Saturday, July 2, 2011

Pacific Plankton Crosses to Atlantic

This is actually major news.  It strongly supports the proposition that the opening of the North West Passage in 2007 was a unique event that was not matched during the Medieval Warming nor the Bronze Age.  This is a huge surprise and it would need rapid extinction of the reported plankton which appears exceedingly unlikely.

Thus the proposition of the unusual nature of the Arctic warming must be considered proven.  One just does not get plankton injections on a million year cycle like this.

The big question at the moment is whether or not the sea ice is still losing mass or not.  Navy measurements suggest that the mass has been recovering over the past three years.  I do not know enough about them to know if they are reliable or not.  At worst, the sea ice appears to be generally stable.

It could be simply be that the 2007 reduction was a low probability combination of a cyclical low and a rare wind system.

Pacific Plankton Crosses to Atlantic...Thanks to Arctic Meltdown

Warmer temperatures in the North are allowing species to shift from ocean to ocean.

David Biello reports
 June 26, 2011

Neodenticula seminae, a microscopic strand of photosynthesizing plankton, is common in much of the northern Pacific Ocean

The plankton hadn't been seen in the northern Atlantic in some 800,000 years—until a survey in 1999 turned up a bunch in the Labrador Sea. Researchers speculate it traveled along with a pulse of warm Pacific water, part of the changing circulation patterns in the far north due to global warming.

Warming’s most obvious oceanic effect is the opening of the fabled Northwest Passage for the first time in recorded history. Which makes it more likely for N. seminae to have fellow travelers.

Pacific zooplankton—microscopic animals—have made the trip, and clams, oysters, snails and slugs may soon follow. These Pacific denizens could displace or disrupt their Atlantic cousins, potentially transforming the entire food web. Which is why a consortium of 17 marine institutes in 10 European countries is now monitoring the migrations, an effort known as Climate Change and European Marine Ecosystem Research.

Over the last decade, N. seminae has firmly established itself in the Labrador Sea, waters near Iceland and the Gulf of Saint Lawrence. You can’t call the plankton a fish out of water. But you can say that its waters are changing—and fast.
—David Biello


Analysis by Kieran Mulvaney 

Sun Jun 26, 2011 03:50 PM ET 

Last year, it was a gray whale.
No gray whale had been recorded in the North Atlantic since at least the 18th century, when whalers may have driven them to extinction in the region. So when one showed up in the Mediterranean last May, it not unreasonably generated a lot of attention, as well as (also not unreasonably) speculation about how it got there.

The most likely and generally accepted explanation was that it was a solitary sentinel of climate change: that an ice-free Northwest Passage had enabled the whale, which had swum north from its breeding grounds in the Pacific to its feeding grounds north of Alaska, to swim steadily east until emerging, doubtless confused and disoriented, in the eastern hemisphere.

Now, scientists have revealed, it wasn't such a solitary sentinel after all. Another long-lost marine species has returned to Atlantic waters from which it long ago departed - although this species is considerably smaller than a gray whale.

Much smaller, in fact.

According to researchers with the Sir Alister Hardy Foundation for Ocean Science, a species of plankton called Neodenticula seminae is an Atlantic resident again, 800,000 years after it became extinct in the ocean. And whereas last year's gray whale was a one-off occurrence, the microscopic plant has been documented with sufficient frequency over the last several years to determine that the species has indeed returned. As with the lost whale, the plankton's arrival has been facilitated, the researchers say, by melting polar ice providing an easier passage for transport from one ocean basin to the other.

The discovery is among several examples of global warming-induced changes in marine life in the Atlantic Ocean, according to Project CLAMER (Climate Change and European Marine Ecosystem Research), a consortium of 17 marine institutes in 10 European nations. The project is synthesizing the results of almost 300 EU-funded climate change-related research projects over 13 years in Europe's oceans and near-shore waters, as well as the Mediterranean, Baltic, and Black Seas. Among the other examples CLAMER has documented:

  Jellyfish are increasing in the northeast Atlantic, often forming massive blooms. A venomous warm-water species, Pelagia noctiluca, dominates in many areas and outbreaks have become an annual event, forcing the closing of beaches. This form of jellyfish is a gluttonous predator of juvenile fish, so researchers consider its spread a harmful trend. Recently, the highly venomous Portuguese Man-of-War (Physalia physalis), a jellyfish-like subtropical creature, were found more regularly in northern Atlantic waters.

  Off Northwest Europe, the warming trend has led to earlier spawning of cod, while phytoplankton have kept their traditional biological schedule. The result is a timing mismatch between the cod's larval production and its food supply.

  Warmer temperatures and stratification of the water are allowing living and dead microscopic organic matter to form massive, mucous-like blobs in the Mediterranean Sea. This noxious material harbors bacteria and viruses that could kill fish.

  In the North Sea, several fish species, including sea bass, mullet, solenette and scaldfish, are moving northward and increasing in numbers as the water warm.

Overall, says Carlo Heip, Director General of the Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research, studies show that the impacts of climate change on marine life composition in the Atlantic are likely to be mixed - some species could, in fact, thrive and parts of the ocean gain in biodiversity and productivity.

"But most of the impacts are so clearly negative, and the scope of change so potentially huge that, taken together, they constitute brightly flashing warning signals," he says.

