Migrating Animals Add New Depth to How the Ocean 'Breathes'

The oxygen content of the ocean may be subject to frequent ups and downs in a very literal sense -- that is, in the form of the numerous sea creatures that dine near the surface at night then submerge into the safety of deeper, darker waters at daybreak.

Research begun at Princeton University and recently reported on in the journal Nature Geoscience found that animals ranging from plankton to small fish consume vast amounts of what little oxygen is available in the ocean's aptly named "oxygen minimum zone" daily. The sheer number of organisms that seek refuge in water roughly 200- to 650-meters deep (650 to 2,000 feet) every day result in the global consumption of between 10 and 40 percent of the oxygen available at these depths.

The findings reveal a crucial and underappreciated role that animals have in ocean chemistry on a global scale, explained first author Daniele Bianchi, a postdoctoral researcher at McGill University who began the project as a doctoral student of atmospheric and oceanic sciences at Princeton.

"In a sense, this research should change how we think of the ocean's metabolism," Bianchi said. "Scientists know that there is this massive migration, but no one has really tried to estimate how it impacts the chemistry of the ocean.

"Generally, scientists have thought that microbes and bacteria primarily consume oxygen in the deeper ocean," Bianchi said. "What we're saying here is that animals that migrate during the day are a big source of oxygen depletion. We provide the first global data set to say that."

Much of the deep ocean can replenish (often just barely) the oxygen consumed during these mass migrations, which are known as diel vertical migrations (DVMs).

But the balance between DVMs and the limited deep-water oxygen supply could be easily upset, Bianchi said -- particularly by climate change, which is predicted to further decrease levels of oxygen in the ocean. That could mean these animals would not be able to descend as deep, putting them at the mercy of predators and inflicting their oxygen-sucking ways on a new ocean zone.

"If the ocean oxygen changes, then the depth of these migrations also will change. We can expect potential changes in the interactions between larger guys and little guys," Bianchi said. "What complicates this story is that if these animals are responsible for a chunk of oxygen depletion in general, then a change in their habits might have a feedback in terms of oxygen levels in other parts of the deeper ocean."

The researchers produced a global model of DVM depths and oxygen depletion by mining acoustic oceanic data collected by 389 American and British research cruises between 1990 and 2011. Using the background readings caused by the sound of animals as they ascended and descended, the researchers identified more than 4,000 DVM events.

They then chemically analyzed samples from DVM-event locations to create a model that could correlate DVM depth with oxygen depletion. With that data, the researchers concluded that DVMs indeed intensify the oxygen deficit within oxygen minimum zones.

"You can say that the whole ecosystem does this migration -- chances are that if it swims, it does this kind of migration," Bianchi said. "Before, scientists tended to ignore this big chunk of the ecosystem when thinking of ocean chemistry. We are saying that they are quite important and can't be ignored."

Bianchi conducted the data analysis and model development at McGill with assistant professor of earth and planetary sciences Eric Galbraith and McGill doctoral student David Carozza. Initial research of the acoustic data and development of the migration model was conducted at Princeton with K. Allison Smith (published as K.A.S. Mislan), a postdoctoral research associate in the Program in Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, and Charles Stock, a researcher with the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory operated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration


Source:Science Daily

Wildlife Workshop: Encouraging Scientific, Environmental Research

DAMASCUS, (ST) - Participants in the workshop, held recently, on the wildlife and the state of  the bald ibis designated communication points  specialized in endangered species to activate communication with all local and international parties in this regard, and to encourage academic scientific research in the field of environment.

Participants stressed the importance of the role of local communities in environmental culture in general and birds in particular and the need to motivate them financially and morally in order to achieve future goals of the components of bio-diversity and endangered species. 

Participants underlined the importance of strengthening cooperation between government institutions and partner NGOs in the protection of bio-diversity and wildlife and national capacity-building in all government institutions and civil organizations concerned in order to serve the protection of wildlife in all its components and activate the implementation of the laws of hunting.

Vice -President of the Syrian Society for the Protection of Wildlife, Dr. Akram Darwish pointed out the importance of assessing the status of nature reserves in Syria, referring to the role of the follow-up of  bodies concerned to contribute to the protection of  bio-diversity and endangered species and rehabilitation of reserves, especially those that are suitable habitat for bird life.

