An unusual algal bud, known as a red tide, has drawn many to the beach in the hopes of witnessing the stunning spectacle
A dense bloom of bioluminescent algae off the coast of southern California has lit up the Pacific Ocean with an eerie and fantastical neon blue light, sending photographers and spectators to the beach at night in hopes of witnessing the natural phenomenon.
The algal bud, also known as a red tide, was observed this week lighting up the waves along a 15 -mile stretch of coastline.
” Bioluminescence happens all the times, merely not at that level” said Dr James M Sullivan, a bioluminescence researcher at the Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute.” This is an incredible one .”
It is not known how long the current display will last. In September 2013, the last day San Diego assured a red tide, the conditions lasted for a week. Other red tides have been known to last for a month or even longer.
The breakthrough, spurred by the discovery of plastic-eating bugs at a Japanese dump, could help solve the global plastic pollution crisis
Scientists have created a mutant enzyme that breaks down plastic drinkings bottles- by collision. The breakthrough could help solve the global plastic pollution crisis by enabling for the first time the full recycling of bottles.
The international team then tweaked the enzyme to see how it had evolved, but tests presented they had unknowingly attained the molecule even better at breaking down the PET( polyethylene terephthalate) plastic used for soft drink bottles.” What actually turned out was we improved the enzyme, which was a bit of a shock ,” said Prof John McGeehan, at the University of Portsmouth, UK, who led the research.” It’s great and a real seeing .”
The mutant enzyme takes a few days to start breaking down the plastic- far faster than the centuries it takes in the oceans. But the researchers are optimistic this can be speed up the pace even further and become a viable large-scale process.
” What we are hoping to do is use this enzyme to turn this plastic back into its original components, so we can literally recycle it back to plastic ,” told McGeehan.” It means we won’t need to dig up any more oil and, fundamentally, it should reduce the amount of plastic in the environment .”
About 1m plastic bottles are sold each minute around the globe and, with just 14% recycled, many end up in the oceans where they have polluted even the remotest proportions, harming marine life and potentially people who eat seafood.” It is unbelievably resistant to degradation. Some of those images are horrific ,” said McGeehan.” It is one of these wonder materials that has been made a little bit too well .”
However, currently even those bottles that are recycled can only be was transformed into opaque fibers for garb or carpets. The new enzyme indicates a route to recycle clear plastic bottles back into clear plastic bottles, which could slash the need to produce new plastic.
” You are always up against the fact that petroleum is inexpensive, so virgin PET is cheap ,” told McGeehan.” It is so easy for manufacturers to generate more of that stuff, rather than even to continue efforts to recycle. But I believe there is a public driver here: perception is changing so much that companies are starting to look at how they can properly recycle these .”
The new research, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, began by determining the exact structure of the enzyme produced by the Japanese bug. The team used the Diamond Light Source, near Oxford, UK, an intense beam of X-rays that is 10 bn hours brighter than the sun and can reveal individual atoms.
The structure of the enzyme looked very similar to one evolved by many bacteria to break down cutin, a natural polymer used as a protective coating by plants. But when the team manipulated the enzyme to investigate this connection, they accidentally improved its ability to eat PET.
” It is a modest improvement- 20% better- but that is not the point ,” said McGeehan.” It’s incredible because it am saying that the enzyme is not yet optimised. It devotes us scope to use all the technology being implemented in other enzyme development for years and years and make a super-fast enzyme .”
Industrial enzymes are widely used in, for example, washing powders and biofuel production, They have been made to work up to 1,000 hours faster in a few years, the same timescale McGeehan envisages for the plastic-eating enzyme. A patent has been filed on the specific mutant enzyme by the Portsmouth researchers and those from the US National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Colorado.
One possible improvement being explored is to transplanting the mutant enzyme into an” extremophile bacteria” that they are able survive temperatures above 70 C, at which point PET changes from a glassy to a viscous state, stimulating it likely to degraded 10 -1 00 periods faster.
Other types of plastic could be broken down by bacteria currently evolving in the environment, McGeehan said:” People are now searching vigorously for those working .” PET sinks in seawater but some scientists have conjectured that plastic-eating glitches might one day be sprayed on the huge plastic garbage patches in the oceans to clean them up.
” I suppose[ the new research] is very exciting work, indicating there is strong potential to use enzyme technology to help with society’s growing trash problem ,” told Oliver Jones, a chemist at RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia, and not part of the research team.
