David Attenborough urges action on plastics after filming Blue Planet II

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Naturalist says experience making second series of BBC show revealed devastating threat posed to oceans by plastic.


Sir David Attenborough has called for the world to cut back on its use of plastic in order to protect oceans. His new BBC TV series, Blue Planet II, is to demonstrate the damage the material is causing to marine life.

Speaking at the launch of Blue Planet II, which will be broadcast 16 years after the original series, the broadcaster and naturalist said action on plastics should be taken immediately and that humanity held the future of the planet “in the palm of its hands”.

His comments come amid growing global calls for cutbacks in the use of plastic. Last week, the former boss of Asda, Andy Clarke, said supermarkets should stop using plastic packaging.

A Guardian investigation established that consumers around the world buy a million plastic bottles a minute. Plastic production is set to double in the next 20 years and quadruple by 2050. Around the world, more than 8m tonnes of plastic leaks into the oceans, and a recent study found that billions of people globally are drinking water contaminated by plastic.

Blue Planet II will include evidence that plastic has flowed into ocean waters thousands of miles from land, and will show albatrosses unwittingly feeding their chicks plastic.

The new series of Blue Planet has seven episodes and is expected to be a global hit for the BBC. The programme has already been sold to more than 30 countries and the first episode will air on BBC One on Sunday 29 October.

Attenborough said rising global temperatures and plastic were the biggest concerns for the ocean. “What we’re going to do about 1.5 degrees rise in the temperature of the ocean over the next 10 years, I don’t know, but we could actually do something about plastic right now,” he said.

“I just wish we would. There are so many sequences that every single one of us have been involved in – even in the most peripheral way – where we have seen tragedies happen because of the plastic in the ocean.

“We’ve seen albatrosses come back with their belly full of food for their young and nothing in it. The albatross parent has been away for three weeks gathering stuff for her young and what comes out? What does she give her chick? You think it’s going to be squid, but it’s plastic. The chick is going to starve and die.

“There are more examples of that. But we could do things about plastic internationally tomorrow.”

Attenborough, 91, did not specify what could be done, but cutting back on plastic packaging and plastic bags in supermarkets would be a major step.

He said everyone’s actions had an impact on the ocean. “We have a responsibility, every one of us,” he said. “We may think we live a long way from the oceans, but we don’t. What we actually do here, and in the middle of Asia and wherever, has a direct effect on the oceans – and what the oceans do then reflects back on us.”

Algae explosion 650 million years ago is why we're here today, ANU researchers say

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Researchers say they have solved one of the biggest questions in science — how did humans and animals appear on Earth?

Surprisingly, the answer comes down to algae.

The project's lead researcher, Associate Professor Jochen Brocks from the Australian National University (ANU), said they discovered an algae explosion 650 million years ago that allowed human and animal life to evolve.

"Without that we would not be here," he said.

"There would probably be no large complicated creatures that are big enough that you could see them with your eyes."

The arrival of large algae organisms, at the base of the food web, created a burst of energy needed for a more complex world, the researchers said.

"This was the transition of an entirely bacterial world, to a world that was more complicated," Professor Brocks said.

"No-one knew when this transition happened, it's one of the most profound and most important ecological positions in all of the Earth's history and we had no idea when this happened."

Solving the mystery lay in ancient rocks

The researchers unearthed the answer to that question in ancient sedimentary rocks from central Australia.

With new technology they were able to look at the rocks differently, removing contaminants that had previously hidden molecules.

By crushing the rocks, they could extract ancient molecules.

"What we found was quite spectacular and was really, totally unexpected," Professor Brocks said.

"We found out that these molecules of more complicated algae increased in a big burst around 650 million years ago."

And being able to pinpoint that timeframe was the key to their breakthrough.

"The reason why that is so exciting is it is just before animals appeared and also exciting because it happened after the biggest climatic catastrophe in Earth's history."

Melting 'Snowball Earth' triggered algae explosion

That climatic catastrophe was a global thawing of what Professor Brocks calls a "Snowball Earth".

Fifty million years before the algae began to bloom the Earth's oceans were frozen.

But a global heating event caused the glaciers to melt and as they did they released nutrients into the ocean.

"This increased phosphate fertiliser in the oceans," Professor Brocks said.

And when the Earth cooled to more hospitable levels it created perfect conditions for algae to spread.

"It appears this huge release of nutrients after the melting of this snowball Earth event triggered the evolution of this larger algae and replaced bacteria."

