Archive for Oxford University
www.bbc.co.uk 20th June 2011
According to a new report published by the International Programme on the State of the Ocean (IPSO), the world’s oceans are in a far worse state than previously recognised. Factors such as over-fishing, pollution, and climate change are working together in a way putting marine life “at high risk of entering a phase of extinction…unprecedented in human history”. IPSO collected together experts in the fields of many marine science disciplines to write the report, including coral-reef specialists, toxicologists, ecologists and fishery specialists. “We’ve ended up with a picture showing that almost right across the board we’re seeing changes that are happening faster than we’d thought, or in ways that we didn’t expect to see for hundreds of years,” said Alex Rogers, IPSO’s scientific director and professor of conservation biology at Oxford University. One of the new areas discussed by the specialists is the problem of plastics in the oceans. Plastic particles, broken down in the marine environment, act as sponges for persistent organic pollutants such as DDT and PCBs. This increases the toxin uptake rate in fish that mistake plastic for food. These chemicals then bioaccumulate up the food chain causing various harmful effects. Plastic also acts as transport for algae thereby increasing the occurrence of algal blooms. Other problems are ocean acidification and coral bleaching. Five “mass extinction events” are known to have occurred in the earth’s history and, although the report says it is too early to tell, IPSO say that if mankind continues to exploit the oceans as we are, then we will cause the sixth.
www.telegraph.co.uk 29th November 2010
A series of papers published by the Royal Society has revealed that scientists believe current plans to tackle climate change are not enough. Organisations such as Oxford University and the Met Office have contributed to the publication which states that unless more drastic measures are taken global temperatures could rise as much as 4 degrees centigrade by the 2060s. This would cause catastrophic floods, drought, and mass migrations across the world. One drastic example of the severity of the situation, according to the contributors, is from Professor Kevin Anderson, Director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, who believes that the only way to reduce global emissions enough, while continuing to allow poorer nations to grow, is to stop growth in the developed world for twenty years. This would mean people in countries like the UK and USA would have to live less carbon intensive lifestyles. One way this could be achieved is by adopting a strict rationing system much like that of world war two. Electricity restrictions and less food from abroad are examples of this measure. Other authors wrote that the aim of reducing emissions by 50% relative to 1990 levels by 2050, the target the current climate summit in Cancun hopes to secure, is not enough and will not prevent temperature sensitive ecosystems such as coral reefs from being wiped out.
www.nationalgeographic.com 16th November 2010
A (comparatively) large new species of squid has been discovered among the underwater mountains of the southern Indian Ocean. The yet un-named squid is about 28 inches (70 cm), has a deep-red colour, and uses bioluminescence to lure its prey. Although small compared to the Colossal Squid, which have been positively identified up to 65 feet long (20 metres), the new species is bigger than many other squid species, some of which can be as small as one inch. The squid was spotted in a six-week long research trip by International Union for Conservation of Nature. “In a single expedition, we sampled about a fifth of all the world’s squid species that are known to date,” said Alex Rogers, a conservation biologist at Oxford University. “That’s really a staggering diversity of squid to sample in a single trip.” Among the 70 odd squid species sampled, there were several other new species as well as the one pictured above. The purpose of the expedition was to document the diversity of life on ‘seamounts’ or underwater mountains, which could number in the hundreds of thousands around the world. One of the reasons scientists believe they are so rich in marine life is because creatures can simply sit on the mountain sides and catch the daily fall of plankton and other micro-organisms to the sea floor.
www.telegraph.co.uk 5th October 2010
A new study by Department of Zoology at Oxford University has revealed that over the last two centuries, 5% of England’s 60,000 species are lost each year. Previous research into the subject has focussed on iconic species such as birds and animals but the university’s study included lesser known floral species such as lichens. If such a rate continues then 26 species a year will become extinct in England and as much as 40 in the UK as a whole. The findings refute data released in March this year by the British government’s advisory body Natural England which stated that only 500 species had been lost since 1800, or around 0.5% a year. Oxford University’s results have been published in the academic journal Biological Conservation as UN countries prepare to meet in Japan to discuss new global targets for the protection of wildlife.