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Posts Tagged ‘oceans’

The UC Santa Barbara-based National Center for Ecological Synthesis and Analysis has published in today’s Science a “Global Map of Human Impact on Marine Ecosytems.”  You can see the map here.

“We still understand very little of the ocean’s biodiversity and how it is changing under our influence,” says the report, which represents an effort to address that lack of understanding.

Over 40% of our oceans are heavily afected by human activity, the report finds.   “And few if any areas remain untouched.”

The analysis highlights areas where a failure to change what we are doing will cause ever deeper harm.  But in reaching for a positive angle on a pretty sorry story, it also points out that the mapping project can help identify areas where we might be able to continue activities that have relatively little impact.

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Natalie Angier writes in the NY Times today about the creation of synthetic microbes. But as interesting is what she reports about new research into the breadth of microbial life on our planet.

She quotes Dr. Craig Venter, of the J. Craig Venter Institute.

“From our random sequencing in the ocean, we uncovered six million new genes,” he said, genes, that is, unlike any yet seen in any of the mammals, reptiles, worms, fish, insects, fungi, microbes or narcissists that have been genetically analyzed so far. With just that first-pass act of nautical sequencing, Dr. Venter said, “we doubled the number of all genes characterized to date.”

We still don’t know what life really amounts to on our planet.  We keep finding lifeforms surviving in places and circumstances that we previously thought utterly unlivable.

Hearteningly, perhaps, that suggests that, even if we kill off ourselves and all the mammals, reptiles, worms, fish, insects, fungi, microbes or narcissists on the planet with us, life will survive.

But that’s not to justify our doing it, of course.  Indeed, it reminds us that we can’t know the full impact that our planet-altering lifestyles (including the creation of synthetic life forms) are having — since we still know so little about so many of the lifeforms with which we co-exist.

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The new issue of Science reports on “a coming crisis in water supply for the western United States,” the Associated Press tells us today.

“Human activity such as driving and powering air conditioners is responsible for up to 60 percent of changes contributing to dwindling water supplies in the arid and growing West, a new study finds,” says the AP’sErica Werner.

Also in Science recently — a story explaining that “the least biologically productive regions of the ocean–the subtropical gyres–are getting bigger.”

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