New Year Message from The PODS TEAM

 
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It’s been another incredibly busy year at PODS and although much of what we have achieved has been going on behind the scenes, the PODS Team has not wasted a single day (or night!) in getting PODS firmly off the ground!

The architects and the numerous consultants that we have engaged in order to meet the requirements of the permitting process and make sure we have done all our due diligence, have been hard at work all year - resulting in twenty-one (yes 21!) detailed reports about the viability and practicality of the PODS project.  As a result, I am very pleased to announce that on 13th December the first reading of our rezoning application was passed unanimously and unopposed at the SCRD Planning Committee Meeting.  So, first of all, I would like to thank all those wonderful consultants for doing such a great job on such a tight timeline – your excitement and commitment to PODS is inspiring and extremely reassuring.  I would particularly like to thank Jeremiah Deustcher, our incredible architect and the brains behind the PODS design, who has done so much to help coordinate all these consultants and generally gone way, way beyond the call of duty in every respect!  Thank you Jeremiah!

All through this last year the Board of Directors of the Lagoon Society and the PODS Team have been working diligently on strategic planning and developing the PODS Business Plan as well as creating what we call the PODS Operational Model (POM).  There would be no point in going to all the trouble of building PODS if it wasn’t going to be able to pay for itself and be sustainable in the long-term. We built POM to make absolutely sure we could deliver on that.  POM consists of a gigantic spreadsheet that holds data about all the potential revenue sources, with assumptions that have been widely researched and validated as realistic sources of income, as well as every conceivable cost associated with these activities in very fine detail. Together with a complex combination of algorithms and calculations, POM produces a one-page predicted three-year financial statement and the bottom-line for whatever scenario of different revenue streams you choose.  This amazing tool enables us to calculate not only if PODS is viable, but also if it is sustainable in the long term.  THE GOOD NEWS IS THAT PODS IS BOTH VIABLE AND SUSTAINABLE!!

The draft PODS Business Plan and all the assumptions behind it will be presented at two public meetings coming up in the New Year, one in Madeira Park and one at Irvines Landing. The detailed results of all this hard work will be on display and various consultants will be there to answer questions.  We will be asking everyone for their comments and suggestions. We are here to work with the community to come up with a plan that works for us all.  Announcements about the meetings will be made very soon and we very much look forward to seeing you all there.

We thank you all again for your continued support and encouragement and particularly to all the staff and hundreds and hundreds of volunteers who have brought us this far!!  We could not have done this without you, and the PODS Team salutes this incredible community which we are all so fortunate to be a part of.

Wishing you all a Very Happy New Year and are looking forward to getting down to the nitty gritty on PODS in 2019!!

Warm wishes everyone,

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Michael and The PODS Team

 
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Diver's BioBlitz

Ocean Quest Divers were in town last weekend, completing their Master Diver Program, and helping us with our Citizen Science Project Bioblitz. Staying at local resorts, and contributing to the local winter economy, these divers absolutely love diving Pender Harbour, and enjoyed a  Saturday dive at Martin's Cove, Francis Peninsula, and a Sunday dive at Crosstree lane, Irvine's Landing. Each diver was interviewed after their dive, and a 6 page species list was compiled. Special thanks to our local divers Sam and Vince who shared local knowledge and support.

Highlights include Opalescent squid egg pouches! Copper Rockfish, Lingcod, Decorated warbonnets, Giant nudibranchs, Giant chitons, Swimming scallops, and Crimson anemones. Divers commented on the amazing amount of biodiversity around Pender Harbour and the clarity of the water being excellent.

Merry Christmas everyone!

UPDATE ON PODS MONITORING PROGRAMS

Our monitoring programs have been in full swing throughout the fall, with salmon escapement enumeration, forage fish surveys, pinniped monitoring, invasive species monitoring, and intertidal surveys occurring. Seagrass surveys will start up again in the summer of 2019.

