Saturday, 25 October 2014

Horseshoe trouble

Hello all!

Most of my entries had broadly focused on the issue of marine trash and debris in various parts of the world. I was recently made aware of a marine trash incident that happened a few years ago in Singapore, at Mandai Besar mangrove.

Recreational fishermen who use gill nets at times visit some of these mangrove patches (Sivasothi, 2009). Gill nets found abandoned at the mangrove have been known to trap crabs, which eventually die from the heat when exposed at low tide or starvation (Sivasothi, 2009). In 2009, Professor Sivasothi discovered and rescued 300 horseshoe crabs trapped in a 100 metre long gill net (Sivasothi, 2009).

Do read about his experience on the rescue here.

There are only 4 species of horseshoe crabs in the world and 2 of them can be found in Singapore (National Parks [NParks], n.d.) The coastal horseshoe crab (Tachypleus gigas) and the mangrove horseshoe crab (Carcinoscorpius rotundicauda) are classified as ‘Endangered’ and ‘Vulnerable respectively (Wild Singapore, 2013) Thus, responsible practices is important to minimise the risks posed to the wildlife we have in Singapore so that we can maintain and enjoy the biodiversity that we have.


References 
NPARKS. (n.d.) Living fossils: Horseshoe crabs. [Online] Available from: http://mygreenspace.nparks.gov.sg/living-fossils-horseshoe-crabs/ [Accessed: 25 October 2014]

SIVASOTHI, N. (2009) 300 entangled horseshoe crabs rescued at Mandai Besar mangrove. [Online] Available from: http://habitatnews.nus.edu.sg/index.php?entry=/marine/20090529-xiphosuran_rescue.txt [Accessed: 25 October 2014]


WILD SINGAPORE. (2013) Horseshoe crabs. [Online] Available from http://www.wildsingapore.com/wildfacts/arthropoda/limulidae/limulidae.htm [Accessed: 25 October 2014]

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Unfortunate marine debris events


Greetings everyone and welcome back to my little blog!

When ‘marine debris’ is mentioned, are irresponsible and careless human actions the first think that comes to your mind? Do you know that this is not the only way debris end up in marine environments? In this short entry, I would like to share some information about serious mishaps that create marine debris, which typically occur during natural disasters such as tsunamis.

Do you still remember the Tohoku earthquake that struck Japan about 3 years ago? The 8.9 magnitude earthquake generated a tsunami that devastated entire communities (BBC, 2011). After this earthquake, the failure of the Fukushima nuclear power plants received a great amount of media coverage.
 
A small vessel from the 2011 Japan tsunami found in Canada
Photo credit: Kevin Head
However, extensive volumes of debris were also swept into the ocean as the flood, caused by the tsunami, receded (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration [NOAA], 2013). The Japanese government had estimated that the tsunami brought about 5 million tonnes of debris into the ocean (NOAA, n.d.) As mentioned in my previous entries, marine debris can travel vast distances as ocean currents carry them. Over the coming years, marine debris from the Japan tsunami is predicted to reach North America (NOAA, n.d.). In fact, a small vessel that was washed ashore on the remote Spring Island in Canada had been confirmed to be debris from the tsunami.

From my previous entries, as well as this one, it is shown that marine debris can result from many different ways. Marine debris is not only a consequence of irresponsible and careless actions by individuals and industries but unfortunate natural events too. I feel that the various ways debris can enter marine environments make the issue of marine debris difficult to address. However, this is no reason to ignore the issue and efforts to combat marine debris should continue to be supported!

That is all for now, till we meet again!


For a short summary on the issue of the 2011 Japan tsunami marine debris, click the following link:


References
BBC NEWS. (2011) Japan earthquake: Tsunami hits north-east. BBC News. [Online] Available from: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-pacific-12709598 [Accessed: 17 October 2013]

NOAA. (2013) Get Answers to All Your Questions about Japan Tsunami Marine Debris. [Online] Available from: http://response.restoration.noaa.gov/about/media/get-answers-all-your-questions-about-japan-tsunami-marine-debris.html [Accessed: 17 October 2013]

NOAA. (n.d.) Japan tsunami marine debris. [Online] Available from: http://response.restoration.noaa.gov/sites/default/files/japan-tsunami-marine_debris_infographic_feb2013.pdf [Accessed: 17 October 2013]

NOAA. (n.d.) Japan tsunami marine debris. [Online] Available from: http://marinedebris.noaa.gov/tsunamidebris/faqs.html [Accessed: 17 October 2013]

Saturday, 11 October 2014

An artwork with a thousand words

Hey there!

