Archive for the 'Conservation' Category

Thoughtful Thursday: Putting Freshwater in Focus

Every living thing requires freshwater to survive—and there’s not much of it.

While a staggering 97.5 percent of our planet’s water is saltwater, only 2.5 percent is freshwater. And if you think that’s a small number, brace yourself, because it gets even smaller: We can access less than 1 percent of that freshwater. The rest of it is frozen and chilling, literally, in places like Antarctica and Greenland, or so far underground that we can’t get to it.

water defines our world

The freshwater we use exists in lakes, rivers, wetlands, reservoirs and in our soil. It’s replenished through rain and snowfall, making it a sustainable resource—if we use it wisely. This may come as a surprise, since many of us have seemingly unlimited water flowing out of our home faucets, but we have been taking advantage of it.

Global water use doubled between 1960 and 2000, and the number of people living in water-stressed countries is expected to increase from approximately 700 million today to more than 3 billion by 2025. Half of the planet’s wetlands that supply our freshwater have been drained or destroyed, and less than half of the world’s longest rivers are free-flowing, meaning they’re not blocked by dams or other barriers.

The good news is that there’s still time to change the future of our freshwater. If everyone pitches in, we can ensure there’s plenty of it for generations to come.

Don’t believe you can make much of an impact on your own? Consider this: A bathroom faucet runs at approximately 2 gallons of water every minute. By simply turning off the tap while you brush your teeth, you can save 200 gallons of water a month. That’s enough water to fill five bathtubs!

Turn the tide today. Use the 48 days between Earth Day (April 22) and World Oceans Day (June 8) to make a difference. All it takes is one small change in your routine, starting today. Go to 48daysofblue.com to take a pledge and protect our blue planet!

 Source: Map projection by Van der Grinten, GIS data from Natural Earth

 

A Blue View: Bringing Back Atlantic White Cedars

A Blue View is a weekly perspective on the life aquatic, hosted by National Aquarium CEO John Racanelli.

From the smallest plants and animals invisible to the human eye to entire ecosystems, every living thing depends on and is intricately linked by water.

Tune in to 88.1 WYPR every Tuesday at 5:45 p.m. as John brings to the surface important issues and fascinating discoveries making waves in the world today.

April 23, 2014: Bringing Back Atlantic White Cedars

A Blue View podcastClick here to listen to John and Aquarium Conservation
Project Manager, Charmaine Dahlenburg, discuss our
efforts to restore Atlantic white cedar forests!

Historically, Atlantic white cedar forests were common to Maryland’s Eastern Shore. Over time, these trees were harvested, and the swampy areas they depend on for survival were drained and replanted with fast-growing loblollies as part of the forest industry to produce lumber and paper pulp.

Excessive logging wasn’t the only reason for the drastic decline of Atlantic white cedars. These trees require low, wet land, like swamps, to thrive, and many of these wetlands have been drained after too many ditches have been put in and caused these areas to dry up.

nassawango creek preserve

Now, the Atlantic white cedar is a rare, uncommon tree that has actually landed itself on the Maryland Department of Natural Resource’s watchlist.

Atlantic white cedars are considered a highly-ecologically beneficial plant species. They provide habitat to a diverse array of wildlife, protect our watershed and act as a “sponge” to prevent flooding.

The National Aquarium, in partnership with the Nature Conservancy, is trying to bring these unique native Atlantic white cedar forests back to the Eastern Shore.

atlantic white cedar saplings

Click here to learn more about how you can get involved!

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48 Days of Blue: This Earth Day, Let’s Go Beyond the Green!

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Happy Earth Day, everyone!  This year, billions of people around the world will be celebrating our Earth by pitching in to create a healthier environment.  We’ll be planting trees, picking up trash, installing rain barrels, eating no-waste lunches, recycling and using our bikes instead of our cars.  Our commitment to our environment and to each other will be reinforced and expanded.

While participating in Earth Day activities this year, let’s pay special attention to how our actions also impact our water resources.

Did you know that greenhouse gases (produced by cars and other sources) are directly linked to ocean acidification? Or, that by using one reusable water bottle for an entire year, we can eliminate as many as 168 plastic water bottles from our waste stream?  Everything we do on land has a “downstream” effect.  By helping to clean our neighborhoods, parks and streets, we will also be helping our local streams, rivers and oceans.

Today, we’re urging our online community to help us celebrate all of Earth – the green AND the blue – by joining our 48 Days of Blue initiative!

national aquarium 48 days of blue

During the 48 days between Earth Day and World Oceans Day, the Aquarium will be encouraging everyone to make conservation pledges to protect and conserve this blue planet.  These simple pledges include: using a reusable bottle; leaving the car at home twice a week; carrying all purchases with reusable bags; and turning off the faucet while brushing one’s teeth.

Participating in 48 Days of Blue is easy! Just head over to 48daysofblue.com, choose your pledge and share it online with your friends and family using #48DaysofBlue!
Over the next few weeks, the Aquarium will be highlighting everyone’s experiences participating in 48 Days of Blue, sharing tips on how to maximize individual impact and fielding questions from participants! Together, we hope to show the online community what a positive experience taking conservation action can be!