SALMON ESCAPEMENT
We completed weekly salmon escapement counts in Anderson Creek and Meyers Creek between September 19 and November 22 this year. We also enumerated two smaller tributaries; Coho Creek that drains to Anderson Creek, and Meadow Creek that drains to Meyers. All of our results are reported to Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) and compiled in to Escapement Bulletins. Based on these bulletins and data collected from previous years, Chum were expected to be above target for Southeast Vancouver Island and below target for mid-Vancouver Island and Jervis Inlet. Coho were expected to remain in low productivity throughout Southern BC. We noted that both species were present in higher numbers this year when compared to last year.

FORAGE FISH
Forage fish are a small pelagic fish that links plankton and larger fish in the food chain. These fish are usually referred to as bait fish. We sample for 2 species, Pacific sandlance and surf smelt – these species are considered beach spawners, laying their eggs in the sediments on the beach at high tide. We sample for forage fish continuously throughout the year, and we have so far completed surveys at Baker Beach and Thormanby Island. Last January we were fortunate to have sampled during a winter spawn at Baker Beach, during which we identified the presence of Pacific sandlance. This was an extremely exciting find, as Pacific sandlance are the preferred food for Chinook salmon, which are in turn the main food source for the Salish Sea orcas (~90% of their diet). With the Salish Sea orcas considered at risk, it is important to understand their food source and ensure protection of these resources.

We are expanding our research into this area with new sampling beaches proposed for the spring. We have partnered with DFO to start collecting environmental DNA (eDNA) samples for forage fish. We hope that we can take sediment samples from the beach and determine if it is a spawning beach using eDNA. This would reduce the time and amount of sample required at each beach. We will keep you posted with our progress!

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PINNIPED MONITORING
We completed a second survey for pinnipeds (carnivorous aquatic mammals such as seals and sealions) this year. We identified haul-out locations throughout the harbour from Halfmoon Bay through to Powell River, using GPS to identify 11 locations in July and 10 locations in November.  We also observed a colony of Steller sea lions comprised of 75 individuals in July and 191 in November.

INVASIVE SPECIES MONITORING
New this year, we have started looking at monitoring invasive species along the coast and near high traffic locations such as government docks. We have been completing literature reviews for habitat types required for European green crab and have completed underwater photographs of some of the public docks within the harbour including Madeira Park, Irvine’s Landing, Whiskey Slough and Garden Bay. We plan to take underwater photographs twice a year to see if there are any changes in the composition of the flora and fauna, to complete biodiversity indices and to monitor for potential invasive species presence. Our first round of photographs was completed in October 2018.

INTERTIDAL SURVEYS
Our intertidal surveys are comprised of rocky and soft sediment surveys. Rocky surveys involve a visual inspection along the rocky shoreline in a given area, wherein abundance of mobile organisms is recorded, and a snapshot of sessile invertebrates and marine plants is completed. Soft sediment sampling involves looking at organisms under the surface at different depth intervals.  We survey the intertidal at four locations in total; rocky intertidal is completed at Baker Beach, Irvines Landing, and Thormanby Island, while soft sediment is completed at Baker Beach, Thormanby Island, and Malcolm Bay.

We complete intertidal surveys twice a year, in the summer and in the winter. This year we performed summer surveys for both site types and all locations between June and early September. While summer sampling occurs during daylight hours, winter sampling occurs at night to correspond with the low tides - this proves challenging, as the weather can be unpredictable and good low tides are few and far between! As a result, we have yet to perform winter surveys at all sites. Two soft sediment surveys were completed this November at Malcolm Bay and Baker Beach, and a rocky intertidal survey was also completed in November at Baker Beach. One rocky intertidal survey (Thormanby Island) was completed in February earlier this year, but we have not been able to access this site more recently due to the timing of the tides. Both rocky and soft sediment surveys will be performed on Thormanby in early 2019, and a rocky intertidal survey is scheduled at Irvines Landing for early this December.