Dr. Darwish stressed the importance of cooperation between the Ministries of State for Environmental Affairs and Interior to monitor human activities affecting bio-diversity such as hunting and factories.

 Specialists in the field of birds discussed ways of protection and rehabilitation of their habitats and regulate hunting in cooperation and coordination between the parties, the ministries and departments concerned.

 They also discussed the orientations of the Ministry of Agriculture and its vision in the field of the protection of birds, local  legislations and international agreements relating to the protection of birds and the World Council of birds' vision regarding the ibis and its current status.

 Sh. Kh.

World Population Could Be Nearly 11 Billion by 2100

A new statistical analysis shows the world population could reach nearly 11 billion by the end of the century, according to a United Nations report issued June 13. That's about 800 million, or about 8 percent, more than the previous projection of 10.1 billion, issued in 2011.

The projected rise is mostly due to fertility in Africa, where the U.N. had expected birth rates to decline more quickly than they have.

"The fertility decline in Africa has slowed down or stalled to a larger extent than we previously predicted, and as a result the African population will go up," said Adrian Raftery, a University of Washington professor of statistics and of sociology.

The current African population is about 1.1 billion and it is now expected to reach 4.2 billion, nearly a fourfold increase, by 2100.

The new U.N. estimates use statistical methods developed by Raftery and his colleagues at the UW Center for Statistics and the Social Sciences. The group's improved fertility forecasting methods, combined with updated data collected by the U.N., were used to project the long-term consequences of the fertility change in Africa since the last population estimate two years ago.

New to this year's projection are finer-tuned statistics that anticipate the life expectancies of women and men across this century.

In other areas of the world, fewer major population changes are expected. Europe may see a small decline because of fertility continuing below replacement level, and other nations around the globe may see modest increases due to longer life expectancies, Raftery said.

There's no end in sight for the increase of world population, he added, yet the topic has gone off the world's agenda in favor of other pressing global issues, including poverty and climate -- both of which have ties to world population.

"These new findings show that we need to renew policies, such as increasing access to family planning and expanding education for girls, to address rapid population growth in Africa," Raftery said.

The UN gives high and low variants of its projections, assuming that women have an average of half a child more or less than the best projection. That leaves a large uncertainty, from 7 billion to nearly 17 billion, in the range for potential world population by the end of this century.

By contrast, the UW research group has developed probabilities of future population levels to be coupled with best forecasts. "Our probability intervals are much tighter, ranging from 9 billion to 13 billion in 2100," Raftery said.

Global population reached 7 billion in 2011. It passed 6 billion in 1999.

Source: Science Daily


Sustainable Management of Natural Resources

DAMASCUS, (ST) - Minister of State for Environmental Affairs, Dr. Nazira Sarkis, recently stressed the importance of eco-tourism and work to achieve a balance between tourism and the environment, economic and social interests through the focus towards sustainable management of natural resources.

 During the final meeting of the National Commission for adopting the Directory of Eco-Tourism Sites, Dr. Sarkis pointed out the importance of eco-tourism, which is an activity that combines between originality in cultural and natural heritage and modernity in its ethical civilization in  addition to its significant role in the maintenance of instinctive and natural life from extinction.

"The Ministry has given great interest since 2003 to the eco-tourism and establishing the national capacity to ensure the circulation of such kind of tourism as widely as possible, pointing out that several training workshops were held in this regard and the creation of a special bureau of eco-tourism in the ministry," Dr. Sarkis said.

It is worth mentioned that a national committee was created comprising representatives of all the ministries, the Planning and International Cooperation Commission and the Regional Planning Commission to prepare a guide eco-tourism sites in Syria.

During the meeting, members of the Committee discussed the methodology of directory and its contents, which include a definition of eco-tourism and its conditions, principles and types in addition to the possible activities locations of eco-tourism sites and classification adopted to sites of eco-tourism in Syria, including geographical location and tourist attractions to be the site of eco-tourism as well as activities that can be carried out at these sites according to different environmental rules, customs and traditions and traditional industries to communities living in or near sites and the existing infrastructure that the site needs to be an integrated eco-tourism site.