” Enzymes are non-toxic, biodegradable and can be produced in big quantities by microorganisms ,” he said.” There is still a way to go before you could recycle large amounts of plastic with enzymes, and reducing the amount of plastic produced in the first place might, perhaps, be preferable.[ But] this is certainly a step in a positive direction .”
Prof Adisa Azapagic, at the University of Manchester in the UK, concurred the enzyme could be helpful but added:” A full life-cycle assessment would be needed to ensure the technology does not solve one environmental problem- trash- at the expense of others, including additional greenhouse gas emissions .”
* This article was revised on 17 April 2018 to make clear that PET becomes viscous above 70 C. Its melting point is above 250 C.
It never breaks down and goes away, say scientists struggling to understand the impact of widespread pollution
While heading down the Brisbane river, Jim Hinds once pulled aboard a drunken half-naked man only seconds from” going down for the last period “.
But on this day, like most other days for Hinds, it’s back to the horribly predictable as he launches his barge into the Nerang river on Queensland’s Gold Coast.
Instantly you see it.
Decaying plastic bags hanging from the branches of mangroves like dripping flesh; slicks of plastic water bottles and food containers waiting ashore for the liberation of the next rising tide; the misnamed “disposable” plastic and styrofoam drinking beakers; and other plastic paraphernalia in the different stages of disintegration.
” Everyone knows littering’s wrong- that’s not a secret. But it’s just nonsensical ,” tells Jim. His son Patrick, 21, has jumped ashore to pick up a vinyl football ball and about a dozen soft drinks bottles.
Hinds works for Queensland environmental conservation group Healthy Land and Water. His chore is to travel the coastal waterways and pick up rubbish- he’ll often have one of his two sons with him. His father also used to do the job.
In recent years, he has been grabbing about 10,000 items a month.” Consistently we’re getting plastic bottles- there are so many of them ,” Jim says.
Warm current that has historically caused dramatic changes in climate is experiencing an unprecedented slowdown and may be less stable than supposed – with potentially severe consequences
The warm Atlantic current links between severe and abrupt changes in the climate in the past is now at its weakest in at least 1,600 years, new research presents. The findings, based on multiple lines of scientific proof, throw into question previous predictions that a catastrophic breakdown of the Gulf Stream would take centuries to occur.
Such a collapse would see western Europe suffer far more extreme wintertimes, sea levels rise fast on the eastern seaboard of the US and would disrupt vital tropical rainfalls. The new research shows the current is now 15% weaker than around 400 AD, an exceptionally large difference, and that human-caused global warming is a matter of at the least a significant part of the weakening.
The current, known as the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation( Amoc ), carries warm water northwards towards the north pole. There it cools, becomes denser and sinks, and then flows back southwards. But global warming hampers the cooling of the water, while melting ice in the Arctic, particularly from Greenland, floods the area with less dense freshwater, weakening the Amoc current.
Scientists know that Amoc has slowed since 2004, when instruments were deployed at sea to measure it. But now two new studies have comprehensive ocean-based evidence that the weakening is unprecedented in at least 1,600 years, which is as far back as the new research stretches.
” Amoc is a really important part of the Earth’s climate system and it has played an important part in abrupt climate change in the past ,” said Dr David Thornalley, from University College London who led one of the new analyzes. He said current climate models do not replicate the observed slowdown, is recommended that Amoc is less stable that thought.
During the last ice age, some big changes in Amoc led to winter temperatures changing by 5-10C in as short a hour as one to three years, with major consequences for the weather over the land masses bordering the Atlantic.” The[ current] climate models don’t predict[ an Amoc shutdown] is going to happen in the future- the problem is how certain are we “its not” going to happen? It is one of these tip-off points that is relatively low likelihood, but high impact .”
The study by Thornalley and colleagues, published in Nature, utilized cores of sediments from a key site off Cape Hatteras in North Carolina to examine Amoc over the last 1600 years. Larger grains of sediment reflect faster Amoc currents and vice versa.
They also employed the shells of tiny marine beings from sites across the Atlantic to measure a characteristic pattern of temperatures that indicate the strength of Amoc. When it weakens, a large area of ocean around Iceland cools, as less warm water is brought north, and the waters off the east coast of the US get warmer.
The second study, also published in Nature, also utilized the characteristic pattern of temperatures, but assessed this using thermometer data collected over the last 120 years or so.
