Tag: oceans

GBR Bleached

The Devastating Change That’s Happening to the Great Barrier Reef

Pictured above is a recent photo showing the devastating effects of coral bleaching on the once bright and beautiful Great Barrier Reef. Always regarded as one of the most beautiful and diverse ecosystems on Earth, the once thriving coral reef is now feeling the harsh effects of climate change. A phenomenon called ‘bleaching’ is killing off the corals. Bleaching is a process that happens when abnormal environmental conditions (such as a spike in water temperatures) affect the relationship that the corals have with a species of algae called zooxanthellae. Check out the infographic below for more information:

coral infographic

A recent arial survey of the reef shows that around 95% off the ecosystem is affected by bleaching. Of the 520 reefs surveyed, only four showed no damage.

So what does that mean for the Great Barrier Reef? Well, corals can recover from bleaching if the conditions return to normal and the zooxanthellae are able to repopulate the reefs. However, due to the severe nature of the bleaching, it seems unlikely that many will survive. Professor Terry Hughes, a coral reef expert, estimates that about half of them will die off in the next month or so.

For comparison, check out the beautiful photos at this blog – showing the Great Barrier Reef in its former glory.

The beautiful colors once displayed across Australia's Great Barrier Reef.
The beautiful colors once displayed across Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.

Want to make a difference and inspire positive change in our world? Take action. Stopping climate change begins with the choices we make as individuals. So turn off a light when you leave the room, recycle, and make smart choices when it comes to choosing the products you buy. Check out our list of ways you can help stop climate change here for more information.


Sources:

http://oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/coral_bleach.html (infographic found here)
http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-03-28/great-barrier-reef-coral-bleaching-95-per-cent-north-section/7279338

UCF Helps Restore Oyster Reefs

UCF Knights Give Back

The University of Central Florida’s volunteer program, Knights Give Back, recently completed their Eighth Annual Day of Service! The program has grown extensively over the years, as more and more UCF students, alumni, teachers, and other volunteers have started lining up for their chance to give back. This year, thousands of volunteers working at more than 20 different volunteer sites across central Florida worked on a variety of projects helping the community and the environment.

Infographic on Knights Give Back throughout the years

We at Pearls International are especially interested in this event because this year, one volunteer activity aims to help our favorite little ocean organisms – that’s right, oysters!

On October 11th, 2014, a multitude of students, teachers, and alumni, led by Dr. Linda Walters of the UCF biology department spent their day helping to restore degraded shorelines and oyster reefs in the Indian River Lagoon. Volunteers planted and transplanted mangroves and marsh grass, and created oyster restoration mats. These mats were placed in areas where oyster reefs used to exist, helping to restore the population. Oysters are a keystone, or essential, species and are filter-feeders, which means they actually clean the water as they eat, helping to create a healthy ecosystem in the lagoon.

UCF Students creating oyster mats.
UCF Students creating oyster mats to help restore the oyster population.
Oysters

Oysters: The Threatened Species

(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.)

To continue with the green-theme, I found some thought provoking information concerning our favorite jewel-creating animal. Although this may not be completely about sustainability, it raises a lot of the same non-pollution motifs as far as sustainability is concerned.

In terms of the jewelry that requires the most effort put forth by human hands, pearls are at the top of the list. Since pearls are purely organic, the animal that makes a pearl, an oyster, must be provided for in order to produce a pearl. Recently, some species of oysters have been classified as a threatened species in the freshwater rivers of the United States.

There are several statuses offered to species that are facing rapid decline due to habitat encroachment, pollution, over-harvesting, and other factors. While the “threatened” and “endangered” statuses are very similar, a species belonging to the threatened status has a more promising population growth trend compared to an endangered species, and therefore the threatened species has a more likely chance of recovering.

The article Endangered Freshwater Mussel Species and Trade, written by the TED project, states the “primary cause for (the reduction in oyster population) is believed to be due to non-specific pollution from areas including: coastal, urban, agricultural, and industrial runoff into rivers and waterways”.  Since oysters are filter feeders that consume algae and microscopic organisms in the water, they are an important part of the aquatic habitat. Without oysters, an infestation of algae and microscopic organisms would lead to diseases within other species. Since oysters are so small and because of the way their systems operate, they are more vulnerable to toxins and ecological change than many other marine creatures.

Not only has modern pollution been a problem, but according to Alan P. Covich, in his paper titled Emerging Climate Change Impacts on Freshwater Resources: A Perspective on Transformed Watersheds, experts have pointed to the extremes in the variability of precipitation due to the temperature increase in many regions, which could cause floods and droughts. It was stated that “the main effects on freshwater resources are likely to consist of greatly increased uncertainty in maintaining sufficient local and regional supplies of high-quality water resources to meet demands for municipal, industrial, and agricultural needs while also sustaining natural ecosystem services.” It is theorized that global warming may alter regional hydrology and ecosystem capacities to supply reliable sources of high quality freshwater. The changes that have been documented are now considered long-term even though they may not be completely understood at the moment. It appears lake levels are declining across western basins, midwestern aquifers, and southeastern states.

Oysters are experiencing increasing danger due to the dire state of the environment. Without oysters, the pearl industry will cease to exist. Although we cannot prevent global climate change completely, we can all do our part by preventing pollution and conserving water for our aquatic friends. Next up in the ‘sustainability’ chapter: we all heard how terribly devasting the oil spill in the gulf was in 2010, but did you know who much harm it did for the oyster population?