Laura Bankey

 

A Blue View: Floating Forests

A Blue View is a weekly perspective on the life aquatic, hosted by National Aquarium CEO John Racanelli.

From the smallest plants and animals invisible to the human eye to entire ecosystems, every living thing depends on and is intricately linked by water.

Tune in to 88.1 WYPR every Tuesday at 5:45 p.m. as John brings to the surface important issues and fascinating discoveries making waves in the world today.

April 16, 2014: Floating Forests

A Blue View podcastClick here to listen to John discuss
the important role mangrove forests
play in the health of our oceans!

Gardeners in Maryland know that most trees in our temperate climate don’t like having wet feet. And water that’s salty? Forget about it. Around here, having tree roots submerged in saltwater is guaranteed to kill off your landscaping.

But far south of the Chesapeake, fringing tropical and subtropical coastlines, there exist floating forests of mangroves, whose roots grow in a luxuriant tangle at the ocean’s edge. And there, they thrive.

Botanists call the 50 species of mangroves halophylic, or “salt loving.” Mangroves have adapted to putting down roots where other plants can’t: in areas inundated daily by the tide; in thin, nutrient-poor, low-oxygen soils; and in water that varies from fresh to brackish to salty. Just how much salt can mangroves tolerate? Well, typical seawater has a salinity of 35 parts per thousand; in other words, about 35 grams of salt for every liter of sea water. Some species of mangroves can survive in salinities of more than 90 parts per thousand!

To thrive in this salty abundance, these plants need strategies to clear the excess salt. Some species excrete it through glands in their leaves. Others use their roots.

The weird, knobby roots of mangroves actually make traveling to paradise for a tropical vacation possible—tough, woody evergreen mangroves stabilize the soil and prevent many islands from simply washing away.

Thank the mangroves, too, for the colorful diversity of fish and invertebrates you see on your next coral reef dive. Many oceanic and coral reef fish—including snapper, tarpon and lobster—spawn in the nursery provided by the mangrove’s submerged tangle of roots. A mangrove forest is a rich hub of biodiversity, supporting a unique ecosystem of bacteria, plants, mammals, amphibians, invertebrates and birds—some found nowhere else.

Earth’s largest mangrove forest—the Sunderbans of India and Bangladesh—is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, home to at least 250 species of birds, endangered estuarine crocodiles and even Bengal tigers!

In North America, mangrove swamps are found throughout the Gulf Coast, from Florida to Texas. The largest mangrove forest in the United States is in Florida’s aptly named Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge. This special place is home to many endangered species, including West Indian Manatees, and clouds of scarlet ibis and white pelicans.

The scarlet ibis typically inhabits mangrove swamps ranging from northern South America southward along the coast of Brazil, occasionally making visits in Florida.

The scarlet ibis typically inhabits mangrove swamps ranging from northern South America southward along the coast of Brazil, occasionally making visits in Florida.

Although mangrove forests host so-called “charismatic megafauna” like manatees and tigers, truly their greatest treasure may be the thick mud of mangrove leaf litter—fertile with bacteria and fungi—that accumulates in the water below the trees. There, detritivores, like crabs and other animals, feed on decaying leaf litter and contribute to a complex food web that begins, literally, in the mud.

Other microfauna encrust the mangrove’s submerged roots, including a profusion of filter feeding mussels and barnacles. Like Chesapeake’s oysters, mangrove barnacles efficiently filter pollutants from the water.

These crustaceans and mollusks in turn support populations of shrimp and fish that are economically important to Gulf of Mexico fisheries. So, the next time you’re dining on sustainably-caught shrimp, take a moment to thank a mangrove for your meal.

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Celebrate Earth Day with a DIY Mosaic Earth!

Join us on April 19-20 for our weekend-long Earth Day celebration

Experts will teach guests how to celebrate Earth Day every day by bringing green practices into their daily lives, and will demonstrate how human action can positively or negatively impact the environment and animals like those in the care of the National Aquarium. In addition to fun interactive activities and educational workshops taking place throughout the Aquarium, our celebration will also include some eco-friendly DIY crafts!

Can’t wait until this weekend to make some fun crafts? Try creating this mosaic earth decoration:

What you will need:

  • Recycled CD
  • Piece of yarn (for hanging your creation)
  • Scissors
  • Glue Stick
  • Tape
  • Blue, green, white and brown paper – use cut-outs from recycled magazines, tissue paper or construction paper

Instructions:

  1.  Begin with the blue (for the ocean) – use the glue stick to make sections of the CD sticky where you want the “ocean”, then place the blue paper onto the glue.  Overlap the edges.  When the ocean is completed, repeat these steps with the green and brown for the “land”.  Lastly, add a few of the white paper to represent clouds.
  2. Flip the completed earth over and trim the excess paper from around the edges.
  3. Fold the yarn into a loop and tape it to the back of your Earth for hanging.
  4. Hang it and enjoy!

Earth Day Mosaic

Do you have a favorite DIY craft? Share it with us in the comments section!


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