Illustration of records of phytoplankton Neodenticula seminae courtesy of the Sir Alister Hardy Foundation for Ocean Science (SAHFOS)

Warming oceans cause largest movement of marine species in two million years

Swarms of venomous jelly fish and poisonous algae are migrating into British waters due to changes in the ocean temperatures, a major new study has revealed.

The venomous warm-water species Pelagia noctiluca  Photo: ALAMY

By Richard Gray, Science Correspondent

6:45AM BST 26 Jun 2011

Warming ocean waters are causing the largest movement of marine species seen on Earth in more than two million years, according to scientists.

In the Arctic, melting sea ice during recent summers has allowed a passage to open up from the Pacific ocean into the North Atlantic, allowing plankton, fish and even whales to into the Atlantic Ocean from the Pacific.

The discovery has sparked fears delicate marine food webs could be unbalanced and lead to some species becoming extinct as competition for food between the native species and the invaders stretches resources.

Rising ocean temperatures are also allowing species normally found in warmer sub-tropical regions to into the northeast Atlantic.

A venomous warm-water species Pelagia noctiluca has forced the closure of beaches and is now becoming increasingly common in the waters around Britain.

The highly venomous Portuguese Man-of-War, which is normally found in subtropical waters, is also regularly been found in the northern Atlantic waters.

A form of algae known as dinoflagellates has also been found to be moving eastwards across the Atlantic towards Scandinavia and the North Sea.

Huge blooms of these marine plants use up the oxygen in the water and can produce toxic compounds that make shellfish poisonous.

Plankton sampling in the north Atlantic over the past 70 years have also shown that other species of plankton, normally only found in the Pacific ocean, have now become common in Atlantic waters.

The scientists, who have been collaborating on the Climate Change and European Marine Ecosystems Research project, found the plankton species, called Neodenticula seminae, traveled into the Atlantic through a passage through the Arctic sea ice around that has opened up a number of times in the last decade from the Pacific Ocean.

Larger species including a grey whale have also been found to have made the journey through the passage, which winds it’s way from the Pacific coast of Alaska through the islands of northern Canada and down past Greenland into the Atlantic Ocean, when it opened first in 1998, and then again in 2007 and 2010.

Professor Chris Reid, from the Sir Alister Hardy Foundation for Ocean Science at the Plymouth Marine Laboratory, said: “It seems for the first time in probably thousands of years a huge area of sea water opened up between Alaska and the west of Greenland, allowing a huge transfer of water and species between the two oceans.

“The opening of this passage allowed the wind to drive a current through this passage and the water warmed up making it favourable for species to get through.

“In 1999 we discovered a species in the north west Atlantic that we hadn’t seen before, but we know from surveys in the north Pacific that it is very abundant there.

"This species died out in the Atlantic around 800,000 years ago due to glaciation that changed the conditions it needed to survive.

“The implications are huge. The last time there was an incursion of species from the Pacific into the Atlantic was around two to three million years ago.

"Large numbers of species were introduced from the Pacific and made large numbers of local Atlantic species extinct.

“The impact on salmon and other fish resources could be very dramatic. The indications are that as the ice is continuing to melt in the summer months, climate change could lead to complete melting within 20 to 30 years, which would see huge numbers of species migrating.

"It could have impacts all the way down to the British Isles and down the east coast of the United States.”

He added: “With the jellyfish we are seeing them move further north from tropical and subtropical regions as a result of warming sea temperatures."

Researchers say the invading plankton species is likely to cause widespread changes to the food web in the Atlantic ocean as the invading species are less nutritious than native species, which are eaten by many fish and large whales.

Changes in populations of tiny animals called copepods, which are an essential food source for fish such as cod, herring and mackerel, are already being blamed for helping to drive the collapse of fish stocks as the native species of copepods have been replaced with smaller less nutritious varieties.

This has resulted in declines in North Sea birds, the researchers claim, while Harbour porpoises have also migrated northwards North Sea after sand eels followed the poleward movement of the copepods they ate.

Scientists taking part in the project from the Institute for Marine Resources & Ecosystem Studies, in the Netherlands, found that warmer water would also lead more species in the North and Irish sea as species move from more southerly areas.

But they found that the Atlantic ocean west of Scotland would have fewer species.

Dr Carlo Heip, director general of the Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research, which led the project that is a collaboration of more than 17 institutes in 10 different countries, said: “We need to learn much more about what’s happening in Europe’s seas, but the signs already point to far more trouble than benefit from climate change.

“Despite the many unknowns, it’s obvious that we can expect damaging upheaval as we overturn the workings of a system that’s so complex and important.

“The migrations are an example of how changing climate conditions cause species to move or change their behaviour, leading to shifts in ecosystems that are clearly visible.”

The researchers conclude that these changes will have serious implications for commercial fisheries and on the marine environment.

Among the other species to have migrated from the Pacific Ocean into the Atlantic was a grey whale that was spotted as far south as the Mediterrean off the coast of Spain and Israel.

Grey whales have been extinct in the Atlantic Ocean for more than a hundred years due to hunting and scientists found the animal had crossed through openings in the Arctic sea ice.

Dr Katja Philippart, from the Royal Netherland’s Institute for Sea Research, added: “We have seen very small plankton and large whales migrating from the Pacific into the North Atlantic, so there will certainly be many other species, including fish, that we haven’t detected yet.

“To see a whale in this part of the world was quite remarkable and when we looked at it we concluded it can only have come from one place.”

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