Posts Tagged 'NOAA'



Thoughtful Thursdays: Climate Change is Killing our Coral Reefs

A Majority of Coral Reefs Will Be Damaged By 2030 Due to Rising Greenhouse Gases

The negative impacts of climate change have been widely reported. Temparatures continue to steadily rise, weather patterns are increasingly erratic and greenhouse gas emissions are causing alarming rates of CO2 to linger in our atmospheres. The ecosystem in the most immediate danger of total degradation from this changes is the ocean.

Orange mushroom and other various corals

Specifically, climate change impacts are wreaking havoc on our coral reef ecosystems. As temperatures rise, mass bleaching and infectious disease outbreaks are becoming more frequent and impossible to contain. The CO2 that lingers in the air above ground is also being absorbed into the ocean, altering the sea water chemistry in a process called ocean acidification.

“Think about putting your blue jeans in the laundry and putting in too much bleach. Well, they come out white. That’s what happens to these corals. All these beautiful colors of this coral that you’re looking at … now what you would see is a field of white,” said Brent Whitaker, National Aquarium Director of Biological Programs .

A vibrant sun polyp coral

The bleaching of coral reefs is usually brought on by unusually warm waters and stress. Shallow-water reefs, like those along our Atlantic coast and in the Caribbean, have been particularly harmed by prolonged periods of warmth – an estimated 16 percent of those reefs have been killed worldwide.

Queen Angel fish in our Atlantic Coral Reef exhibit

After closely montioring the effects these changes are having on ocean life, scientists have determined the rate at which the damage is happening. At least 70 percent of coral reefs are projected to suffer from degradation by 2030 without a dramatic change to carbon emissions, according to a Nature Climate Change study.

There is so much that we can do to protect our blue planet. To learn more about the National Aquarium’s efforts to preserve our coral reef ecosystems and how you can get involved, click here.

Climate change, do kids get it?

Climate change is a complex issue that is a major concern to the public. The topic sparks debate and is gaining major attention around the world. Climate change is so popular that it’s this year’s theme for Blog Action Day, an annual web event held on October 15th that unites the world’s bloggers in posting an issue on the same day to trigger discussion.  So today we’d like to share what we know about kids and climate change.

In a recent study done by the Ocean Project, it was found that most people do not associate climate change and carbon pollution with ocean health. When the truth is, climate change is adversely affecting the marine environment in particular—evident through sea level rise, elevated water temperature, coral bleaching, and acidification.

At the Aquarium we spend a lot of time educating visitors on environmental concerns through our exhibits and outreach events, and we also spend a lot of time educating children, and listening to children. We know that general public awareness about the critical role the ocean plays in the Earth’s climate system is low but, strangely, we have found that youth seem to be more connected  to this issue than adults. More importantly, they are committed to understanding and talking about climate change.

Continue reading ‘Climate change, do kids get it?’

Rainforests of the sea

Last week the U.S. House of Representatives advanced an important ocean-related conservation measure called the Coral Reef Conservation Act Reauthorization and Enhancement Amendments of 2009 (H.R. 860). The amendments will bolster America’s coral reef conservation efforts by promoting international cooperation to protect coral reefs and codifying the U.S. Coral Reef Task Force. 

You probably know corals for their beauty! But do you know why they are so important? Coral reefs are integral components of tropical and subtropical marine ecosystems.  They protect shorelines from incoming storms, provide habitat for innumerable species of fish and invertebrates, and generate important tourism revenues for many coastal countries.  But like many ocean habitats, they are becoming increasingly threatened by growing coastal populations and a variety of human activities. Congresswoman Madeleine Z. Bordallo (D-GU) introduced the bill, and stated that “coral reefs are truly the ‘rainforests of the sea.’  That statement couldn’t be more true.Secore Picture

The National Aquarium is involved in coral reef conservation project called SECORE, a unique initiative that is addressing coral conservation issues by bringing together public aquariums and zoos and marine scientists to share knowledge and practical skills in coral husbandry and coral research. The National Aquarium’s DC venue has been a key partner in the SECORE project for 4 years. In 2008, staffers ventured out on a research and collection trip, and they are currently propagating coral polyps at the facility.

You can see wonderful coral exhibits at the National Aquarium’s DC venue.  And if you believe in this issue, please write your elected officials and urge them to support this crucial bill that will help preserve our rainforests of the sea. Click here for more information.

Dolphins, dolphins everywhere

The group of dolphins currently feeding in New Jersey’s Shrewsbury River has been creating quite a buzz among residents and visitors of the New Jersey shore.

The National Aquarium’s Marine Animal Rescue Program is a part of the North East Region Stranding Network, which is working closely with NOAA (The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) on the situation. Experts at the Aquarium can report the following:

Biologists from NOAA have been able to keep a close watch on the pod of dolphins, which were identified earlier this week as coastal bottlenose dolphins. NOAA experts are continuing to evaluate the group but have reported that the biggest threat to them at the moment is behavior of humans eager to commune with them. 

The animals appear to be in good body condition, they are socializing, and do not appear to be in distress. And at this time, NOAA has no definitive plans to move or attempt to herd the dolphins, although it is preparing to do so if it becomes necessary. “It’s a last resort,” said Teri Rowles, director of NOAA’s National Marine Mammal Health and Stranding Response Program.  Such a process is complicated, usually has mixed success, and is highly stressful for the animals sometimes resulting in death.”

The National Aquarium reminds beach and shore travelers to be cautious and considerate of animals in these situations. Coastal bottlenose dolphins are accustomed to human activities in their habitat, but encounters can be risky for both people and the animals. 

We urge people to take advantage of the chance to see and appreciate these animals, but to do so from at least 50 yards away by using binoculars, spotting scopes, or telephoto zoom lens to get a closer look! Federal law prohibits interference with the animal’s natural behavior, pursuant the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972.  Harassment is punishable by fines of up to $10,000.

Most importantly, if you come into contact with a marine animal notify the appropriate authorities: the U.S. Coast Guard, your local Aquarium, or fire or police departments.


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