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Local Citizen Scientist Collect Data

Our citizen scientist crew are local fishermen, educators, retired professionals, international and local students who have ventured out on the Malaspina Strait for daylong sampling surveys over the last four years.

This dedicated crew have helped collect 24,000+ zooplankton, pyhtoplankton samples and other physical water quality parametres as part of a long-term project to assess and monitor the Salish sea ecosystem with respect to salmon survival.

We hope you will join us for the THE SALISH SEA MARINE SURVIVALPROJECT: FINDINGS & NEXT STEP.

Speaker: DR. BRIAN RIDDELL CEO of the Pacific Salmon Foundation
Place: Pender Harbour School of Music
Date: Thursday, December 6th


Come find out what PSF has been learning about the causes of Chinook and Coho salmon mortality in the Strait of Georgia, and our proposed next steps to assist with salmon recovery.

HUGS Ukulele will perform 'songs for salmon' at 6:30pm, Lecture at 7:00 pm, Refreshments served.

EVERYONE WELCOME!

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Climate change: Oceans 'soaking up more heat than estimated'

By Matt McGrath
Environment Correspondent
View original article here

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The world has seriously underestimated the amount of heat soaked up by our oceans over the past 25 years, researchers say.

Their study suggests that the seas have absorbed 60% more than previously thought.

They say it means the Earth is more sensitive to fossil fuel emissions than estimated.

This could make it much more difficult to keep global warming within safe levels this century.

What have the researchers found?

According to the last major assessment by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the world's oceans have taken up over 90% of the excess heat trapped by greenhouse gases.

But this new study says that every year, for the past 25 years, we have put about 150 times the amount of energy used to generate electricity globally into the seas - 60% more than previous estimates.

That's a big problem.

Scientists base their predictions about how much the Earth is warming by adding up all the excess heat that is produced by the known amount of greenhouse gases that have been emitted by human activities.

This new calculation shows that far more heat than we thought has been going into oceans. But it also means that far more heat than we thought has been generated by the warming gases we have emitted.

Therefore more heat from the same amount of gas means the Earth is more sensitive to CO2.

What are the implications of the finding?

The researchers involved in the study believe the new finding will make it much harder to keep within the temperature rise targets set by governments in the Paris agreement. Recently the IPCC spelled out clearly the benefits to the world of keeping below the lower goal of 1.5C relative to pre-industrial levels.

This new study says that will be very difficult indeed.

"It is a big concern," said lead author Dr Laure Resplandy from Princeton University in New Jersey.

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"If you look at the IPCC 1.5C, there are big challenges ahead to keep those targets, and our study suggests it's even harder because we close the window for those lower pathways."

The report suggests that to prevent temperatures rising above 2C, carbon emissions from human activities must be reduced by 25% more than previously estimated.

What does it mean for the oceans?

As well as potentially making it more difficult to keep warming below 1.5 or even 2C this century, all that extra heat going into the oceans will prompt some significant changes in the waters.

"A warmer ocean will hold less oxygen, and that has implications for marine ecosystems," said Dr Resplandy.

"There is also sea level, if you warm the ocean more you will have more thermal expansion and therefore more sea level rise."

What have these scientists done differently?

Since 2007, scientists have been able to rely on a system of almost 4,000 Argo floats that record temperature and salinity in the oceans around the world.

But prior to this, the methods used to measure the heat in the ocean had many flaws and uncertainties.

Now, researchers have developed what they say is a highly precise method of detecting the temperature of the ocean by measuring the amount of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the air. This allows them to accurately measure ocean temperatures globally, dating back to 1991, when accurate data from a global network of stations became available.

The key element is the fact that as waters get warmer they release more carbon dioxide and oxygen into the air.

"When the ocean warms, the amount of these gases that the ocean is able to hold goes down," said Dr Resplandy.

"So what we measured was the amount lost by the oceans, and then we can calculate how much warming we need to explain that change in gases."

Will the heat ever come back out?

Yes, say the authors, but over a very long time.