Over my past entries, I have discovered that mother nature constantly tries to fight against our marine trash and debris, and at times, managed to transform them into beautiful works of art. Yet, I have recently found out that 4 artists have been using ocean trash to create their own works of art. In this entry, I would like to share my thoughts on an art piece created Mandy Barker, one of the 4 artist.

Soup: Refused
Photo credit: Mandy Barker
Personally, I loved Mandy Barker’s art piece Soup: Refused from her SOUP collection. Like all other art pieces, this art piece was made up of plastic items that had once been marine litter. However, the most interesting aspect of this piece is that all the plastic items have been chewed at some point (Urry, 2014). It is very likely that the tear and bite marks on the plastic items are caused by marine creatures, which had mistaken them for food. I realise the considerable number of plastic items that make up the art piece highlights that marine creatures are truly affected by our marine litter. It makes me upset when I imagine the number of marine creatures that could have ingested some of these plastics, putting their health at risk. In addition, the toothpaste tube in the art piece suggests that some marine creatures could have ingested chemicals, which are possibly harmful to them, such as those found in toothpaste.


To read more about Mandy Barker's art piece, click the following link:


References
URRY, A. (2014) These artists turn ocean trash into really classy art. [Online] Available from: http://grist.org/living/these-artists-turn-ocean-trash-into-really-classy-art/ [Accessed: 9 October 2014]

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Plastic marine debris, can we fix it?

Hello all!

Today is my third entry on marine debris, particularly plastics, in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. By reviewing Engler's journal article "The Complex Interaction between Marine Debris and Toxic Chemicals in the Ocean", I will explore the challenges of cleaning up these plastics and the efforts that has been taken thus far.

Underwater view of marine debris in Hawaii
Photo credit: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
The review...
Marine debris comes from various sources around the globe. Thus, it is very difficult for one country to solve the problem alone. Like many global problems, I believe that it is also difficult to get countries to take responsibility and provide the resources to clear up the patch. This may be attributed to the issue of free-riding.

Additionally, plastic marine debris, such as those in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, is too widespread to clean it up effectively. Engler compares it to clearing a few teaspoon of pieces of plastics spread over a football field. One can only imagine the sustained and time-consuming effort needed to clear up the patch.

Engler concludes that the best solution for the time being is to contain the problem, by preventing plastic debris from entering water bodies. Efforts by both governmental and non-governmental organisations, such as the United States Environmental Protection Agency and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, to raise awareness about the problems associated with marine debris have stabilised the amount of debris in the ocean.

Plastics are extremely valuable and have countless consumer and industrial applications, such as toys and packaging. This is due to their low cost, malleability and durability. However, their durability greatly exceeds their service life. Thus, I believe there is also a need to prevent plastics from becoming a litter besides preventing plastic debris from reaching water bodies. Engler acknowledges the need to lower dependence on single-use plastic items, such as bags and bottles, as well as to increase the recycling of plastics. These will require behaviour changes but will help to reduce the chances of plastics becoming marine debris.


To read the full article, click the following link:

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Nurdle menance in ocean gyres

Greetings and welcome back to my blog!

In one of my early entries, I had briefly discussed how marine organisms, like fish, in mangroves can be affected by marine debris, primarily microplastics. Continuing from my previous entry, today, I wish to look further into the issue of microplastics in relation to ocean gyres.


The short video below gives an interesting overview of how microplastics end up in ocean gyres, their impacts, as well as what we can do to prevent more microplastics from collecting in the ocean gyres. Do watch it!

