Wednesday, June 4, 2008

A Global Map of Human Impacts to Marine

A Global Map of Human Impacts to Marine Ecosystems

Why map the human impact to the world's oceans?

What happens in the vast stretches of the world's oceans - both wondrous and worrisome - has too often been out of sight, out of mind.

The sea represents the last major scientific frontier on planet earth - a place where expeditions continue to discover not only new species, but even new phyla. The role of these species in the ecosystem, where they sit in the tree of life, and how they respond to environmental changes really do constitute mysteries of the deep. Despite technological advances that now allow people to access, exploit or affect nearly all parts of the ocean, we still understand very little of the ocean's biodiversity and how it is changing under our influence.

The goal of the research presented here is to estimate and visualize, for the first time, the global impact humans are having on the ocean's ecosystems.

Our analysis, published in Science, February 15, 2008 (no subscription required), shows that over 40% of the world's oceans are heavily affected by human activities and few if any areas remain untouched.

How did we create this map?

There were 4 steps to creating this composite map.

1. We gathered or created maps (with global coverage) of all types of human activities that directly or indirectly have an impact on the ecological communities in the ocean's ecosystems. In total, we used maps for 17 different activities in categories like fishing, climate change, and pollution. We also gathered maps for 14 distinct marine ecosystems and modeled the distribution of 6 others.

2. To estimate the ecological consequences of these activities, we created an approach to quantify the vulnerability of different marine ecosystems (e.g., mangroves, coral reefs, or seamounts) to each of these activities, published in Conservation Biology, October 2007. For example, fertilizer runoff has been shown to have a large effect on coral reefs but a much smaller one on kelp forests.

3. We then created the cumulative impact map by overlaying the 17 threat maps onto the ecosystems, and using the vulnerability scores to translate the threats into a metric of ecological impact.

4. Finally, using global estimates of the condition of marine ecosystems from previous studies, we were able to ground-truth their impact scores.

To learn more about the methods used in this study, see the Supplementary Online Materials in Science.

What does the map tell us?

First, we can compare different locations to determine the least and most impacted regions of the globe.

There are large extents of heavily impacted ocean in the North Sea, the South and East China Seas, and the Bering Sea. Much of the coastal area of Europe, North America, the Caribbean, China and Southeast Asia are also heavily impacted.

The least impacted areas are largely near the poles, but also appear along the north coast of Australia, and small, scattered locations along the coasts of South America, Africa, Indonesia and in the tropical Pacific.

For additional videos of the model and information on the SST data, please visit the National Oceanographic Data Center.

Second, the data summarized in the map provides critical information for evaluating where certain activities can continue with little effect on the oceans, where other activities might need to be stopped or moved to less sensitive areas, and where to focus efforts on protecting the last pristine areas. As management and conservation of the oceans turns toward marine protected areas (MPAs), ecosystem-based management (EBM) and ocean zoning to manage human influence, we hope our study will be useful to managers, conservation groups and policymakers.


New storms rake Central Indiana

Tornadoes hit Rush, Johnson counties

By Kevin O'Neal and Heather Gillers

As residents of the Falcon Point apartments sift through the remains of their homes today and representatives of the Federal Emergency Management Agency arrive to examine the damage from last week's storm, Hoosiers in other parts of the state are likely waking up to new weather carnage.

A succession of storms marched through the state late Tuesday, spawning at least three tornadoes.

The National Weather Service tracked two tornadoes on the ground south of Indianapolis that triggered significant damage reports Tuesday night.

One was initially reported near St. Paul on the Rush-Decatur line, where damage to utility poles was reported and wires were torn down.

Weather service meteorologist Joseph Nield said the same tornado apparently hit the village of Moscow in southern Rush County, where injuries were reported and some people were said to be missing.

Sheriff's deputies were going door to door in the Moscow area to check on residents, said Lt. Ceilia Nigh, a department dispatcher. READ>

Tornado deaths in cars spurs improved warnings

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) -- It's turning out to be a deadly year for tornadoes, especially for drivers caught in a storm's path.

The deaths last month of a Colorado couple whose car was tossed more than 100 yards from a southwest Kansas highway brought the state's total of people killed by twisters while in their vehicle to three in the last 11 months.

That has the Kansas Department of Transportation looking for more effective ways to warn drivers of severe weather and how they should take proper precautions.