"The heat stored in the ocean will eventually come back out if we start cooling the atmosphere by reducing the greenhouse effect," said Dr Resplandy.

"The fact that the ocean holds so much heat that can be transferred back to the atmosphere makes it harder for us to keep the Earth surface temperature below a certain target in the future.

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"The ocean circulation that controls the ocean heat uptake/release operates on time scales of centuries, meaning that ocean heat would be released for the centuries to come."

How have other scientists responded to the findings?

With some concern.

"The authors have a very strong track record and very solid reputation... which lends the story credibility," said Prof Sybren Drijfhout at the UK's National Oceanography Centre in Southampton.

"The updated estimate is indeed worrying in terms of how likely it is that society can meet 1.5 and 2 degree targets as it shifts the lower bound of climate sensitivity upward."

Others say that further work is required.

"The uncertainty in the ocean heat content change estimate is still large, even when using this new independent method, which also has uncertainties," said Thomas Froelicher from the University of Bern, Switzerland.

"The conclusion about a potential higher climate sensitivity and potentially less allowable carbon emission to stay below 2C should stimulate further investigation."

The study has been published in the journal Nature.

Climate change: 'Wetlands vital to protect cities'

By Navin Singh Khadka
Environment Correspondent, BBC World Service
View original article here

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Cities around the world are frequently flooding during extreme weather, largely because they are fast losing the wetlands that work as a natural defence, experts warn.

Wetlands are ecosystems like lakes, rivers, marshes and peatlands, as well as coastal marine areas including mangroves and coral reefs.

The experts say wetlands work as a giant sponge that soaks up and stores extra rainfall and water from storm surges.

Conservation of these water bodies in urban areas was the focus of an international meeting on wetlands that concluded in Dubai on Monday.

Disappearing wetlands

The warning follows an alarming recent report that the world's wetlands are disappearing three times faster than forests.

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The recent study by the global wetland convention found that nearly 35% of the world's wetlands were lost between 1970 and 2015.

Latin America has seen the highest rate of loss - nearly 60% in that period - while Africa lost 42%, according to the report.

Urban encroachment

To safeguard flood control and other benefits, the international meeting on wetlands has launched accreditation for cities that conserve wetlands.

Under this scheme, 18 cities around the world have so far been recognised as conserving their wetlands.

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Expanding cities frequently encroach on wetlands because they are often viewed as wasteland to be used for other purposes, such as dumping sites.

About half of the world's population today lives in urban areas and the figure is expected to increase to nearly 70% by 2050.

"The idea of accreditation for cities is to make them realise the value of wetlands and to integrate them into urban planning," Lew Young, a wetland expert with the Wetland Convention, told the BBC.

"On the top of the list of benefits of having wetlands is an increased resilience against natural disasters, including Tsunamis."

Cities at risk

Scientists have long warned that climate change will bring extreme rainfall and powerful sea-storms that could flood cities.

They say lakes, marshlands and river-floodplains absorb excess rainfall, while saltmarshes and mangroves work as a buffer against storm surges.

Some experts also claim inland wetlands are five times more economically valuable than tropical forests.

They provide - directly or indirectly - almost all of the world's supply of freshwater, and so are critical to human and planet life.

The recent report by the Wetland Convention said more than one billion people depended on them for a living, and 40% of the world's plant and animal species lived and bred in wetlands.

The convention warned, however, that wetlands remained dangerously undervalued by policy and decision-makers in countries' national plans.





Pollution threatens the future of killer whales

By Jonathan Amos and Victoria Gill
View original article here

Killer whales are in deep trouble because of persistent chemical pollution in the environment, researchers say.

A new study suggests the long-term viability of more than half of the different orca groups around the globe is now in question.

Some populations, such as those around the UK, the Strait of Gibraltar, off Brazil, Japan and California, are almost certainly doomed.

The assessment is in Science magazine.

The issue is polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs.

