with surrounding sea life when heavy blooms of noctiluca scintillans take over large aquatic regions.

Noctiluca Scintillans single celled organism

We’re always impressed at the delicate balancing act our oceans perform to keep our entire globe running properly, and also by how easy it is for a few careless people to throw everything off kilter. Just a bit too much pollution from farms can cause seawater to become too nutrient-rich, leading to an overgrowth of noctiluca scintillans. The high ammonia caused by the overgrowth in turn causes problems with local sea life, problems which move gradually up the food chain until finally, they reach your dinner plate.

So what can you do about it?

Well, first, do your part. Be a responsible citizen of the globe. Recycle. Find ways to get involved. Educate yourself on the issues. Then get out there and make a difference! It takes a whole lot of drops to fill the ocean, and that ocean is depending on us.

Oyster Shell

The Humble Hero: Oysters’ Surprising Role in a Delicate Balancing Act

(This post is part of our blog series that deals with Pearls International’s take on social and environmental responsibility. For more information on how Pearls International gives back, please click here.)

 

It is becoming increasingly apparent how important the tiny oyster is to the health of our oceans. If you didn’t get a chance to check out this video we posted a while back, it’s worth a watch.
As filter-feeders, oysters spend most of their lives absorbing the water around them and processing the tiny particulates through their highly evolved systems. Some of these particles are tiny planktons and algae that are used as food and energy for the oyster, and minerals are used to produce nacre to layer onto the oyster’s shells (and create pearls!).

[quote float=”left”]

key·stone spe·cies
noun
1. a species on which other species in an ecosystem largely depend, such that if it were removed the ecosystem would change drastically.

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One remarkable byproduct of this process is that through the filtration process, oysters actually manage to remove toxins such as mercury and pesticides from the water–storing them neatly away within the layers of shell that make up their homes. In fact, oysters are so efficient at this technique that in some regions, it is not recommended to consume them during periods of the year when toxic algaes are in bloom or when large quantities of pesticides from agriculture are expected in runoff from nearby areas.
Their ability to filter is not their only virtue however, as they also act as a valuable food source for birds and other ocean-dwelling animals who give their lives in turn to larger predators in the food chain. The humble oyster forms an important nutritional foundation for much of the ocean’s wildlife. These gifted little creatures are so important to our waterways that should they disappear entirely, the entire marine ecosystem would come under threat of collapse.

 


Not bad for a bivalve!

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Photo by David Liittschwager

Ocean Acidification Puts Sea Life (Including Oysters) At Risk

An oyster releasing sperm
In some coastal waters, oyster spat production has already been reduced by half.

(This post is part of our blog series that deals with Pearls International’s take on social and environmental responsibility. For more information on how Pearls International gives back, please click here.)

The topic of global warming has been around for quite some time. Concerned citizens have been discussing the effects on pollution causing damage to our ozone layer for years now, and we all know the negative effects that it has had on our environment. But did you know that CO2 emissions also have a strong negative effect on our oceans? In fact, oceans absorb such a high amount of greenhouses gasses that they are actually slowing the effects of global warming on the surface. They absorb 22 million tons of CO2 in just one day, causing oceans to see a 25% increase in acidity in the past 200 years.

A snail affected by acidified water.
This snail’s shell has been corroded by CO2, giving it the pearlized look near the center.

If this trend continues, before the year 2100 we will lose much of our sea life, beginning with shelled organisms such as oysters, lobsters, shellfish, and coral, and eventually spreading to effect fish and other sea life. Even in the early stages, these changes will ultimately unbalance ecosystems in our ocean and offset the food chain. In addition to this, oceans can only handle absorbing so much of our carbon emissions. Eventually, their ability to absorb these gasses will diminish, furthering the effects of global warming in our atmosphere.

Carbonic acid rising from the sea floor.
In Castello Aragonese, bubbles of CO2 rise from the sea floor and dissolve to form carbonic acid. This shows us oceans all over the world could look like in the future.                           For comparison, the photo at the top of this post was taken just a few yards away and shows healthy sea floor.

The sea around Castello Aragonese is very acidic because of carbonic acid rising from the sea floor due to volcanic vents. Studies of this ecosystem have given us insight into what much of our oceans will look like within the next 100 years. The sea floor is covered in sea grass devoid of coral or other organisms that would normally flourish. In fact, there are not many organisms other than grass, jellyfish, and barnacles – which makes for a very unbalanced ecosystem.

Don’t want that to become the global picture of our oceans? National Geographic has a list of things you can do within your every day life to help save our oceans. Join Pearls International in our quest for sustainability!

View more stunning photos here.

source: nationalgeographic.com

Pearly Whirly Poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

The Sea Hath Its Pearls by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

The sea hath its pearls,

The heaven hath its stars;

But my heart, my heart,

My heart hath its love.

 

Great are the sea and the heaven,

Yet greater is my heart;

And fairer than pearls and stars

Flashes and beams my love.

 

Thou little, youthful maiden,

Come unto my great heart;

My heart, and the sea, and the heaven

Are melting away with love!