While signs near toll booths on the Kansas Turnpike tell drivers to tune into 1610-AM for travel advisories, similar signs aren't posted along the other major east-west corridors of Interstate 70 and U.S. 54.

"We're really trying to hash out what we should put up," said department spokesman Tom Hein. "These storms have encouraged us to look at that and try to find a solution."

Nationally, the number of people killed by tornadoes while in their vehicles -- 14 as of Wednesday -- is the highest annual total since 1998, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Storm Prediction Center.

A big share of those deaths came on May 10, when tornadoes in Oklahoma and southeast Missouri killed eight people in their cars.

Experts say there is a wealth of technological improvements to help drivers stay on top of severe weather but they must also rely on their own judgment.

"If it doesn't look right, don't drive into it," said Chance Hayes, warning coordination meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Wichita.

Drivers don't always listen to such advice as storm trackers documented as a series of tornadoes barreled through northwest Kansas on May 23. As their cameras recorded clouds churning the dust, vehicles could be seen leisurely driving nearby. READ>

Storms pummel portions of Illinois UNDATED - Parts of Illinois are cleaning up and drying out after storms raked much of the region, flooding some roads and downing trees and power lines.

The National Weather Service says central Illinois got more than three inches of rainfall on Tuesday, notably around Springfield and Decatur.

In Champaign and Urbana, heavy rain led to minor flooding in the basements of some University of Illinois buildings and the studio of WCIA-TV in Champaign.

Winds knocked down power poles along U.S. 67 near Industry, Illinois, about 55 southwest of Peoria. Illinois State Police say the highway was closed. READ>

Organization says government not ready for disaster
By Eloria Newell James,

With Hurricane Season beginning today, a watchdog group is highlighting some concerns they say indicate the government is not fully prepared for a natural disaster.

Citing minimum changes in the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Program, a still strained military presence with the National Guard and heavy dependence on volunteers as concerns, Ben Smilowitz, founder and executive director of the Disaster Accountability Project, said more needs to be done by the government

Smilowitz said there are gaps in the services available to victims of natural disasters.

“Despite recent assurances from leadership at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and FEMA that the Federal government is prepared for a major disaster, significant areas of concern remain that must be resolved before the U.S. disaster management system can honestly represent itself as sufficiently prepared to respond to a disaster requiring federal resources,” Smilowitz said. “Right now our nation has a volunteer force set up to offer victims of natural disasters help. ... I don’t feel that a volunteer force can provide the caliber of care needed after a disaster.” READ>


Stricken ferry's cargo removed

The stricken ferry Riverdance, which ran aground near Blackpool, has now had all its cargo and trailers removed.

Work on removing its stern, bow and the port side ballast tanks will take place over the next 10 days.

A Maritime and Coastguard Agency spokesman said: "Very good progress has been achieved to date and the overall project remains on schedule."

UK – Riverdance update

The UK Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) issued a press notice stating that significant progress is being made on the dismantling of the ro-ro ferry RIVERDANCE that grounded near Blackpool. (5/30/08).

Arctic countries unprepared for cruise ship accidents: officials

As more cruise liners travel in Arctic waters, fuelled by tourists' interest in the North and made possible by shrinking sea ice, U.S. and Canadian officials are questioning their abilities, as well as those of other Arctic nations, to handle cruise ship accidents.

Speaking at last week's Canadian Arctic Summit in Edmonton, a representative from the U.S. Coast Guard said it doesn't have the resources to respond quickly to a massive rescue operation in the northern Bering Sea and the Arctic waters off Alaska.

"Some things we're looking at is: how much icebreaker time we need up there? Do we put other vessels up there? How much [is] the aircraft response time?" Capt. Michael Inman, the coast guard's chief of response in Juneau, said at the summit.

"All those things we're looking at, we're not at the end point where we know what we're going to have to put there."

Inman said seven cruise ships carrying over 3,000 passengers will be heading to the northern Bering Sea and waters off Alaska this year.

Meanwhile, Inman said, more than 70 cruise ships will travel to Greenland this year, carrying more than 150,000 passengers.

"How do we work in this region in an expanded role in the future? And what are the best ways to actually provide the services required by law?" he said. "We're still looking at that."

U.S. officials said there were 28 North Pole transits by icebreakers between 2004 and 2007, along with the largest number of ships ever in the Barents Sea.

That amount of ship and icebreaker traffic is of concern to Mary Williams, director general of the National Research Council of Canada's Institute for Ocean Technology. READ>