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Starfish, Jellyfish To Benefit From Climate Change, Says Study

"These pioneer species are likely to benefit from the opening of new habitats through loss of sea ice and the food it provides."

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Jellyfishes are virtually immortal.
Jellyfishes are virtually immortal.

Seafloor predators and open water feeding animals like the starfish and the jellyfish will benefit from climate change, while those associated with sea ice for food or breeding are most at risk, a study said on Thursday.

Marine Antarctic animals closely associated with sea ice for food or breeding, such as the humpback whale and emperor penguin, are most at risk from the predicted effects of climate change, according to the study published in the journal Frontiers in Marine Science.

Using risk assessments like those used for setting occupational safety limits in the workplace, scientists from the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) determined the winners and losers of Antarctic climate change impact, which includes temperature rise, sea ice reduction and changes in food availability.

They show that seafloor predators and open water feeding animals, like starfish and jellyfish, will benefit from the opening up of new habitats.

“One of the strongest signals of climate change in the Western Antarctic is the loss of sea ice, receding glaciers and the break up of ice shelves,” said lead author Simon Morley from the BAS.

“Climate change will affect shallow water first, challenging the animals who live in this habitat in the very near future. While we show that many Antarctic marine species will benefit from the opening up of new areas of sea floor as habitat, those associated with sea ice are very much at risk.”

A growing body of research on how climate change will impact Antarctic marine animals prompted the researchers to review this information in a way that revealed which species were most at risk.

Starfish, jellyfish to benefit from climate change: Study. VOA

“We took a similar approach to risk assessments used in the workplace, but rather than using occupational safety limits, we used information on the expected impact of climate change on each animal,” said seabird ecologist Mike Dunn, co-author of the study, which forms part of a special article collection on aquatic habitat ecology and conservation.

“We assessed many different animal types to give an objective view of how biodiversity might fare under unprecedented change.”

They found that krill — crustaceans whose young feed on the algae growing under sea ice — were scored as vulnerable, in turn impacting the animals that feed on them, such as the adelie and chinstrap penguins and the humpback whale.

The emperor penguin scored as high risk because sea ice and ice shelves are its breeding habitat.

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Dunn added: “The southern right whale feeds on a different plankton group, the copepods, which are associated with open water, so it is likely to benefit. Salps and jellyfish, which are other open water feeding animals are likely to benefit too.”

The risk assessment also revealed that bottom-feeders, scavengers and predators, such as starfish, sea urchins and worms, may gain from the effects of climate change.

“Many of these species are the more robust pioneers that have returned to the shallows after the end of the last glacial maximum, 20,000 years ago, when the ice-covered shelf started to melt and retreat,” said co-author David Barnes.

“These pioneer species are likely to benefit from the opening of new habitats through loss of sea ice and the food it provides.” (IANS)

Next Story

Students Worldwide Skip School to Protest Government’s Failure against Global Warming

They're angry at their elders, and they're not taking it sitting down

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global warming, climate change
Students from different institutions hold placards and banners as they participate in a climate protest in New Delhi, India, March 15, 2019. VOA

They’re angry at their elders, and they’re not taking it sitting down.

Students worldwide are skipping class Friday to take to the streets to protest their governments’ failure to take sufficient action against global warming.

The coordinated “school strikes,” being held from the South Pacific to the edge of the Arctic Circle, were inspired by 16-year-old Swedish activist Greta Thunberg, who began holding solitary demonstrations outside the Swedish parliament last year.

Since then, the weekly protests have snowballed from a handful of cities to hundreds, driven by social media-savvy students and dramatic headlines about the impact of climate change.

climate change, global warming
Students attend a protest ralley of the “Friday For Future Movement” in Berlin, Germany, March 15, 2019. VOA

Thunberg, who was recently nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, was cheered for her blunt message to leaders at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland this year, when she told them: “I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day.”

Friday’s rallies are expected to be one of the biggest international actions yet. Protests were under way or planned in cities in more than 100 countries, including Hong Kong; New Delhi; Wellington, New Zealand; and Oulo, Finland.

In Berlin some 10,000 protesters, most of them young students, gathered in a downtown square, waving signs with slogans such as “There is no planet B” and “Climate Protection Report Card: F” before a march through the capital’s government quarter. The march was to end with a demonstration outside Chancellor Angela Merkel’s office.

Organizer Carla Reemtsma, a 20-year-old university student, said social media had been key in reaching people directly to coordinate the massive protests in so many different locations, noting that she was in 50 WhatsApp groups and fielding some 30,000 messages a day.

“It’s really important that people are getting together all over the world, because it’s affecting us all,” she said.

Critics, supporters

Some politicians have criticized the students, suggesting they should be spending their time in school, not on the streets.

“One can’t expect children and young people to see all of the global connections, what’s technically reasonable and economically possible,” said the head of Germany’s pro-business Free Democratic Party, Christian Lindner. “That’s a matter for professionals.”

climate change, global warming
Students hold signs during a rally for global climate strike for future in Seoul, South Korea, March 15, 2019. VOA

But scientists have backed the protests, with thousands signing petitions in support of the students in Britain, Finland and Germany.

“We are the professionals and we’re saying the young generation is right,” said Volker Quaschning, a professor of engineering at Berlin’s University of Applied Sciences.

“We should be incredibly grateful and appreciative of their bravery,” said Quaschning, one of more than 23,000 German-speaking scientists to sign a letter of support this week. “Because in a sense, it’s incredibly brave not to go to school for once.”

Scientists have warned for decades that current levels of greenhouse gas emissions are unsustainable, so far with little effect. In 2015, world leaders agreed in Paris to a goal of keeping the Earth’s global temperature rise by the end of the century well below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit).

Yet at present, the world is on track for an increase of 4 degrees Celsius, which experts say would have far-reaching consequences for life on the planet.

“As a doctor, I can say it makes a big difference whether you’ve got a fever of 41 degrees Celsius (105.8 Fahrenheit) or 43 C (109.4 F),” said Eckart von Hirschhausen, a German scientist who signed the call supporting striking students. “One of those is compatible with life, the other isn’t.”

Other action

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron have publicly welcomed the student protests, even as their policies have been criticized as too limited by environmental activists.

In France, activist groups launched legal action this week for failing to do enough to fight climate change, citing a similar successful effort in the Netherlands.

climate change, global warming
Hundreds of schoolchildren take part in a climate protest in Hong Kong, March 15, 2019. VOA

In Germany, environmental groups and experts have attacked government plans to continue using coal and natural gas for decades to come. Activists say that countries like Germany should fully “decarbonize” by 2040, giving less-advanced nations a bit more time to wean themselves off fossil fuels while still meeting the Paris goal globally.

Other changes needed to curb greenhouse gas emissions include ramping up renewable energy production, reining in over-consumption culture now spreading beyond the industrialized West and changing diets, experts say.

“The fight against climate change is going to be uncomfortable, in parts, and we need to have a society-wide discussion about this,” said Quaschning.

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That conversation is likely to get louder, with several U.S. presidential hopefuls planning to campaign on climate change.

Luisa Neubauer, one of the Berlin group organizing Fridays for Future, said politicians should take note of the young.

“For the European elections in May, we’re urging everyone to think about whether they want to give their vote to a party that doesn’t have a plan for the future and the climate,” she said. (VOA)