Posts Tagged '48 days of blue'

Happy World Turtle Day!

There are approximately 300 different types of turtles, including seven species of sea turtles. It is estimated that turtles have existed for over 200 million years, making them some of the oldest living creatures on Earth!

Turtles are best known for their hard outer shell, also called a carapace, which protects them. Turtles don’t have teeth, so they use their sharp beaks to tear up their food.

Currently, more than half of the world’s turtle species are threatened or endangered due to centuries of  poorly regulated trade, habitat loss and hunting.

In addition to terrestrial threats, the more the ocean is filled with plastic and debris, the more it is becoming a treacherous environment for sea turtles. Did you know? Plastic bags, for example, can look like jellyfish underwater, causing hungry sea turtles to devour them.

Marine Debris - Plastic Bags

If you were a turtle, could you tell the difference?

The bags are hard for the turtles to digest, and can be fatal if the plastic causes blockages in their digestive system. Research shows that young, ocean-dwelling turtles are eating twice as much plastic as turtles their age did 25 years ago.

Since plastic bags are petroleum-based, they do not biodegrade. By recycling plastic bags or using reusable bags, we can decrease the amount of plastic in the ocean and other water sources, therefore helping out our turtle friends!

Help us celebrate World Turtle Day by taking our 48 Days of Blue pledge to carry all of your purchases with reusable bags!

On Thin Ice: An In-Depth Look at Endangered Species

With overflowing landfills, the use of harmful chemicals in agriculture and a reliance on unsustainable energy sources, among other factors, the human population’s carbon footprint is ever-expanding. From melting polar ice caps to ocean acidification, the environmental impact is becoming increasingly evident.

The implications of a species disappearing reach far beyond the loss of a single organism. Extinction occurs when the last individual of a species dies, and the disappearance of just one plant or animal can have a cascading effect on an ecosystem.

Leveraging Legislation

On December 28, 1973, Congress passed a monumental piece of legislation—the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Managed by the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), the ESA was enacted to protect and restore populations threatened with extinction and their critical habitats.

More than 1,500 species are currently recognized as threatened or endangered by the ESA. The ESA prevents the “take” of those listed species from their habitat and limits trade and poaching of endangered species.

The ESA is a federal law, but it has the benefit of trickling down to state level. States, in many cases, create additional legislation to further the protection of species deemed to be endangered or threatened within their state boundaries.

Simple Changes

Too often the focus of the conversation of endangered species is the harm humans have on the environment. More important, however, is that simple behavioral changes can go a long way toward caring for and reviving the natural world.

Take palm oil.

This vegetable oil, a substitute for the partially hydrogenated oils that contain trans fats, can be found in everything from cereals and canned soups to baby formula and cosmetics. Through everyday purchases, many of us may be perpetuating the destruction of a habitat that boasts some of the greatest species diversity on Earth.

Palm oil plantations are popping up across Indonesia, Malaysia and other countries at the expense of tropical forests. The many species that depend on these forests, including endangered orangutans, face extreme peril.

orangutan

Something as simple as checking the ingredients before purchase could help save a species thousands of miles away.

A Global Connection

A healthy habitat is one of the most important factors when it comes to protecting endangered species. Under the ESA, regions can be designated as “critical habitat,” or areas essential to the survival of a species, but here is where it gets tricky.

Labeling an area critical habitat does not necessarily prevent the further development of that land. Essentially, the designation serves as a reminder to federal agencies to take extra precautions, even to modify projects, in order to minimize harm to these vital natural spaces.

From the water we drink to the air we breathe, humans rely on healthy ecosystems, and every species contained in an ecosystem plays an integral role in the success of that network.

A Proactive Approach

Not every species will be as lucky as the gray wolf, but it is not all doom and gloom. The diamondback terrapin, for example, though never listed as an endangered species in Maryland, has a history of exploitation.

diamondback terrapin

In the 19th century, terrapins were considered a delicacy and hunted for their use in stews. The demand for the terrapin, combined with other factors, caused their numbers to drop dangerously low.