The nurdle's quest for ocean domination

In summary…
Nurdles, ranging from a few millimetres to specks only seen under the microscope, are pollutants that are prevalent in water bodies across the globe. They can come from a primary or secondary source. As a primary source, nurdles can come from factories. These factories produce, melt and mould the nurdles into the various plastic products we use. Nurdles can also come from microbeads in products such as facewash and toothpaste. As a secondary source, nurdles are formed when large pieces of plastic litter such as bottles and plastic bags are worn down into tiny pieces over time.

Nurdles can impact marine ecosystems adversely. They can become toxic when chemicals in the ocean water adhere to their surface. Marine organisms such as birds and fish may eat these nurdles, mistaking for food. Thus, they affect the marine organism’s heatlh due to the toxins present and also by starvation as the nurdles are never digested. The nurdles and toxins will be passed up through the food chain when the organism is eaten by another larger organism, affecting the marine ecosystem. The video suggests that to prevent more nurdles from entering water bodies across the globe and ultimately, the gyres, the best solution is to remove plastics out of the equation altogether. It suggests more recycling, replacing plastics with paper and glass, as well as to discontinue using products with microbeads. 


In my next entry, I will look further even further into the pervasiveness of microplastics in our water bodies, mainly in the ocean gyres. Stay tuned! 


To get a better insight on the issue discussed in this entry, click the following link: 
National Geographic - Great Pacific Garbage Patch

Friday, 26 September 2014

The spinning vortex of debris

Hello there!

Have you wondered how all the marine debris travel around the globe? Other than being washed onto shores worldwide, marine debris are highly likely to become concentrated in one of the five gyres present in the oceans.

The 5 gyres of the world
Photo credit: EarthFirst
National Geographic (n.d.) explains that an ocean gyre is a system of circular ocean currents established by the Earth’s wind patterns and forces created as the planet rotates. Normally, the circular motion of ocean gyres aids in circulating ocean water all over the planet. However, this movement also draws and traps debris into the stable centre of the ocean gyres.

According to Oceanic Defense (n.d.), the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is bounded by the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre (NPSG). It also notes that the convergence of the California, North Equatorial, Kuroshiro and North Pacific currents, moving in a clockwise direction, form the NPSG. In the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, surface marine debris primarily comprises microplastics (National Geographic, n.d.). On the other hand, denser marine debris, which may sink deep beneath the surface, is speculated to be collected on the seafloor beneath the patch.

Toppling of shipping containers at sea
Photo Credit: TransportationForTomorrow
As noted by SF Environment (n.d.), an estimated 80% of the debris in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch comes from land-based activities while the other 20% comes from marine-based activities. An example mentioned was the shipping of containers over the world's oceans between Asia and North America. Harsh storms, often occurring along the route, cause hundreds of containers to go overboard. Thus, the items in these containers become marine debris, which may find their way into the Great Pacific Garbage Patch as the currents carry them.

In my next few entries, I will be sharing more about marine debris in relation to ocean gyres, mainly the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Do continue to visit my blog to find out more! 


References
NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC. (n.d.) Great Pacific Garbage Patch. [Online] Available from: http://education.nationalgeographic.com/education/encyclopedia/great-pacific-garbage-patch/?ar_a=1 [Accessed: 24 September 2014]

OCEANIC DEFENSE. (n.d.) Great Pacific Garbage Patch. [Online] Available from: http://www.oceanicdefense.org/campaigns/Great-Pacific-Garbage-Patch.html [Accessed: 24 September 2014]

SF ENVIRONMENT. (n.d.) The Great Pacific Garbage Patch. [Online] Available from: http://www.naturebridge.org/sites/default/files/Garbology%20Fact%20Sheet%20-%20The%20Great%20Pacific%20Garbage%20Patch.pdf [Accessed: 25 September 2014]

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Marine trash, saving or destroying coral reefs?

Good day all and welcome back!

As shown in my previous post, corals and their reefs are an important marine ecosystem, dubbed by many as the rainforests of the oceans. However, marine trash may cause great environmental damage to coral reefs. Today, continuing from my previous post, I will be discussing 2 techniques used to promote coral growth and thus, forming coral reefs.