These chemical compounds were once manufactured in vast quantities, and used in everything from plastics and paints to electrical equipment and sealants. But they are highly toxic and although banned decades ago have amassed in the environment, leaching into the ocean.

Killer whales, or orcas, are top predators so they absorb all the PCB pollution taken in by the different prey in their food chain - from fish, right up to seals and sharks.

The PCBs stunt the ovaries of female orcas, limiting their ability to produce calves. The chemicals also suppress the immune system.

What is the outlook for orcas?

The new study models the future of the killer whales' reproductive success and survivability against the chemical challenge.

For those populations living in clean waters, it is positive. Orcas in places like the Antarctic and the Arctic should increase their numbers.

But for those living in the most polluted seas, the next 30-50 years will be grim.

The killer whales that live on the west coast of Scotland, for example, are now down to just eight individuals and they have not produced a calf in more than 20 years.

Paul Jepson, from the Zoological Society of London, says this group will "disappear in my lifetime".

"Over 50% of the populations that we've got data for will actually collapse in our model," he told the BBC's Science In Action programme.

"PCBs are such highly toxic chemicals, and they persist in the environment. And it's the killer whales that have by a long way the highest exposures now of any species on Earth; certainly any mammalian species."

The Scottish orcas have been found to be heavily contaminated.

The Scottish orcas have been found to be heavily contaminated.

The curse of polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs

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Polychlorinated biphenyls were manufactured from the 1920s

  • Banned in the US in 1979, the UK in 1981 and the rest of the EU

  • Europe produced some 300,000 tonnes from 1954 to 1984

  • The majority has yet to be destroyed or safely stored away

  • PCBs were popular in coolant fluids in electrical apparatus

  • They were used in building construction, especially in sealants

  • Also in cutting fluids for machining, and carbonless copy paper

  • Today, only North Korea still manufactures polychlorinated biphenyls

Why are the animals so exposed?

Everything in this story works against the killer whales.

Not only do they accumulate contaminants because of their position as top predators, but the toxic effects hit them where they are particularly vulnerable - in their ability to reproduce.

These are animals that take a long time to reach sexual maturity and even then have perhaps one calf every few years. This puts very precise pressure on a population.

In addition, PCBs are soluble in fat - and killer whales are extremely fat-rich animals. A mother's milk will be loaded with PCBs which she will pass on to her offspring during lactation.

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How do we tackle the PCB legacy?

Most PCBs have yet to be destroyed or safely stored away.

Some countries have done better than others. In the US, where federal "superfunds" have been used to clean up the most heavily contaminated sites, PCB levels entering the ocean have come down.

But there needs to be much more urgency in places such as Europe.

"Improper disposal of PCB-containing equipment in landfills may lead to leakage and leaching of PCBs into nearby streams, river, estuaries, and ocean," said lead author on the new report, Jean-Pierre Desforges from Aarhus University, Denmark.

"We know that PCBs were used in paints and sealants in old buildings and for outer coating on ships, so if contaminated building materials are improperly disposed of they could also reach the environment, and demolition of buildings may cause PCBs to enter the air."

Can we help the orcas themselves?

There is very little that can be done to recover the PCBs once they have reached the ocean. And the robustness of the chemicals means they will hang around in the environment for a very long time.

But there are parallel problems we could conceivably fix, said co-author Ailsa Hall from the Sea Mammal Research Unit at St Andrews University, UK.

"We should recognise that this is just one of many stresses on the animals," she told BBC News.

"There are things such as noise, changes in habitat, changes in the availability of prey - that we do have influence over. And if we do something about these factors, maybe we can reduce the overall burden of stress, and perhaps then our predictions won't be so dire."

Paul Jepson added: "I don't think there'll ever be another PCB story.

"I think the chemical industries have learnt the lesson - we know that being fat-soluble is a big risk factor, because that allows things to bioaccumulate.

"So, nowadays, no chemical with those properties would be allowed. But PCBs are so difficult to get rid of that we'll be dealing with the legacy for a long time."