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."

Eutierra - At One With Nature Concert

Presented by The Sechelt Arts FestivalEUTIERRIA - at one with nature, CONCERT, will run October 19th - 21st at the Sechelt Botanical Gardens. This all original musical work by award winning composer Kenneth Norman Johnson, with script and additional lyrics by Nancy Pincombe is sure to be a crowd pleaser. An all star local cast is well into rehearsals with solos and Choral work that are sounding great. Seating is limited. Get your tickets early!

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Microplastics can spread via flying insects, research shows

View original article here.

 Fluorescent microplastics (bright green) are visible inside an adult mosquito. The particles can then spread to animals that eat the insects. Photograph: Al-Jaibachi et al/Biology Letters

Fluorescent microplastics (bright green) are visible inside an adult mosquito. The particles can then spread to animals that eat the insects. Photograph: Al-Jaibachi et al/Biology Letters

Microplastic can escape from polluted waters via flying insects, new research has revealed, contaminating new environments and threatening birds and other creatures that eat the insects.

Scientists fed microplastics to mosquito larvae, which live in water, but found that the particles remained inside the animals as they transformed into flying adults. Other recent research found that half of the mayfly and caddisfly larvae in rivers in Wales contained microplastics.

Concern over microplastic pollution is rising rapidly as it is discovered in ever more places, and very little research has been done on how it may harm wildlife or humans. The particles can harbour bacteria or leach toxic chemicals. Microplastics have been found in tapwater around the world, in vast numbers in the oceans and sea creatures and even in remote Swiss mountains.

“It is a shocking reality that plastic is contaminating almost every corner of the environment and its ecosystems,” said Prof Amanda Callaghan, at the University of Reading, UK, who led the new research on mosquitoes. “Much recent attention has been given to the plastics polluting our oceans, but this research reveals it is also in our skies.”

The new study, published in the journal Biology Letters, used Culex pipiens mosquitoes, as they are found across the world in many habitats. The researchers found the larvae readily consumed fluorescent microplastic particles that were 0.0002cm in size.

“Larvae are filter feeders that waft little combs towards their mouths, so they can’t actually distinguish between a bit of plastic and a bit of food,” Callaghan said. “They eat algae, which are more or less the same size as these microplastics.”

The larvae matured into a non-feeding pupa stage and then emerged as adult mosquitoes, which still had significant microplastic within them. The researchers are now studying if this damages the mosquitoes.

Callaghan said it is “highly likely” that other flying insects that begin as water larvae will also eat and retain microplastics. Birds, bats and spiders are among the species that eat large numbers of insects, suggesting these are also consuming microplastics. “You can get swarms of insects,” she said. “You could have a lot of plastic going up. It’s totally depressing. These plastics are going to be around forever.”

Plastics have been found inside many seabirds, but this is the first research suggesting terrestrial birds that eat insects are at risk. “This is a new pathway to get plastics up in the air and expose animals that are not normally exposed,” said Callaghan. “We don’t know what the impact will be.”

Matt Shardlow, chief executive of the conservation charity Buglife, said: “Aquatic insects are in the microplastic front line. We emit billions of plastic fibres every year, many of which go straight into rivers, so there is an urgent need for more research into the role microplastics may be playing in observed declines in aquatic life.”

Many microplastics are fibres shed by synthetic clothing during washing – a single wash can release 700,000 fibres. “While research proceeds, we can all think carefully about our clothing choices,” said Shardlow. Other microplastics are formed by the abrasion of larger pieces of plastic in rivers and oceans.

Large pieces of plastic are easily seen and clearly harm animals, from turtles to albatrosses. But research has also found microplastics, defined as smaller than 5mm, in many marine creatures, from worms to plankton and up the food chain to fish. Where investigated, they have been shown to damage the health of the animals.

Like the oceans, freshwater rivers and lakes are also heavily contaminated – a river near Manchester, UK, has the worst microplastic pollution yet recorded – but the impact on wildlife in these habitats has been much less studied.

The research in the Welsh rivers found microplastics in larvae both upstream and downstream from wastewater treatment plants, indicating that plastic pollution enters rivers directly, not just via sewage.

The researchers, led by Prof Steve Ormerod at Cardiff University, said the overall dearth of data on the effect of microplastics on freshwater creatures means that the understanding of the risk to the ecosystem remains “seriously limited”.

It is widely accepted that humans are also consuming microplastics. “We all eat them, there’s no doubt about it,” said Callaghan. Eating seafood such as mussels or cod is one route, while beersugar and sea salt have all been found to contain microplastics. Exposure is likely to rise, as plastic production is expected to climb by 40% in the next decade, prompting scientists to call for urgent research on the effects of microplastics on people.