A Biorock structure covered with corals
Photo credit: Eun Jae
Biorock technology is commonly used to promote coral growth. According to Biorock International Corporation (n.d.), this involves running weak electrical currents through steel structures underwater.  By doing so, calcium carbonate precipitates out of the seawater and builds up on the steel structures. It was noted that the precipitated coating of calcium carbonate simulates the skeleton structures formed naturally by the corals. Thus, corals attach themselves to the precipitated calcium carbonate and grow rapidly. There are beyond 20 Biorock projects around the world, with Indonesia having the biggest projects (Goreau, 2009). Around the 3 Gili islands in Indonesia, there are already more than 100 Biorock structures (Gili Eco Trust, n.d.). This seems to indicate that the Biorock technology has yielded great results in helping corals and their reefs flourish.

USNS General Hoyt S. Vandenberg
Photo credit: NavSource
However, the technique that I find particularly peculiar is by discarding unwanted objects into the seas. Governments around the globe have been sinking large pieces of unwanted equipment into the seas in a bid to form artificial reefs (The Atlantic, 2011). An example noted was the sinking of the former missile-tracking ship Gen. Hoyt S. Vandenberg, in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary in May 2009. A year later, algae and sponges were seen growing on the exteriors of the sunken ship, accompanied by over 113 different species of fish that inhabit the area. This technique shows how marine trash can save coral reefs and really highlights how the Earth copes with what we do to it. It never cease to amaze me that nature finds a way to create a treasure out of our trash. That being said, I strongly believe that we should fully respect the planet we call home and never abuse it. We should not take the capabilities of the earth for granted because there's only so much it can bear. Once we go overboard, we will destroy the earth, and ourselves as well.

Moving on, I will like to mention that the sinking of unwanted objects into the sea, to create corals and coral reefs, do not always work. When this happens, the consequences can be dire. It may result in the destruction of the marine environment instead of helping it. 

The Osborne Tire Reef
Photo credit: Project Baseline
A prime example will be disaster created when an estimated 2 million discarded tyres were used in the attempt to expand the artificial reef in the Osborne Reef (Pitzner, 2013). It was discovered that these tyres were not only unsuccessful in attracting corals but also become untied and separated from one another. As mentioned in my previous post, marine trash that settles on the sea floor can threaten coral reefs. In this case, in heavy weather conditions and storms, the tyres have drifted through the natural reef, causing great damage to the ecosystem (Pitzner, 2013). Thus, efforts have been made to remove these marine trash that are destroying the coral reef. Yet, progress remains slow and as of 2009, only 73 000 of the tyres were removed (Project Baseline, n.d.).

Do continue to visit and discover more about the issues surrounding marine trash and debris!


References
BIOROCK INTERNATIONAL CORPORATION. (n.d.) Biorock process. [Online] Available from: http://www.biorock.org/content/biorock-process [Accessed: 20 September 2014]

GILI ECO TRUST. (n.d.) Situation on Gili and objectives. [Online] Available from: http://www.giliecotrust.com/about-biorock-project-on-gili-islands-in-indonesia.html [Accessed: 20 September 2014]

GOREAU, T. J. (2009) Tourism and sustainable coral reefs. [Online] Available from: http://www.globalcoral.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/Ecotourism_Biorock_complete.pdf [Accessed: 20 September 2014]

PITZNER, M. (2013) Tire reefs have proven to be troublesome where ever they have been deployed. [Online] Available from: http://www.projectbaseline.org/gulfstream/tire-reefs-have-proven-to-be-troublesome-where-ever-they-have-been-deployed/ [Accessed: 19 September 2014]

PROJECT BASELINE. (n.d.) The Osborne Tire Reef. [Online] Available from: http://www.projectbaseline.org/gulfstream/project-baseline-gulfstream-projects/the-osborne-tire-reef/ [Accessed: 19 September 2014]

THE ATLANTIC. (2011) Artificial reefs around the world. [Online] Available from: http://www.theatlantic.com/infocus/2011/04/artificial-reefs-around-the-world/100042/ [Accessed: 19 September 2014]