Both surveys found that Amoc today is about 15% weaker than 1,600 years ago, but there were also differences in their conclusions. The first analyse determined significant Amoc weakening after the end of the little ice age in about 1850, the result of natural climate variability, with farther weakening caused afterward by global warming.
The second study suggests most of the weakening arrived later, and can be squarely blamed on the burning of fossil fuel. Further research is now being undertaken to understand the reasons for the differences.
However, it is already clear that human-caused climate change will continue to slow Amoc, with potentially severe consequences.” If we do not rapidly stop global warming, “were supposed to” expect a further long-term slowdown of the Atlantic overturning ,” told Alexander Robinson, at the University of Madrid, and one of the team that conducted the second study. He advised:” We are only beginning to understand the consequences of this unprecedented process- but they might be disruptive .”
A 2004 tragedy movie, The Day After Tomorrow, saw a rapid shutdown of Amoc and a devastate freeze. The basics of the social sciences were portrayed correctly, told Thornalley:” Plainly it was overstated- the changes happened in a few days or weeks and were much more extreme. But it is true that in the past this weakening of Amoc happened very rapidly and caused big changes .”
Video posted on YouTube shows water densely strewn with food wrappers, cups and sachets as tropical fish dart in and out
A British diver has captured shocking images of himself swimming through a sea of plastic rubbish off the coast of the Indonesian tourist resort of Bali.
A short video posted by diver Rich Horner on his social media account and on YouTube shows the water densely strewn with plastic garbage and yellowing food wrappers, the occasional tropical fish darting through the deluge.
The footage was shot at a dive site called Manta Point, a clean station for the large rays on the island of Nusa Penida, about 20 km from the popular Indonesian holiday island of Bali.
In a Facebook post on 3 March Horner writes how the ocean currents had carried in a” lovely gift” of jellyfish and plankton, and also knolls and knolls of plastic.
” Plastic purses, plastic bottles, plastic cups, plastic sheets, plastic buckets, plastic sachets, plastic straws, plastic baskets, plastic bags, more plastic bags, plastic, plastic ,” he says,” So much plastic !”
The video proves Horner swimming through the mess for several minutes and also how the waste coagulated on the surface, mixing in with some organic matter to kind a slick of floating rubbish.
Manta Point is regularly frequented by numerous manta rays that visit the site to get cleaned of parasites by smaller fish, but the video proves just one lone manta in the background.
” Surprise, amaze, there weren’t many mantas there at the clean station today …” notes Horner,” They mostly decided not to bother .”
Rubbish has been inundating Bali for several months now, washing over principally from the neighbouring island of Java during the annual rainy, or “trash” season.
The plastic deluge also ends up in unsightly mounds on Bali’s beaches, frightening tourists and environmentalists alike.
Indonesia renders about 130,000 tons of plastic and solid garbage every day, with about half of that reaching landfill sites, according to the Bali-based, Rivers, Oceans, Lakes and Ecology( ROLE) Foundation.
The rest is either illegally burned or dumped in Indonesia’s rivers and oceans.
With poor government planning and low levels of awareness about garbage and recycling, Indonesia is now the second-largest plastic polluter in the world after China.
Several weeks ago thousands across Bali took part in a mass clean up, in attempt to rid the island’s beaches, rivers and jungles of trash, and raise awareness about the harmful impacts of junk.
Rich Horner said that while divers regularly assure” a few clouds of plastic” in the rainy season, the slick he identified is the worst yet.
Divers returned to the site the next day, he reports, by which time the slick had already moved on,” continuing on its journey, off into the Indian Ocean “.
The discovery shows the remote area is a vital refuge for wildlife from climate change and overfishing and should be protected by a new reserve, say scientists
Huge ” mega-colonies” of penguins have been discovered near the Antarctic peninsula, hosting more than 1.5 million birds. Researchers say it shows the area is a vital refuge from climate change and human activities and should be protected by a vast new marine wildlife reserve currently under consideration.
The huge numbers of Adelie penguins were found on the Danger Islands in the Weddell Sea, on the east side of the Antarctic Peninsula. It is a tough place to reach and has seldom been visited. But scientists, prompted by spacecraft images, mounted an expedition and used on-the-ground counts and aerial photography from dronings to reveal 751,527 pairs of penguins.
Photographs of rare species from unexplored area of Antarctic seabed highlight need to protect life in one of the most remote places on the planet
The images below are the first of creatures found in a previously unexplored region of the Antarctic seabed offering a fascinating glimpse of life in one of the most remote and pristine places on the planet.