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Threatened species

shells.jpgShell weights of marine snails are getting lighter

Tasmanian scientists are worried a microscopic marine snail species found in the Southern Ocean may soon die out due to climate change:

The scientists say it is field evidence that sea life in the Southern Ocean is being affected by warmer water, and if these snails die out it could have dire consequences on the ocean’s food chain.

They took an expedition deep into the Southern Ocean on board the Aurora Australis in February, and collected a number of microscopic marine snails.

The scientists have found the snails have dropped half their shell weight over the past decade.

Dr Donna Roberts says it is evidence that climate change is affecting sea life in the Southern Ocean.

“Many researchers have been assuming we would see this kind of result for the past 50 years and this is the first time we’ve got a measured response to the changing of the ocean chemistry,” she said.

“It’s interesting to know what’s going to happen to commercial fish that eat them because a change in their diet might mean a change in where they actually are living, so it’s not just we might loose one variety of snail it actually could change the whole eco-system of the southern ocean.

“That’s what we’re most worried about that it could completely upset our commercial fish stocks.”

[From ABC News]

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penguin.jpgAFP photograph

Climate change may threaten the survival of king penguins — one of the most iconic creatures of the Antarctic, researchers warn.

A long-term study of the penguins, known for their distinctive yellow feather ‘ear muffs’, reveals just a slight ocean warming had a significant effect on their breeding success.

International researchers behind the project say that under current predictions for global warming, the penguins face the risk of being wiped out.

King penguins — the second largest penguin after the emperor penguin — live in the sub-Antarctic islands, including Macquarie Island, south-east of Tasmania. There are about 2 million breeding pairs worldwide.

Their diet consists mainly of small fish and squid, and because of their one-year breeding cycle they are considered sensitive to any seasonal change in food supply.

Over nine years, researchers studied the birds on an island in the Crozet Archipelago in the southern Indian Ocean, marking 456 penguins with electronic tags.

They found that high sea-surface temperatures reduced the amount of marine prey available to the king penguins, forcing them to travel further in search of food.

According to their calculations, a sea-surface warming of 0.26 degrees would lead to a 9% decline in the adult penguin population.

Current models by the UN’s panel of climate scientists predict an average increase of 0.2 degrees a decade for the next two decades.

(Via The Age)

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whale-refuel1.jpg

Posted by Dave Walsh, onboard the Esperanza

It’s been an intense morning here on the Esperanza – after eleven days preventing the Japanese whaling fleet from killing whales, this morning we blocked the Nisshin Maru from refuelling in Antarctic waters from the dodgy Panamanian-registered vessel Oriental Bluebird.

As part of a dramatic non-violent protest against the whaling fleet’s activities in the Southern Ocean, Jetske and Heath placed their inflatable boat between the factory ship and refueling vessel, as the massive two ships tried to come alongside to refuel.

However, despite radio calls explaining our protest and plan, the vessels continued to close in on each other — and after half an hour, the inflable was forced out, with Jetske nearly getting caught by a cable. Only then did the refuelling begin.

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devils.jpgTim Dub photograph

Scientists have been shocked to find high levels of potentially carcinogenic flame retardant chemicals in Tasmanian devils, a discovery certain to fuel a global campaign to ban their use, according to Matthew Denholm, writing today in The Australian.

The Australian has obtained, under Freedom of Information, preliminary results of tests ordered by the Tasmanian Government on chemicals found in fat tissue from 16 devils.

They show surprisingly high concentrations of toxic chemicals used in flame retardants commonly found in computers, white goods, carpets and foam in bedding and furniture.

Scientists yesterday said more research was needed to establish if the chemicals helped trigger devil facial tumour disease, a rare communicable cancer that threatens to drive the carnivore to extinction.

The International Persistent Organic Pollutants Elimination Network said the findings also raised concerns for human health.

IPEN co-ordinator Mariann Lloyd-Smith said the findings added weight to “a global push to ban flame retardants, some of which have been linked to reproductive disorders and cancers in animals and humans.”

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