Sh. Kh.

Expanding Cooperation with Academic Research Institutions to Find Solutions to Environmental Problems

DAMASCUS, (ST) - DAMASCUS, (ST) - Activities of the  2nd  Environmental Research Conference recently started here on the auditorium of Damascus University and discussed  the agricultural waste to get environmentally friendly products and on the tarmac at the University of Damascus.

The three-day conference discussed a study concerning economic, social and environmental effects of the optimal uses of waste production and agro-processing and technologies used to improve the nutritional value of agricultural residues and other topics of scientific environmental research.

The Minister of State for Environmental Affairs, Dr. Nazira Sarkis, underlined that that the government pays special attention to scientific research and the development of education, universities and research centers, and reform of laws and regulations to ensure the construction of a modern advanced society on scientific basis.

Dr. Sarkis clarified that her Ministry had worked to develop a comprehensive and integrated strategy to combat pollution in all its forms and to improve the environmental situation currently in coopration with bodies concerned. The ministry, she added, is seeking to expand cooperation with academic and research institutions to find solutions to environmental problems, encourage research on the environmental issues and contribute to the reduction of pollution, working to invest in the scientific field of information systems, which play a big role in the service of sound management of natural resources and environment protection.

The ministry also seeks to set up an integrated data bank serves the work of the National Environmental Observatory and environmental information center for monitoring the environmental situation.

"Syria was one of the first countries that have joined the international environmental conventions on climate change, combatting desertification and biodiversity. Syria also signed agreements and MoUs for bilateral cooperation in the field of protection of the environment with a number of countries and called to participate actively in addressing environmental impacts and to provide solutions and treatments and comprehend scientific development in these areas," the Minister noted.

President of Damascus University, Dr. Mohammed Amer al-Mardini, pointed out that the challenges face the environment in Syria impos the search in several topics including environmental resources and the potential of investing them to meet the needs of the community and the requirements of sustainable development. and in particular to the lost and wasted in agricultural production and processing constitute the bulk pointing out that agricultural residues form in this context an urgent and  comprehensive problem, and an opportunity to deepen the relationship between scientific research at the university and issues of community.

Dr Mardini pointed out to the importance of conducting environment scientific research between academic institutions and other service institutions. The balanced development, he added, takes into account the lower costs; maintain the health and preservation of the environment, increase employment and youth employment in the context of securing good use of the capabilities of individuals and their knowledge and potentials and the available environmental resources.

For his part, Director of the Arab Center for the Studies of Arid Zones and Dry Areas (ACSAD), Dr. Rafiq Ali Saleh, explained that improper disposal of agricultural waste reflects wrong practices. Such practices help wasting an important productive element that would contribute to reducing the cost of production, increasing soil fertility, supporting necessary feed resources and the possibility of creating a climate for small income generating to support rural development.

particularly as agribusiness overcome most of the activities of population in the Arab region, which is Situated habitat important for the diversity of animal and plant pointing out that the Arab Center attaches importance and wide for these activities in Arab countries

The conference recommended benefiting from agricultural waste products to get environment-friendly products through adopting a database of the National Observatory for Environment, waste availability and areas of existence and utilization, the need for the application of scientific research and environmental contact with the immediate environmental issues.

Participants called on adopting the participation in dealing with environmental problems through ensuring requirements of applied scientific research, activating the agreements and memoranda of cooperation with research institutions, civil society. They called on activating the role of guiding farmers on investing the agricultural waste, encouraging economic and social studies. They also underlined the adoption of a special database concerning the conference and the follow-up of researches in cooperation with the Ministry of Industry, public and private bodies for the establishment of small projects in coordination with the researchers.

The participants pointed to the need for holding seminars and conferences in line with the priorities of environmental problems and serving the strategy of the Ministry of State for Environmental Affairs in protecting the environment and achieving sustainable development.

 "The ministry will prepare a joint work programs with universities and research institutions to develop and implement environmental, social and media researches that deal with the change of behavior at productive communities, referring to the need to establish this conference annually," the minister pointed out.

Sh. Kh.