Recognizing the risk, Maryland passed a law in 2007 ending the commercial harvest of terrapins in state waters. And while it is too soon to quantify the impact, alleviating pressure on a struggling population is a step in the right direction.

Bald eagles, American alligators, the Virginia northern flying squirrel, grizzly bears—there have been numerous success stories. In the best circumstances, a species will be “de-listed” from the ESA, meaning the population recovers to a point where it no longer requires protection under the law.

Do Your Part

Here are a few ways to show you care about the world’s endangered species, no matter where you live:

  1. Be a conscious consumer – Purchase products that are organic, locally grown or sustainably sourced.
  2. Back legislation that impacts the environment – Every comment counts, so if there is an issue you support, call or write a letter to your representative. Learn more about the National Aquarium’s legislative priorities at aqua.org/legislation.
  3. Contribute to a conservation organization – Provide financial support if you can. If you don’t have money to give, donate your time! Visit aqua.org/care to learn about opportunities in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.
  4. Start in your own backyard – Planting native plants in your garden will attract native wildlife, including invaluable pollinators that help to preserve the natural environment.
  5. Reduce, reuse, recycle –  Join our 48 Days of Blue movement and learn how simple actions can make a big difference in protecting our natural world!

Thoughtful Thursday: Ditching Plastic Bottles

It is the 10th day of our 48 Days of Blue initiative!

We are overwhelmed and excited to share that, in a few short days, we’ve reached almost 900,000 people online together! In the days and weeks leading up to World Oceans Day (June 8), we’ll be drilling down on each of our 48 Days of Blue pledges and sharing the conservation potential that exists with each.

This week’s focus is on reusable vs. plastic bottle use!

Did you know? A mass of plastic trash circulating in the North Pacific, known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, spans an area twice the size of the United States.

Americans buy approximately 29 billion plastic water bottles every year.

By pledging to swap single-use with a reusable bottles, you can save an average of 168 plastic bottles (and up to $250) a year!

reusable water bottle conservation

Want to help make our blue planet a better place? Head over to 48daysofblue.com and join others in pledging to use a reusable water bottle!

Arbor Day: Save a Fish, Plant a Tree!

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Happy Arbor Day! Today is a special day set aside to celebrate the importance of trees and to encourage school students, community members and businesses across the country to plant a tree in their community. Since the first Arbor Day in 1872, volunteers from around the United States have planted millions of native trees.

Here at the National Aquarium, we are celebrating Arbor Day by planting trees at Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine.  Since 1999, more than 10,000 volunteers have partnered with us to plant 90,000 trees throughout the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

Ft. McHenry

Most people know that trees help to make our communities beautiful, improve air quality and provide essential habitat for many native terrestrial animals. But, did you know that planting a tree can also help fish and other aquatic species?

Trees play a critical role in keeping our waterways clean.  They absorb rainwater, slow down runoff, prevent erosion, and filter pollutants out of the water.

Trees along waterways improve aquatic habitat. By providing shade, trees help to regulate water temperature for sensitive fish species. Fallen trees create small protected areas in streams, lakes and estuaries where aquatic animals can thrive.

Trees are a key component of aquatic food webs. Fallen leaves are an important food source for the aquatic insects that many small fish rely on for survival. These small fish are the basis of freshwater food webs.

Planting a tree in your community is an easy way to help protect aquatic animals! Increasing the tree canopy in your community, will help to clean-up your local waterways and improve aquatic habitat. This Arbor Day, will you partner with us to help protect our blue planet?

Here’s what you can do to help out:

  1. Join our #48DaysofBlue initiative and pledge to do your part by carrying reusable bags and/or using public transportation!
  2. Volunteer at one of our upcoming conservation events
  3. Learn more about the benefits of trees

How are you celebrating Arbor Day? Tell us in the comments section!

Laura Bankey

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

 

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

 


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