"Algae are incredibly large in comparison to bacteria. And you need large and nutritious organisms at the base of the food webs to create the burst of energy towards higher and bigger organisms," Professor Brocks said.

"This event triggered the evolution of life which was completely unknown and unexpected."

BioBlitz 2017 - August 12th & 13th

Location: Headquarters of this year's BioBlitz will be at Irvine’s Landing in Pender Harbour

•  All participants will need to make their own way to Irvine’s Landing or the PetroCan at Garden Bay Road
•  Boats will shuttle participants from Irvine’s Landing to survey sites on neighbouring islands
If you are travelling from Vancouver:
•  Take the 257 bus to the BC Ferries Terminal at Horseshoe Bay.
•  Take the ferry to Langdale in Gibsons
•  From Langdale Ferry Terminal take #1 or #90 bus to Cowrie Street in Sechelt then take the Sunshine Coast Connector to the PetroCan at Garden Bay Road (sunshinecoastconnector.ca)
•  The Ruby Lake Lagoon Society Duck Bus will take you to Irvine’s Landing

Accommodation & Food:
• Participants are responsible for their own accommodation (with the exception of experts and volunteers)
• Some food and water will be available, but we highly recommend bringing your own food
Brief Schedule:
•  The BioBlitz will begin at noon on Saturday, August 12th and ends at noon on Sunday, August 13th.
•  Base camp will be at Irvine’s Landing (see map above - the anchor symbol is our base camp)
•  Guided hikes will be arranged with expert naturalists throughout both days
•  Some kayaks and bikes will be available at sites throughout the area
•  Around 5 o’clock in the evening, we will get together for dinner and some fine music
•  Schedules will be provided beforehand
 • We will be organizing a number of nocturnal activities for finding moths, bats and other creepy crawlies so make sure you bring a flashlight and mosquito repellent!

All participants must fill out the registration form below. You are required to register in advance so that we can schedule events accordingly. If you need to contact us for further information please email us at bioblitz@lagoonsociety.com or call us at 604.883.9201.

2017 Annual General Meeting

A big THANK YOU to everyone who helped organize our AGM yesterday afternoon - a great time was had by all and we all really enjoyed having Lynne, Reg and the 'Other Guy' playing such a great selection of golden oldies! A special thanks to Simon Grant and his crew, Anne, Christina and Danica, who set everything up and made it such a super day. Also, thank you to Joanne Sankew for all her help in overseeing the procedures and taking the minutes, as well as cooking the sausages!

Many thanks to Charlie Park and Anne Clemence for all their years of service on the board and thank you both for agreeing to continue to help keep the Iris Griffith Centre the very beautiful place that it is!

Welcome also to our two new directors, Andy Teal and Ken Johnson - we could not have wished for two more qualified and experienced additions to our team. As always, we have much to be thankful for and even more to look forward to - onwards and upwards!


Here is the DVD "Kelp and Critters" preview put together by Rendez Vous Diving. Kelp and Critters takes you on a journey through 4 seasons of marine life in the Pacific Northwest. The often unique footage will awe, entertain and educate you about the creatures that live in or near the ocean. Proceeds of this DVD support local volunteer and stewardship programs. To order or for more information go to: www.rendezvousdiving.com/stewardship

SFU signing of Memorandum of Understanding

Signing off on our Memorandum of Understanding with Dr Zafar Adeel, the executive director of the new Pacific Water Research Centre at SFU, is an incredible achievement for the Lagoon Society and will not only really help to get PODS off the ground but will also be of huge benefit to the whole of Pender Harbour and the wider Sunshine Coast community.

It has always been our goal to formally collaborate with university researchers and Simon Fraser University could not be a better partner for us!  We have so much in common with their vision, particularly about engaging with local coastal communities, connecting with the natural world and the need to protect biodiversity, particularly of the marine and freshwater environments.  There could also not be a better community than Pender Harbour for SFU to have chosen to establish a long-term research partnership and to begin exploring the incredible diversity of aquatic ecosystems, habitats and species that we are so lucky to have in our coastal waters.  We cannot thank Zafar Adeel enough and his colleagues from SFU, Laurie Wood, Michele Black and Leigh McGregor, for coming here to visit us at the Iris Griffith Centre to sign the Memorandum of Understanding and for spending a beautiful sunny afternoon with us on a trip around the harbour and around the local islands. We look forward very much to a long and productive engagement and collaboration with Adeel and everyone at Simon Fraser University.  Thank you all.